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Military officials, family concerned about PTSD stigma

Military officials, family concerned about PTSD stigma

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - In an about-face, the senior officer at Fort Hood says the mental condition of the soldier who fatally shot three soldiers and wounded 16 others earlier this week was not the "direct precipitating factor" in the shooting.

Authorities investigating this week's deadly shooting spree at Fort Hood said Friday that an altercation between Spc. Ivan Lopez and his fellow soldiers, rather than a medical condition, may have led to Lopez opening fire.

Lopez was in the process of being tested for PTSD, which led many to speculate that he had mental health issues that led to the massacre.

While the details of his mental health issues are still unclear, Lt. Col. Charles Weber, chief of Fort Carson's behaviorial health department, warns that we shouldn't be quick to judge.

Weber told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that he cannot speak to Lopez' case nor the circumstances surrounding the shooting, but in general, humans are complex -- and that can be difficult to understand.

"People like to think it's one thing," he said.  "Patients do it.  I do it personally.  We just kind of do it as humans. We like to be a little more concrete.  It's usually a very complex, myriad of things that are going on."

Weber said that the misconception that PTSD alone leads to violence can create stigma for those who need treatment, but the Army has made strides to make themselves available to anyone who needs help.

Amber Duncan, an Army wife, told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that she's seen soldiers afraid to seek help because they're afraid it could cost them their career.

"They don't want that flag in your file, so they keep quiet," she said.  "They don't want the stigma.  They don't want everybody looking at them like, 'You're a dirtbag. You're not a good soldier. What's wrong with you? What can't you take it?'"

But Weber said that stigma may be personal and is not reflected in Army protocol.  

"I have not seen that career-ruined portion for many, many years," Weber said.  

Weber encouraged anyone experiencing PTSD symptoms or any other mental health issues should immediately ask for help. He also encouraged spouses and family members to keep an eye out.

"If the spouse is afraid of coming forward because it'll hurt their family member, no.  It'll hurt their family member when the soldier finally does something that could possibly be very harmful for their career or put themselves in danger, he said.

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