Las Vegas Shooting – PTSD, the Forgotten After Effect
There were numerous military veterans at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, one of whom we wrote about previously, like Taylor Winston, a US Marine veteran. There were numerous other veterans, all of them doing their level best to save lives. They, like the police on scene, were trained to handle the situation. But many civilians are not. One Army Ranger veteran, Robert Ledbetter, mentioned an aspect of the Las Vegas shooting that is often forgotten: PTSD.
“Everybody there is going to have emotional problems. I know that. There was blood everywhere I went: Excalibur, Luxor, on the Strip, on the street. All these people are going to have PTSD. I feel bad for all of them.” Robert Ledbetter, retired Scout Sniper
Ledbetter himself was able to save several lives because of his training and background. Once he was able to get his family and friends secured in a safe place, he began helping others. One man literally gave him the shirt off his back to use as a tourniquet on a young girl who was covered in blood. He used a t-shirt on another man who had been shot in the leg. He did not freeze up in the middle of the gunfire. Some civilians did, and those are the ones that may experience problems.
The smell of gunpowder and blood, the sight of dead bodies and blood pooling beneath them…these are not inconsequential things for the human brain to comprehend, particularly people who have never encountered it.
Robert Ledbetter described the situation this way:
“I’m saving people, or trying to do my best. But it got to the point, I saw people all over, laying where we used to be standing … just laying there and nobody getting to them and I couldn’t get out there. The shots just kept coming in and bouncing. I would have been in harm’s way.”
“The shots just kept coming in and bouncing”
Even for combat veterans who have PTSD (or PTS- Post Traumatic Stress the milder form), the sounds of ordinary firecrackers can be an issue and trigger unwanted or unnecessary responses. For any veterans with PTSD in proximity to the shooting, or even watching it on television, the situation might have been difficult for them.
For some civilians who have never encountered such a thing, it may also produce symptoms.
USA Today reported some of the symptoms that may appear in some shooting survivors after the horror of that night:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being easily startled
- Flashbacks or replaying the memory on a loop
- Survivor’s guilt (“I thought maybe if I hadn’t asked my friends along, they might still be there…”)
- Strong emotions: Fear, anxiety, anger, sadness
- Not trusting the world, feeling unsafe and hyper vigilant
People may want to avoid large crowds. They may have trouble eating. Loud noises such as fireworks or car backfires, even a TV show with gun fire may cause reactions. According to research, about 28% of mass shooting victims will have PTSD. The Las Vegas Review Journal noted that Nevada ranks poorly in mental health care, and officials are concerned about the after effects from the Las Vegas shooting.
The problem with all that is this: PTSD is a physiological response, not a mental one. People who experience the symptoms are not “mentally ill,” they are suffering from a buildup of adrenaline in the amygdala of the brain, according to the VA and psychologists.
Getting through it, like getting through it for veterans, requires support, understanding, and distractions that keep the mind from rolling into that loop. It is more difficult for military veterans because their exposure to stress was longer term. The victims of the Las Vegas shooting can come through this with help, and the symptoms should decrease over time.