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Mental health issues among military veterans: tragedy at Fort Hood

April 10, 2014

The tragic shooting at Ford Hood, Texas highlights the prevalence of mental health issues amongst military veterans and the need for a comprehensive, integrated and evidence-informed mental health strategy for members of the armed forces.

On April 2, 2014, Ivan Lopez, an army specialist who served in Iraq, opened fire at the military base, killing three and injuring 16 before killing himself.

At a news conference, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley referred to “strong evidence” that Lopez’s medical history included psychological issues. He had been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues and was undergoing treatment, including medication. Lopez had also self-reported a traumatic brain injury sustained in Iraq.

The recent shooting follows a 2009 attack at Fort Hood, where 13 people were killed and more than 30 were injured. In the last six months, there have been two other shooting rampages at U.S. military bases, including the Washington Navy Yard in September, 2013 and the Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia in March, 2014.

2000 to 2011 data show that prevalent mental health conditions within the U.S. Active Duty Forces include adjustment disorders, depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD involves exposure to trauma involving death or the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, intrusive thoughts and irritability. Individuals with PTSD may also have a hard time experiencing emotions.

Pull quote: CMHA and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) have advocated for an integrated and collaborative mental health strategy, including suicide prevention, for military personnel and all Canadians

In Canada, CMHA and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) have advocated for an integrated and collaborative mental health strategy, including suicide prevention, for military personnel and all Canadians. CMHA and CASP support the Surgeon General’s recently published Mental Health Strategy for the Canadian Forces, since the strategy underlines the value of community mental health services and supports for members of the military.

All Canadians – the general population and  members of the Canadians Forces, veterans, friends and families – should be guaranteed the same right to comprehensive, accessible, and coordinated services and supports  focused on maintaining and improving mental health; preventing and treating mental health conditions and supporting recovery.

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