Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
After Thousand Oaks Mass Shooting, Experts Warn Against Linking PTSD With Violence
Mental health experts and veterans are cautioning the public about making assumptions about linking post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental illnesses to violence in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in which 13 lost their lives at a Thousand Oaks dance hall Wednesday night.
Ian David Long, the 28-year-old suspect from Newbury Park, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from August 2008 to March 2013, leaving at the rank of corporal.
He was a machine gunner in infantry combat and was deployed to Afghanistan from Nov. 16, 2010 to June 14, 2011, Marine Corps officials at the Pentagon said.
The alleged shooter’s neighbor told reporters Wednesday that Long suffered from PTSD, but that has yet to be confirmed.
The Veterans Administration in Washington D.C. said Wednesday that Long was never enrolled in their healthcare system.
Only about 25 percent of veterans who have PTSD access care through the VA, said Dr. Michael Hollifield, who heads the PTSD division at the VA in Long Beach, which handles about 50 consultations a month.
Predicting suicidal or homicidal behavior among those with PTSD can be extremely challenging, he said.
Long had been contacted by authorities in April during a disturbance call where he was “irate” and acting “irrationally.”
Mental health officials cleared him that day and did not place him on a psychiatric hold.
Hollifield said the law states a mental health professional must find an individual to be an “imminent danger” to himself and others in order to be deemed “acutely dangerous.”
“Most people who are evaluated on a one-time basis don’t fall into that category,” he said. “Episodes that create such volatility might be triggered by other factors such as substance abuse, agitation, and anxiety.”
Monitoring active service members for mental health issues, including PTSD, is a relatively new initiative at the Marine Corps, said Retired USMC Col. Willy Buhl, who served as commanding officer of the Wounded Warrior Regiment at Quantico from 2012 to 2014.
Marines undergo a final physical evaluation before they leave the Marine Corps, but the extent of participation in that process depends on the individual, he said.
Those who are diagnosed with PTSD are sent to the Wounded Warrior Battalion for treatment, but only the most severe cases even get that far, Buhl said.
Once they undergo treatment and are discharged, these individuals are handed off to the Veterans Administration. It’s up to the VA to follow up with veterans regarding further services, he said.
“We don’t have enforcement once they leave the military; we can’t order them to see anyone.”
The Wounded Warrior Regiment comprises a special group of coordinators tasked with keeping tabs on former Marines diagnosed with a physical or mental disability.
While their job is to follow up and make sure these veterans are doing well, they often find themselves in a “more reactive mode,” sometimes after a tragedy such as Wednesday’s mass shooting, Buhl said.
Linking a veteran’s PTSD to a mass shooting is a way of distracting the public from other real issues such as “holes in gun laws and addressing a culture that doesn’t promote gun safety,” said Chris Marvin, a retired combat-wounded Army Officer with Everytown for Gun Safety, a national nonprofit that advocates for gun safety laws.
“It’s just easy to say this must have happened because he was a mentally-ill veteran,” he said. “Also, tethering military service and PTSD to this heinous act doesn’t help other service members who want to seek assistance for mental health issues.”
Most people with PTSD, including combat veterans, are not violent, said Dr. Donovan Wong, medical director at Didi Hirsch Mental Services in Los Angeles.
“Another common misconception is that PTSD is only related to going to war or being in combat,” he said. “There are several different types of trauma that could cause this condition including car accidents, an act of violence or sexual assault.”
When it comes to mass shootings, people tend to look for one simple answer such as mental illness, Wong said.
“There are often many other complex issues at play including access to firearms,” he said.
Wong said Didi Hirsch’s Disaster Distress Help Line, 800-855-5990, is available for anyone who needs help coping with this tragedy.
©2018 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The Taliban may not have breached the walls of Bagram, but they damaged the hell out of its main passenger terminal
Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.
The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Shortly after seven sailors died aboard USS Fitzgerald when she collided with a merchant ship off Japan in 2017, I wrote that the Fitzgerald's watch team could have been mine. My ship had once had a close call with me on watch, and I had attempted to explain how such a thing could happen. "Operating ships at sea is hard, and dangerous. Stand enough watches, and you'll have close calls," I wrote at the time. "When the Fitzgerald's investigation comes out, I, for one, will likely be forgiving."
So, am I forgiving? Yes — for some.
Editor's note: a version of this story first appeared in 2015.
Most people haven't heard of an elderly Belgian-Congolese nurse named Augusta Chiwy. But students of history know that adversity and dread can turn on a dime into freedom and change, and it's often the most humble and little-known individuals who are the drivers of it.
During the very darkest days of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Chiwy was such a catalyst, and hundreds of Americans lived because of her. She died quietly on Aug. 23, 2015, at the age of 94 at her home in Brussels, Belgium, and had it not been for the efforts of my friend — British military historian Martin King — the world may never have heard her astonishing story.
More than $20 million of the Pentagon aid at the center of the impeachment fight still hasn't reached Ukraine.
The continued delay undermines a key argument against impeachment from President Trump's Republican allies and a new legal memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Average pay, housing and subsistence allowances will increase for members of the military in 2020, the Pentagon announced Thursday.