UPDATE: Paul Szoldra at Business Insider takes on the meme and a particularly bad “news” story. It is well worth the read, and even points out you are safer with veterans than in the general civilian population.
The shooting at Ft. Hood has once again brought forth howls of “PTSD” in the media. The stereotype of the “PTSD Vet” is one of the most pernicious and false narratives in the public conscious.
Please, I beg you right now to go read Alex Horton and Dakota Meyer. Open your mind, drop your preconceptions, and give them an honest read. Don’t look at where they are published, don’t look at anything BUT THEIR FREAKING WORDS. If you can’t do that honestly, you are useless to society and to any effort to help our troops and veterans.
Now, for the harsh words.
The “Ticking Vet” is a false stereotype much beloved of lazy script and news writers. If the stereotype dealt with race or sexual orientation, it would be banned by all right-thinking socially progressive people everywhere. However, it applies to one of the smallest segments in society, and one of the most misunderstood.
It is ignorance, with the average person having little or no contact with those who serve — even at one remove. It is the malicious (and sadly widely held) belief that only those who have no other choice and/or are too stupid for anything else go into the military. It is a lack of understanding of combat, what is truly involved, or the fact that there are many methods — good and bad — for coping with stress then and later.
PTS and TBI are NOT indicators of instability or even a statistical barometer of behavior. To brand all who have it with the stigma of the stereotype is no different from saying all members of one race are violent criminals. It simply isn’t so.
The key factor in every mass shooting, and most episodes of workplace violence is not PTS, it is not the weapon, it is mental illness. PTS is NOT a mental illness. It is NOT a disability. It is a variety of reactions to stress and/or traumatic events which can range from very mild to things which can effect social interactions.
In this case, the shooter had self-diagnosed TBI and possibly self-diagnosed PTS. Please note since so many media reports don’t mention it, but he was NOT a combat veteran. He was not injured in the line of duty. While he clearly had mental issues, at this time those do NOT appear to be related to his service.
As for the trigger, who knows. The root cause may (and most likely) have long preceded his enlistment. The immediate trigger remains to be determined, as it could have been a real or imagined slight or even stopping or changing his medications without talking with a doctor.
The one thing anyone can say with any certainty is that PTS was not a realistic factor in those actions; and, that those with PTS are not ticking time bombs as so widely portrayed in the media. To continue to depict them as such is a disservice to all.