Researchers: Urban crime may be causing war zone-level stress

News stories can seldom be worse than the killing of Thomas Sonnenberg, the man who answered the door in his north Minneapolis neighborhood when Devon Parker was allegedly banging on it, saying someone was going to kill him if Sonnenberg didn’t help.

Sonnenberg opened the door and moments later was shot to death.

“I begged him to move,” his daughter told KSTP, “but he was trapped by his mortgage, and he felt obligated to stay.”

His is the latest story of violence in north Minneapolis, where violence has led people to give up on it, or at least think about it. It’s not a problem unique to Minneapolis, of course. The “inner cities” have been centers of violence for decades.

It may not be hyperbole when people refer to these areas as being “like war zones.”

ProPublica reports today that a study shows civilian post-traumatic stress disorder is as high in some cities as it has been in actual war zones.

Researchers in Atlanta interviewed more than 8,000 inner-city residents and found that about two-thirds said they had been violently attacked and that half knew someone who had been murdered. At least 1 in 3 of those interviewed experienced symptoms consistent with PTSD at some point in their lives – and that’s a “conservative estimate,” said Dr. Kerry Ressler, the lead investigator on the project.

“The rates of PTSD we see are as high or higher than Iraq, Afghanistan or Vietnam veterans,” Ressler said. “We have a whole population who is traumatized.”

Post-traumatic stress can be a serious burden: It can take a toll on relationships and parenting, lead to family conflict and interfere with jobs. A national study of patients with traumatic injuries found that those who developed post-traumatic stress were less likely to have returned to work a year after their injuries.

It may also have a broader social cost. “Neglect of civilian PTSD as a public health concern may be compromising public safety,” Ressler and his co-authors concluded in a 2012 paper.

  • MrE85

    “Sonnenberg opened the door and moments later was shot to death.”
    With his own gun, you might add. I mention this not to blame the victim, or to hijack the thread, but to point out that simply owning a handgun isn’t always a surefire protection against crime. In fact, guns are one of the items many thieves are looking for when they break into a home.
    I’m not surprised to hear about this study. If I lived in North Minneapolis, I think I would join the exodus too. If that was even possible.

  • Stressed on the Northside

    I have no doubt this is true! I moved to the northside of Minneapolis 9 months ago after having lived in Marcy-Homes in SE Mpls for 20 years. After 2 years of being mostly unemployed and not eligible for public assistance or unemployment, I had to sell my home and made the choice to buy in NOMI to improve my financial situation. I bought a good house in supposedly a “good pocket”, or so I thought. I feel like I live in a different city. The sound of gun shots being fired is a weekly, if not daily occurrence. The almost daily shootings as of late, burglaries and 2 murders in a month and a half time has my anxieties at an all-time high. NOMI (North Minneapolis) is full of responsible hard-working, tax-paying citizens who on a daily basis have to live with their personal security at the fore-front of their minds. No one should have to live like this. Police response is slow, dumped trash in alleys and vacant lots sits far longer then I ever saw in the other side of the city. And for those who aren’t aware, putting a call in to 911 does not guarantee an answer post-haste. 911 in Mpls is apparently short-staffed and while this, I imagine, is true throughout the city, if you live in a safer area you probably are not aware.