Fort Hood shooting sheds light on mental health issues

A prominent Houston psychologist is calling for more research to help predict these acts of violence
April 3, 2014 3:23:11 PM PDT
Much of the investigation is now focusing on the mental state of a soldier who opened fire at Fort Hood Army base Wednesday and what caused him to snap. At the time of the shooting, he was being evaluated for possible post traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression, anxiety, and problems sleeping.

We know Ivan Lopez was seeing a psychiatrist for a number of mental health issues and even taking medication. Now a prominent Houston psychologist is calling for more research to help predict these acts of violence.

Depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping are all symptoms that officials say Lopez struggled with before his shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

"One of the hardest things to predict is the issue of potential violence," said world-renowned Houston psychiatrist Dr. Richard Pesikoff with Baylor College of Medicine.

Pesikoff doesn't know Lopez, but says the violence signals a severe loss in being able to cope with stress.

Lopez was being evaluated for post traumatic stress disorder.

"Sometimes it goes beyond the normal control systems, people act out, they pick up and they do things. If they have a gun, it might be a shooting. It could your fists," Pesikoff said.

For Air Force veteran Alex Vitek, the battle plays on in his mind.

"In 2008, it was the first time I was diagnosed with PTSD," Vitek said.

He was a medic in Afghanistan and helped dying comrades.

"Try to keep them calm, tell them they're going to make it when I knew they weren't," Vitek said.

He even aided young children who were injured by the Taliban. Those images still haunt him today.

"I still to this day have trouble sleeping. I developed a fear of sleep because of the nightmares," Vitek said. "I used to have violent outbursts. Loud noises scare me."

Today, he still struggles with PTSD. Some of his healing comes from helping others at Camp Hope.

"When I saw it on the news, I left the room," Vitek said.

Vitek says Lopez didn't have to make the choice he did. He calls him a coward.

The Camp David executive director says he doesn't believe Lopez suffered from PTSD. He said those who suffer tend to cause harm to themselves and not others.

Find Foti on Facebook at ReporterFotiKallergis or on Twitter at @FotiKallergis

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