Counselor: Don't blame Fort Hood attack on PTSD
Posted April 3, 2014
FORT HOOD, Texas — A Fort Hood official says the unstable mental condition of the gunman who killed three people and wounded 16 others at the Texas military base is believed to be an underlying cause of the attack.
Fort Hood's senior officer, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, said Thursday that there's "very strong evidence" that Spc. Ivan Lopez had a medical history indicating an unstable psychological condition and that it was believed to a "fundamental underlying cause" in Wednesday's shooting.
Milley said there is a "strong possibility" that Lopez had a "verbal altercation" with another soldier or soldiers immediately before the shooting, which unfolded on the same Army post that was the scene of an infamous 2009 mass shooting. However, there's no indication that he targeted specific soldiers, Milley said.
Lopez, 34, never saw combat during a deployment to Iraq and had shown no apparent risk of violence before the shooting, officials said.
Toni Morris, a licensed professional counselor in Fayetteville, treats more than 1,000 patients a year suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, including many Fort Bragg soldiers. She said people should be careful not to automatically associate PTSD with mass shootings such as the one at Fort Hood.
"The reason why people do shoot is because it's a response to something in them, whether there's anger, fear, anxiety," Morris said. "Something along those lines is what causes people to respond with a gun, but PTSD alone is not it."
Officials said they fear mass shootings by service members will be so associated with PTSD that troops and veterans stop seeking treatment for the illness.
The Army is expanding its care for soldiers suffering from mental illnesses. New diagnostic technology is being developed, and private funds are financing the construction of new mental health treatment centers.
"There are all kinds of people at these installations to (provide mental health support)," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Springer, a military analyst for WRAL News. "But somebody has to go there. Somebody has to tell them (of a potential problem), or the individual has to make himself or herself available."
Even with the extra resources in the military, Morrison and other members of the mental health community say the nation isn't prepared for the mental health issues that soldiers returning from Afghanistan will carry home with them.
"You can't put people in situations like this and expect them to come back and be exactly the way they were before. There is going to be some change," she said. "When we draw down from Afghanistan and we bring all our men and women home, they're going to struggle, and we are not prepared here to handle what's coming into our community from the mental health perspective."