Duty to Warn: The Fort Hood Murders/Suicide and the Taboo Question

The Baltimore Chronicle has an interesting article by Gary G. Kohls, MD about the role of psychiatric medications in the Fort Hood incident. From the article:

Most of us have been listening to the massive, round-the-clock press coverage of the latest mass shooting incident at Fort Hood, Texas. Seemingly all the possible root causes of such a horrific act of violence have been raised and discussed. However, there is an elephant in the room, and it’s something that should be obvious in this age of the school shooter pandemic.

We should be outraged at the failure of the investigative journalists, the psychiatric professionals, the medical community and the military spokespersons who seem to be studiously avoiding the major factor that helps to explain these senseless acts. Why would someone unexpectedly, irrationally and randomly shoot up a school, a workplace or, in this case, an army post? Why would someone who used to be known as a seemingly rational person suddenly perpetrate a gruesome, irrational act of violence?

The answer to the question, as demonstrated again and again in so many of such recent acts of “senseless” violence, is brain- and behavior-altering drugs.

You can read the rest of it here.

I can see his point, and I think it is a good idea to factor in the potentially dangerous effects of psychoactive drugs. But I also believe there are many layers to this, the effect of drugs being only one of them. Something(s) else contributed to pushing the shooter to that point. And I’m not sure we can fairly lay all the blame at the feet of the pharmaceuticals industry.

Whatever the cause of the rampage, this issue of pharma-gone-bad is of particular interest to me, because as a multiple-TBI survivor with a bunch of cognitive-behavioral issues, it could be all too easy for a “qualified” doctor or neurologist or psychiatrist to load me up with a bunch of pills and send me on my way. I consider myself unbelievably fortunate and blessed to be working with a neuropsychologist who is very wary of pharmaceuticals and approaches them as a last resort, when all else fails. They are also very happy when I come up with alternative solutions to my issues that work well and do not involve drugs —  like exercising regularly as an antidote for fatigue and drowsiness and a way to wake up fully in the morning.

Interestingly, my psychotherapist tends to come down on the side of drug therapies for individuals with attentional difficulties. I may have to cut them loose, if they turn out to start pressuring me to resort to drugs. If they so much as start hinting at me using them, simply because other approaches “don’t appear to work as effectively” I may have to have to reconsider working with them and seek help elsewhere. Who knows? I may even cut out the psychotherapy completely.

Hard to say, at this point. I think it’s been helping me in some ways… no, I’m pretty sure it has.

But I have been growing a little more leery of my shrink, over the past month or so. They seem more distant than they did at the start. They also have said some things to me over the past couple of sessions that don’t sit right with me, but I haven’t actually followed up on. I should probably do that, to clear the air. It’s hard for me to spend the time and money with someone who I think doesn’t believe me, or seems to be insinuating that I’m misrepresenting my difficulties to the rest of the world. I’m not sure if they think I’m worse off than I appear to be, or if they are just having a hard time, themself.

To be fair, they did suffer a devastating personal loss, last year about this time, so I think it may be messing with their head a little bit. They have definitely not been at their best, of late. So, I’ll cut them some slack, give it some more time, slow things down, and not let them pull any punches with me. We’ll see how it goes.

Bottom line (if there is one) is… mental health care providers can have problems, too. And those problems can get to them in some pretty serious ways.  I’m just glad my shrink isn’t trained in small arms — I’m assuming they aren’t — and that they don’t work in an environment where the use of firearms is part of the job.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

2 thoughts on “Duty to Warn: The Fort Hood Murders/Suicide and the Taboo Question”

  1. BB,

    It seems that Dr. Hassan gave off other warning signs that weren’t picked up on – so maybe this didn’t happen out of the blue. As for pharma and head injuries – the first neurologist I saw prescribed a mild dose of anti-depressants a few months after I was injured. I can’t remember the brand – Alaval? – but the dose was maybe a fifth what they would prescribe for depression. Anyway, they totally messed me up. I couldn’t sleep, read, function. I stayed on a few days then threw them in a box. If I’d have stayed on them, I think I would have been a basket case.

    This was in Canada, the land of evil socialized medicine, but I’m sure it would have been the same anywhere – apparently this was standard at the time, and in some cases mild doses of anti-depressants had been effective in clearing up post-concussion syndrome. But not in all.

    As for therapy . . . there was some discussion in the tbi yahoo group I subscribe to about how talk therapy just didn’t work for many people recovering from head injuries, since it aims to tear down the patient’s structures and rebuild them again. For people with head injuries, their structures have already been torn down – what they need is structure. I was seeing a shrink for awhile in Toronto (Seeing a neuropsych for longer than a few sessions – especially with mtbi as opposed to tbi – is difficult). She didn’t really get it. She couldn’t really get it. Aside from dealing with some of the aftereffects of the injury, I found it stopped somewhere and I ended it.

    I DID read an article in the New Yorker this spring about students taking drugs for concentration and wondered about them. I’ve found various herbal equivalents that help, but I would like to stop my attention wandering, be a little more focused. Still, I’m very wary of drug treatments, especially after my experiences with the above-mentioned anti-depressants . . .




  2. Cos –

    Yes, the Fort Hood incident probably did not come right out of the blue. It never ceases to amaze me, how these kinds of things happen. There are so many layers, and one of the contributing factors with things like this often seems to be the reluctance of people to scrutinize or question or start digging. Nobody wants to think the unthinkable… with good reason. I guess this kind of incident is one of the hazards of being human in these times.

    My neuropsych is extremely cautious about any sort of medication, and when I came up with the idea/practice of exercising as a way to wake up in the morning, versus taking a pill, they were elated. They do prescribe drugs for some things, but in an extremely tiny dose, and they watch it all carefully. I would trust them more than just about anyone, when it comes to this stuff. They’re also very cognizant of my reluctance to go the pharma route, and they respect that, which is priceless to me.

    I hear you about the wandering attention. I’m really struggling with that, myself. I have been working at tracking all my activities, while I do them, in the course of the day, finding out where I get distracted and/or run out of steam. It’s usually when I’m tired or I’m overtaxed, and my brain needs a rest. The more tired I am, the less organized I am, and the more prone to distraction I am.

    I find it helpful to take regular breaks — to force myself to step away from what I’m doing, after I’ve been doing it intently for half an hour or so. I am breaking up my activities into smaller and smaller pieces, and mustering a lot of energy to tackle them, when I do take them on. I also track my daily activities and examine where I’m not getting things done, or I’m messing up. I then make a point of making extra effort to catch up with my overdue task items when I can.

    It’s a real drag, sometimes, but the payoff is huge. Kind of like pedaling away on that bike, first thing in the morning, every single morning. I only regret it while I’m “stuck” doing it. After the fact, I feel so great about having gotten it done, it gives me a lift for the rest of the day.

    What I find REALLY helps, is making sure I “feed myself” with plenty of praise and rewards for jobs well-done. I am so keenly aware of what I get wrong, that I need to make an extra effort to keep mindful of what I do right.

    Onward and upward!


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