The Fox News headline was startling, to say the least.
"Fort Hood shooter snapped over denial of request for leave, Army confirms."
What came next was appalling.
"Fort Hood shooter Ivan Lopez's rampage followed an argument over the denial of his request for leave and did not appear to be due to some ongoing mental problem, an Army official said Monday."
It was reported earlier that Spec. Lopez suffered from a mood disorder, most likely depression with anxiety, paranoia and possible post-traumatic stress disorder. I hedge my language here a bit because the Army, like Fox News and others, seem to want to deny that a mental illness was the underlying cause of last week’s rampage at Fort Hood.
Mind you, I am not saying that the shooting was in any way justified, but denying the underlying cause of the incident seems to be the norm in our society.
As a matter of perspective, I too suffer from depression with anxiety and paranoia. PTSD has been suggested though I was not in the service. You don’t have to be in combat to suffer from it.
I can tell you from my own experience that the explosion suffered by Lopez is similar to what I have experienced in my own life — uncontrolled anger resulting in screaming at coworkers in the middle of a meeting or berating a customer service agent for not fixing my problem. Lopez’s mood disorders went to the extreme.
The problem is, unless we recognize the need for better psychiatric care for our veterans and civilians, incidents like this will continue to happen.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 10 percent of the population, or 21 million Americans, suffer from a mood disorder, and almost one half of those are classified as severe. For all those who need treatment, only 56 percent receive treatment, and 19 percent receive adequate treatment.
Personally, I know of many suffering from moderate-to-severe depression who see a therapist for less than 30 minutes a session. I get to see my therapist about once every three weeks.
Why? Because of an acute shortage of qualified psychologists and psychiatrists. Insurance does not treat mental health issues as other diseases. And too many believe that we should just think happy thoughts.
Another statistic: Nearly 20,000 suicides annually can be linked directly to depression.
The shooting at Fort Hood may have been "caused" by the altercation but there was a much deeper problem that was either not being treated correctly or was not recognized by the therapist treating Lopez.
My own therapist did not foresee what we’ll call a psychotic break I had about one year ago. Those who are functional depressives are sometimes very good at hiding our fears, anxieties and paranoia.
The Fort Hood shooting needs to be a wake-up call to our state and national legislators to accomplish a few goals. First, to have the insurance companies treat mental health as any other illness, including providing the prescription drugs needed to maintain a "normal" life.
Second, to question why drug companies are charging so much for the drugs that can help those in need. Abilify, for example, can cost up to $125 a month for the prescription. Fortunately, this manufacturer has a program for those who cannot afford the drug because of their financial situation. But that help only lasts one year.
I am angered that the U.S. armed forces deny the underlying cause of Lopez’s rampage. I am upset that we, as a nation, turn a blind eye to the needs of those with mood and anxiety disorders.
I am upset the Affordable Care Act and Congress do not and cannot permit Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate the cost of drugs for those Americans in most need.
I am deeply saddened by the deaths caused at the hands of Ivan Lopez. His anger should never have escalated to a point of hurting others and himself.
Therapists need to be better trained to treat acute depression and anxiety. We need to take better care of our veterans, members of the armed forces and our civilians.
We can no longer sweep mental health under the table.
David Rosman is a writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and InkandVoice.com and NewYorkJournalofBooks.com.