Photo courtesy of Steven V

As soon as I saw the “Breaking News” my heart sank. Another shooting. Another gunman. More dead, injured, traumatized.

Then I brace myself for those two little words that always accompany these disastrous gun-related events: “mental illness.”

In a story on NPR, reporter Melissa Block spoke with Counselor Annie Powers, a military veteran herself,  who specializes in treating PTSD. Ms. Powers sees military patients at the Adult, Child and Family Counseling Center in Killeen, Texas, the town where Fort Hood is located.

Ms. Block reports, “All the patients [Annie Powers] talked to since the shooting have been talking about it.”

Ms. Powers states, “I can see where they might be concerned about, oh great, everybody thinks that if you have PTSD, anger, anxiety and depression issues that you’re crazy! There’s a lot of people who are afraid to come get the help. They don’t want it on their military record. They don’t want to go on medication because somebody might know, ‘I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t strong enough.’ I have to explain to them that PTSD is not about strength.”

It’s also not about being a potential mass murderer. It’s much, much, more likely that anyone coping with mental illness, of any kind, will become be a victim of crime rather than a perpetrator of violence.

There’s also the horrible trauma of being re-traumatized, which, after this second shooting, effects not just the combat veterans but the entire populace of Fort Hood and Killeen. They will need counseling, good mental health treatment and support more than ever. I hope they will feel free to take advantage of such help.

We all need to be careful about stigmatizing such issues by directly connecting the violent use of firearms with mental illness. Doing such a thing just compounds an unthinkable act of murder, carried out by one individual, with another kind of abuse heaped upon an entire community, when what they need is radical compassion.

Here is the the entire audio clip of Melissa Block’s story, Another Tragedy for a City Too Familiar with Extreme Gun Violence.