Mental health issues do not trigger violence, doctor says

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ALBANY, N.Y. – The April 2 shooting at Fort Hood Army base in Texas has many people pointing the finger at mental health issues, but an Albany physiologist said that's not the case.

Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire Wednesday afternoon killing three people and himself and injuring 16 more, according to military officials. Recent reports claim the soldier suffered from mental health issues.

Spc. Dustin Ross is a Capital Region native currently stationed at Fort Hood.

“I work there. I eat there. I have friends there. I have family there,” Ross said. “For something like this to happen, it just gets you torn up about it.”

Ross was upset that a solider would turn a gun on another.

“This is not the kind of soldier that represents the U.S. Army,” he continued. “This is the kind of soldier that represents everything that the Army is against; everything the Army fights for.”

Fort Hood was the scene of another shooting in 2009. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and wounded 32 others in what was the worst mass murder at a military institution in U.S. history. Mental health issues were cited in that shooting.

Hasan was sentenced to death in August 2013 and is on death row at U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Dr. Annette Payne is the Chief of Physiology at Stratton VA Medical Center.

“Something like this happening in Fort Hood is very unusual,” she said. “It's not likely to have veteran-on-veteran violence like this.”

She added that just because a solider is suffering from mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder does not mean he will act violent.

“It doesn't make them any more likely to be involved in any type of violence than anybody else,” she said.

Payne believes other factors such as financial stress, change in relationships or basic life changes increase the likelihood of a violent outburst.

“And a lot of times that is the case,” she said. “A person has a number of factors that contribute to increases in depression and anxiety.”

Veterans Affairs hospitals throughout the country look for the signs of these disorders.

“We would evaluate all the different factors that may be contributing to an increase in stress,” Dr. Payne said.

VA hospitals then work with patients to find the best way to help them.

“It's just a shame. It's just a shame the whole thing even happened,” Ross said. “And it shouldn't have had to happen.”

Payne said it's important to know that a violent outburst like a mass shooting isn't a common trend among soldiers suffering from mental health issues, and that anyone suffering similar stress is just as likely or not as likely to have an outburst.

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