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DAVID ROSMAN: Untreated mental disorders can have dire consequences

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 | 3:27 p.m. CDT; updated 6:53 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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.


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Comments

Ellis Smith April 9, 2014 | 6:02 p.m.

If mental diseases were contagious we would be in the midst of a pandemic.

Affective disorders aren't the same as personality disorders; in some cases affective disorders respond well to drugs, as ongoing "maintenance" medication. I know of cases where this has gone on for 30 years or more, with the person being able to live a normal life.

As for cost of medications - for all medications, not just those used in psychochemotherapy - this is a problem, but these medications do not magically appear out of thin air, as a product of corporate alchemy.

Let the government put price caps on these products and see what happens. I'll give you a hint: it will be what occurs when other things get capped.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 9, 2014 | 8:43 p.m.

Rosman says, " 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."
_________________

My mind bent at the disingenuous*** logic; you went full circle. You hedged because the Army "seem[s] to want to deny", then makes the "denying" a fact rather than a hedge . Good job, Rosman.
______________________

Ellis is right. Someone had to develop that drug, and it cost him/them millions....and perhaps billions....of dollars. Without recouping the money, where do you get your drugs, Rosman?

Yeah, I supposed you could charge it to the taxpayers, but such a thing does slow down this thing called "capitalism" to which many of us subscribe. I've always said....you can make people work, but you can't make them work efficiently and you can't make them divulge their ideas.
_______________

**disingenuous = "not candid or sincere."

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 9, 2014 | 10:01 p.m.

Michael:

Well, as they used to say in the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics, "It's wonderful here in workers' paradise: we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us for doing it."

Where did all those Kulaks go? (Well that's what comes of having one more cow than your neighbors have. All numbers of cows must be made equal; it's only fair.)

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates April 11, 2014 | 12:36 p.m.

@Ellis: I like you last. A friend of mine was a civil affairs officer in Bosnia assigned to the UN peacekeeping HQ. A muslim came in complaining that his neighbor, a serb, who had a larger goat herd, was making more money in the market. When asked what they could do to help, the answer was "kill five of his goats"......

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 11, 2014 | 12:54 p.m.

Skip:

Please keep this secret, but in trying to solve some production problems (ceramic industry) over the years we've dispatched a goat or two and at least one llama. Collateral damage. :)

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates April 11, 2014 | 11:36 p.m.

Ellis...didn't know ceramics was your engineering specialty. When I was at Clemson (then A&M) decades ago, ceramic engineering was just about the most respected major on campus. There were a good number of very bright students on full scholarships paid for by Owens-Corning. Few realize how important ceramics was/is to our aerospace industry and to our then fledging space program. Yes, Owens-Corning makes things other than microwave safe bowls. :-) (will keep quiet about the goats and llama)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 12, 2014 | 7:06 a.m.

Skip:

I am very familiar with Clemson University, many of its graduates, and at least some of the present faculty (who, like some present MS&T faculty, are young enough to be my children). The area around Clemson is to my way of thinking some of the most beautiful countryside in the United States. I used to do some business with a brick research center located near Pendleton.

My niece's husband, a wildlife biologist, received his MS from Clemson; he helped pay for that by working in the dairy barns, or, as he likes to put it, "I financed my MS by shoveling cow s***."

A long time engineering associate of mine, who died in a Columbia (Missouri, not South Carolina) hospital in 2013, had degrees from both MS&T (BS) and Clemson (MS) in Ceramic Engineering.

As to what, in engineering curricula, is more difficult and/or prestigious, an interesting thing happened at the celebration of the 100th concecutive annual St. Patrick's Parade at MS&T. As is more often than not the case, it was a cold March Saturday. For this very special celebration alumni had arrived from all over (world, not just country). Prior to parade time we were milling around with our coffee mugs (the coffee liberally enhanced by other liquids) and exchanging class year, present location, etc., data. I was talking to a younger alum (these days most of them are*) and he asked my major.

He was an Electrical Engineer. When I told him what my major was I could see he was genuinely impressed. "Oh," he said, "that's HARD!" To me, Skip, getting a EE degree would be something hard. (All those differential equations. YUCK!) If one is inclined toward mineralogy, inorganic chemistry, and thermal processing, getting a BS degree in Ceramic Engineering is no big deal.

Different strokes for different folks. :)

*- It's difficult not to notice how much younger the student playing St. Patrick keeps getting as the years roll by. For the 2014 parade I swear they substituted a high school student.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 12, 2014 | 8:30 a.m.

PS: Skip's comment concerning Owens-Corning is a reminder that we now produce "glass" ceramics that are "supercooled liquids" (solid at ambient temperatures, but the molecular structure is that of a frozen liquid - the traditional definition of "glass") but in the SAME PRODUCT also have the molecular structure of a true solid. An example of this mixed structural ceramic is the "glass" cook top range in many new or remodeled kitchens.

How do they DO that? They begin by adding a zirconium compound (or something similar that promotes "nucleation," as the molten glass cools) to the raw glass batch before melting, then at a critical temperature during cooling the liquid melt they stop cooling and heat the glass to a high temperature, but not quite to its melting point. Then they hold that temperature for a specific amount of time, after which the "glass" is allowed to cool to room temperature.

Homework assignment: At an appliance store or as found in home kitchens, look carefully at these range tops. Of course you will see the brand name of the appliance manufacturer, but examine the four corners of the glass top itself. In smaller letters you may see either "Corning" or "Schott". Schott is a German high tech glass manufacturer.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 14, 2014 | 5:17 a.m.

@ Skip Yates:

Regarding Clemson University, I neglected to mention that I have this absolutely marvelous pair of bright orange Clemson University swim trunks, visible, when worn, at least a block away.

Unfortunately the granduer of the person who wears those trunks fails to match the grandeur of the trunks themselves, but I have long since stopped concerning myself about that.

Do you suppose Georgia Tech also sells swim trunks?

(Report Comment)

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