PTSD delusions drove Lakeland killer

Lakeland, Florida -- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said PTSD had turned suspected killer David Smith's life into a nightmare.

And wild delusions are one of the reasons he murdered three people in Lakeland, then killed himself at a hotel in Tennessee.

As a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Smith was one of an estimated 200,000-300,000 servicemembers coming home from those wars who struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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To be clear, this disorder is not an excuse for murdering anyone. But as we look for some explanation, we have to look here. And, frankly, we have to worry about other severe cases that are out there.

Our medicine and our body armor are so much better than in the past, people have been surviving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who never would have lived in previous wars.

That means instead of dying, many wounded veterans live on with broken bodies or, essentially, broken minds.

Listen to this: In the Korean War, for every one dead American, three came home wounded. In Vietnam, it was the same -- for each American who died, three were wounded and lived.

But in America's two recent wars, for each American killed -- eight came home alive, but wounded.

So our society is facing challenges no one in history has dealt with.

For vets coming home from war zones, the suicide rate is almost four times higher than for the general public. And others, like David Smith, grapple with pain and depression every day.

So what can we do?

If you know of someone who may need help, the Veterans Administration runs a National Center for PTSD.

Your tax dollars pay for a worldwide PTSD support network and also fund research into diagnosing the disorder, finding the root cause, and treating it.

The VA also runs a 24/7 call center where veterans can call in and talk to a fellow veteran about what they're going through. The number to call into the Vet Center is 877-WAR-VETS.


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