Military stress and Fort Hood shootings
The psychological effects of stress on military personnel and their families in aftermath of shootings at Forth Hood Army Base.
The following is a partial transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Malik Hasan is in custody in the hospital after allegedly opening fire on the Army base in Fort Hood, Texas. He killed 13 of his fellow soldiers and injured at least 30 others.
The reasons behind the attack are still unknown, but the tragedy will undoubtedly have a lasting affect on the families stationed at Fort Hood.
Andrew Pomerantz is an associate professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School who works with soldiers recovering from post-traumatic stress. He says the military has been proactive in working to help personnel and their families deal with various types of stress.
"I think there has been a lot in the news about the stresses and strains on the caregivers in the military. The military has suffered a lot of losses of psychological counselors over the years; it's been actively recruiting more. It has been beefing things up pretty well.
"We also know a lot more about how to deal with the stresses of deployment, and particularly multiple deployments, but something like this happens and I think all bets are off."
The shooting puts additional strain on the already stretched counseling services at Fort Hood.
"It's just going to be a time of just trying to reestablish safety and a time of just unknowns for families, so they're going to need to know what's possible," said Angela Huebner, an associate professor of human development and family programs at Virginia Tech.
Olga Peña, managing editor of the "Killeen Daily Herald," says the fact that the shooter was a psychological counselor makes it especially difficult, and military officials are challenged with reestablishing a sense of safety, not just with personnel and their families, but also the surrounding community.
"That right now is going to be something really hard to build up once again," said Peña.
According to Pomerantz, while officials have secured the area, the community may still be feeling a high level of threat.
"When your community is threatened and you are locked down and there are troops everywhere, and police and everybody's on the lookout; although you’re safer, it heightens your arousal and your sense of fear and apprehension."
The soldiers who are scheduled to deploy in the coming days will have access to services to help them deal with the stress, says Huebner. "It's not as though when they go and are actually in theater, that they don't have access to any services because they actually do."
Huebner believes the situation will increase awareness for counseling professionals and others to be more vigilant about how the psychological effects of stress are dealt with.
"That does call for more supervision, more peer discussion -- all of those types of things that in times of budget cuts and increased schedules is difficult to do, but is vital as this incident shows."
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