Health Team

Counselor: Don't blame Fort Hood attack on PTSD

Posted April 3, 2014

— 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."


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  • Objective Scientist Apr 4, 2014

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    All good points... I have known and currently know some folks who clearly have some "mental" issues... some diagnosed, some not but it is obvious they have something going on that prevents them from functioning "normally". I've managed to make it - thus far - to living almost 7 decades without having any mental or physical issues... and I consider myself very fortunate to having done so. I have read widely, have a keen interest in the world around me, have traveled nationally, and worldly. From that perspective I must conclude that in our American society we are in a "phase" in which there is always an "excuse" for everything. We struggle mentally as adults... must be because of something in our childhood! It is not my intent to trivalize neither mental illness nor childhood trauma... not at all! Nevertheless, IMO we are entirely too quick to look for SOMETHING to blame for our difficulties & shortcomings!

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Apr 4, 2014

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    Ok, but even in the story, "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..."

    Other stories say he asked for mental health help.

    So whether it was actually PTSD or was some other mental issue, the delay in getting him that help, delays that happen quite regular to military members and Veterans in military and VA medical facilities, clearly COULD have led to this happening, and those delays need to stop!!!

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Apr 4, 2014

    The EXACT diagnosis shouldn't matter. The story says the guy still had "an unstable psychological condition" and he should have been receiving help with that.

    This will keep happening until the VA/VAMCs start working faster and more earnestly on those who say they have or who have exhibited mental issues.
    As it is now with the VA/VAMC, the burden of proof for any medical need, including mental medical needs, is on the patient, with the VA/VAMC more often than not putting long delays and even road blocks in the way of them getting help.

    For instance, one of our friends, a Desert Storm Veteran even had exact copies of his medical records and SRB in his possession that showed a PTSD and severe arm/shoulder nerve damage diagnosis from military doctors BEFORE his Honorable Discharge which he shared with the VAMC in Durham, and the VAMC in Winston-Salem, STILL required multiple trips, tests and examinations, and delayed him for over a year before helping him, and THAT is wrong!!!

  • Thomas Williams Apr 4, 2014
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    Good point, nowadays everyone is looking for something or someone to blame for their shortcomings. I have my doubts about all this PTSD causing people to do crazy stuff, and I don't buy into it. That is what psychologist want to make us believe, but I'm not convinced. Like you, PTSD is very bad, and it is a major reason why war should be avoided at about any cost. But don't use it as a cop out to commit violent crimes.

  • rduwxboy Apr 4, 2014

    I am glad to see that I am not the only person that has wondered what the difference is between the WWII vets and current vets. It can't be the combat stress alone. - BTNEAST

    Honestly, I believe it had to do with the fact that the whole country was at war then. Almost every man was at war in WWII, so there was a lot more camaraderie when they came back home, because even those in America were working to supply the troops. Today, it's a very small percentage, so when they come home (even though appreciated) they don't have the camaraderie that goes with being able to share experiences with brothers and sisters who were also fighting. Just my 2 cents on the issue.

  • btneast Apr 4, 2014

    I am glad to see that I am not the only person that has wondered what the difference is between the WWII vets and current vets. It can't be the combat stress alone. There was way more combat and for longer periods of time in WWII, not to mention way more people involved. Yes, there were some that had issues....I had an uncle that had issues that were what we call PTSD today.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 4, 2014

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    tri1234... I appreciate and agree with much of what you said. I add the following: Yes... there were vets from both World Wars who suffered in silence and/or written of as drunks. No... my Dad did not "drag" (he would not have done that nor would he have to have "dragged" me any where) my down to the homeless shelter or the prison to meet the vets who did "have issues". We were not farmers but lived in a very rural area of NC in a truly small, "tiny" even, NC community. There were no homeless shelters any where near us, likewise with a prison... only the "county jail". We did have a few "community drunks" - and I knew all of them. My point is that the vets of that era endured combat stress and were impacted by it... but I don't recall those vets reacting to it in the fashion that some do in our "modern era"... as this last Fort Hood incident. I am familiar with Fort Hood... having an Uncle who was stationed there for a few years.

  • Jump1 Apr 4, 2014

    Can agree with the statement, but we look at the name given to problems and then tag it to other problems.

  • tri1234 Apr 4, 2014

    One argument for the difference is the unity of the nation in WWI and WWII- large numbers of men went, when they came back to their communities they had the support of the general public and of each other as they formed active VFW chapters etc. Also current training is more effective- of WWI & WWII soldiers, only about 1:10 actually aimed their gun at a human and pulled the trigger. In current wars, soldiers often return to communities where there are few other veterans and where for the most part the wars don't affect the day-to-day lives of the community. And of course there were a lot of WWI & WWII veterans who suffered in silence for a variety of reasons or were just written off as drunks, etc. - see Unbroken for example. I imagine your Dad didn't drag you down to the homeless shelter or the prison to introduce you to the returned soldiers that did "have issues."

  • Objective Scientist Apr 3, 2014

    I'm no counselor... but have done some reading about such things, etc. It does seem that every time something like this happens - it is "blamed" on PTSD. Hell... one lady I dated after my divorce suggested I suffered from PTSD from my ex-wife. Perhaps PTSD is too quickly used to explain and/or excuse such behavior. WWII... my Dad was a US Army Sergeant from 1940-1945, landed on the coast of France, went through Northern France through Belgium into Germany. He was shelled by German artillery at night during bivouac, and shot at during the day as his unit moved through forest and fields. I met many of those with whom he fought... not one had any issues from the war that hindered "normal functioning". I know some did have issues... but is PTSD being blamed too much? I'm not demeaning those who suffer from PTSD... I know it is very real to some. I don't know the answer to my question... I simply ask it.