Health Professionals Fear Tragedies Such As Fort Hood Stigmatize Mental Illness

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Authorities in Fort Hood, Texas are trying to piece together what led an Iraq War veteran to kill three people and wound 16 others before taking his own life at an Army base in Texas.

Derek Valcourt explains investigators are looking closely at the gunman’s mental health.

Commanders now say there’s a strong possibility he had a verbal argument with one or more soldier before the shooting.

Army specialist Ivan Lopez, 34, went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood with his own .45 caliber handgun, killing three people and injuring 16 more.

It ended when took he his own life after an officer confronted him in a parking lot.

Fort Hood’s commanders say just last month doctors had evaluated Lopez, looking for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

He was taking medication for depression and anxiety and claimed to be suffering from a traumatic brain injury.

“We had no indication there was any sign of likely violence to himself or to others, no suicidal ideation,” said John McHugh, Army secretary.

Officials say Lopez served in Iraq in 2011, but there’s no evidence he was wounded there.

“Just another tragedy, another way for us to stigmatize mental illness,” said Dr. Elias Shaya.

Shaya , the chief of psychiatry at Good Samaritan Hospital, shares the concerns expressed by many mental health professionals–that just the mention of PTSD in connection with the shooting will mistakenly lead some to believe that people with mental disorders are violent.

“The fact is that millions, millions of people seek and get all kinds of psychiatric care for various types of illness and they never commit any acts of violence let alone these tragic random shootings,” Shaya said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says anywhere from 11-20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have PTSD, but some studies put the rate as high as 35 percent. Suicide statistics show those veterans are more likely to harm themselves than others.

Police say the suspect has no ties to terror.

Three victims remain in critical condition, but doctors say they are not expecting any more fatalities.

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