Lawmakers, Military Leaders Press for Mental Support for Veterans

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 09:27 AM

By Melanie Batley

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In the wake of the Fort Hood shooting last week by a mentally disturbed war veteran, lawmakers and military leaders say that the military must be more focused on detecting and managing mental health issues going forward, The Washington Times reported.

The issue has been elevated in the wake of the shooting spree last week by Spc. Ivan Lopez, a 34-year-old Iraq War veteran, who killed three people and injured 16 others before taking his own life. Lopez was reportedly being treated for depression and other issues.

"We have this crazy standard in the United States that says unless a person is on the verge of holding a knife to their own throat or someone else, we're not going to step in. And that's a real problematic standard," Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Tim Murphy, a clinical psychologist, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," according to the Times.

Before the shooting, Lopez wrote a number of cryptic and alarming messages on social media that some are saying were missed warning signs. He also reportedly got into a verbal altercation with fellow service members just before he began shooting, leading to speculation that he was harboring trauma from his time in service, according to the Times.

Specialists believe Lopez may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Royce Lee, a psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, told the Times that the illness is becoming more common.

Though Lopez was not wounded while in service and not believed to have suffered from any other traumatic events, as a truck driver in Iraq, he could have been repeatedly exposed to traumatic events of victims, Lee said.

"I think our force, because it has been away so much, has not had to deal with those [mental health and other issues] as directly as they may have in the past, and now that we're going to be home more, I think we're going to actually see an increased number of challenges associated with that, " Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," according to the Times.

"We all need to wrap our arms around the force to help us deal with those," he said, adding that the availability and quality of services must be increased.

"This really is a national resources issue," he said. "We need to do a lot more to understand the brain and how these [traumatic] injuries affect our young people who have done so much for our country," he said.

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