Major Malik Nidal Hasan and PTSD: Was Stress Disorder to Blame?
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the man behind the Fort Hood shootings on November 5th when 13 people were killed and 30 were wounded, and much speculation has taken place today about why he may have done it and what his motivation could have been.
Nidal Hasan is still in hospital and is not able to speak about the incident yet, but a lot of experts today are talking about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects that it can have on a person.
Fort Hood is an army base with the highest number of Army suicides and it is believed that this is due to it being the arrival and departure point for soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasan had also recently been told he was deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan himself.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder and is considered quite a common mental health problem. It is caused by a psychologically traumatic event, usually one involving death or serious injury and can be experienced alone or in a group. Such examples include rape, natural disasters, military combat and severe accidents such as a plane crash.
After a traumatic event, it can take about 3 momths for any symptons to show up but it can also take years. Symptons can include re-living the event in flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of other people and numbing of emotions, and changes in sleeping patterns and even an increase in alertness.
PTSD can affect those who live a traumatic event, but it can also affect friends, family and those who are charged to care for people with PTSD such as emergency workers and doctors.
Cases of post-traumatic stress disorder quadrupled from 2005 to 2007, and PTSD affects even those — like Hasan — who haven't gone off to war. "Mental-health issues are a real problem for the Fort Hood population," an Army study concluded last year. "Soldiers don't live in a vacuum," it added, noting that they have "families and friends who are also affected by the trauma the soldiers experience."
According to Shad Meshad, one of the leading experts on PTSD and Compassion Fatigue, what Malik Nadal Hasan could be experiencing is Secondary PTSD.
Said Meshad, "We do not have all the information on Nidal Malik Hasan and his motives. But if he was treating soldiers with post-traumatic stress who were returning from combat in Iraq, and then faced deployment to the very place all this trauma was being experienced by his patients, it might have been enough, combined with other stressors, to cause the kind of psychotic break that could explain such horrific violence."
Hasan has been exposed to those with PTSD for many years, as he spent six years at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and then was transfered to Fort Hood's Darnell Army Medical Center. He was often described as a loner and he spent much of time giving counseling to soldiers who had returned from combat.
Nader Hasan, Malik's cousin said that he would tell them about the horrible things he would hear from his patients.
A study released in July 2009 stated that major crimes have been on the rise at army bases since 2003 and suggested that mental illnesses related to increased deployments and casualties overseas were most likely to blame.
What Malik Hasan did on Thursday November 5th will most likely increase the cases of PTSD at Fort Hood and more psychiatrists will have to be relocated to the base to help with the rising number.
On a New York Times blog, Joseph A. Kinney, a Marine combat veteran states that the government has failed soliders when it comes to PTSD.
The concept of post-traumatic stress disorder was coined to give unequal experiences a dubious uniformity. Clinicians cannot cure P.T.S.D. with therapy and anti-depressants. P.T.S.D. is an illness that cannot be treated, only placated.
Mr. Kinney says that he has argued for years that combat veterans must set up PTSD groups so that they feel they have support amongst themselves and not wait for their clinicians to do this for them.
Mr. Kinney questions if the warning signs at Fort Hood went unnoticed in regards to Malik Nidal Hasan. At this point, no one knows, but it is a question that will no doubt be answered as more information comes to light.
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