As Alleged Fort Hood Shooter Recovers, New Questions Arise
12 November 2009
As the alleged Fort Hood shooter recovers, questions are surfacing, including what made Major Nidal Hasan take aim at his colleagues. Some are speculating he will claim he has post-traumatic stress disorder. A former military psychiatrist says mental health professionals in the armed services face tremendous stress and can crack.
|Nidal Malik Hasan (2007 file) (picture provided by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences) |
As the nation mourns the dead, the suspect in the Fort Hood shooting is recovering.
One question that remains is why Major Nidal Hasan shot his army colleagues.
Physicians say a possible answer involves post traumatic stress disorder.
Some speculate Hasan will claim he has it, brought on by his fear of impending deployment and years of counseling soldiers scarred from battle.
"The answer to the question can somebody get post traumatic stress disorder and not be in combat, the answer is yes," explains Dr. Eric Anderson, a psychiatrist who was a Navy doctor for a decade.
|Doctor Eric Anderson says tales of battle trauma can destabilize military psychiatrists|
He says Hasan should be held accountable. But he also says he was not surprised to hear a psychiatrist pulled the trigger.
Anderson says the tales of battle trauma that military psychiatrists hear can destabilize.
"At the end of the day, you have got all of that built up inside of you," notes Anderson. "It's not like you can go home and talk about it, because that is a violation of patient confidentiality day in and day out, seeing that stress over and over. Eventually the cracks will show through."
The question is: in the military, who is the doctor's doctor.
"Who is minding the minder?"
According to Anderson, there are just over 100 active duty mental health professionals, with more than a hundred thousand soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We have got to get more people in the trenches and by that I mean not just more mental health professionals out there walking patrol, I mean more people available to not just see you once but to see you several times over weeks and months and years if necessary," Anderson says.
Anderson says the military must also work to remove the stigma attached to emotional problems.
One thing is certain. As Hasan prepares a defense, there will be no shortage of psychiatrists and doctors to help.