Mental Health Stigma in the News

Sure enough, last week, one of the first tidbits of information that was given by the military, thus becoming the focus for the tragic shooting at Fort Hood was that the shooter, Ivan Lopez, had been treated for “mental health issues”.

John Grohol has the run down of the various news stories that came out in the wake of that information, blaming these mental health issues, or the lack of proper mental health care, as the reason for the shooting, when in fact, that probably had nothing to do with it. He also explains that the issues he had sought help with, probably had nothing at all to do with this.

We talk a lot about encouraging people to get help when they are suffering from PTSD, depression or any other form of mental health problem, but then we turn right around and make these connections between those who might have mental health problems, and violence.

Imagine if we told people that they should speak out about being victims of abuse so that they can get help in healing, and then every time a violent act occurred, we proclaimed that it must have been a result of them being abused as children, because “you know how those people are”. Would any one want to come forward and admit that they are, in fact, one of “those people”? Yet the media does the same thing with mental health issues all the time. Sure Ivan Lopez spent time in Iraq, and had sought treatment for some sort of mental health issues. So do thousands of other people, every day. Are they all just a mass shooting waiting to happen?

I don’t think so.


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  1. Thank you MikeM. This is such an important topic. People do look at others differently when they hear of mental health issues or sexual abuse history. Some of the most successful and intelligent people in this country have been a victim of one or the other. Look at the overall statistics and it is apparent that we move within a group of people each day who have at one time or another suffered from these things. That does not mean that there is a lasting negative effect. There is sufficient scientific information to show that these people become over-achievers and have accomplished great things in life.

  2. This is a really complex one for me, having dealt with mental health issues my entire life, having served in the military and seen good people pushed out, their benefits robbed of them, after they’ve given their all. And lastly, I was on Fort Hood the day of the first shooting, and I still live in Killen, just outside of Fort Hood.

    So every aspect is as close to home as it could be, without me actually being a victim or witness of the shootings.

    I don’t think the Army’s failure to get that guy help is the reason he shot people, but it breaks my heart because there are a million cases the public never hears about, where good lives ARE destroyed by an uncaring, unflinching machine who’s ultimate purpose is to kill enemies, not care for friendlies.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be too quick to let the Army off the hook for anything. They already have blood on their hands, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Causation is usually multi-faceted, anyway.

    1. Definitely not giving the military a pass on the mental health treatment of vets. There’s plenty of blame to go around there, but more just pointing out the fact that just because someone once sought treatment for depression, that we should jump to the conclusion that was the reason behind the shooting. As you said, the reasoning is multi-faceted and that lots and lots of people with depression never go on a shooting spree, so we should stop equating the two!

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