Health: Mental Health Issues & The Military

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stephanie-web Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Washington, D.C. shooter reportedly had been in treatment for mental health problems. Could the bloodshed have been prevented? 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on that part of the story.

The shooter, Aaron Alexis, had reportedly been hearing voices and had trouble managing his anger. So what about the therapy he was receiving at the Veteran’s Administration? We checked in with the Philadelphia VA.

Aaron Alexis’ father has reportedly told detectives that his son suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder related to his involvement with rescue efforts on September 11th.

“PTSD is a chronic illness,” said Dr. David Oslin, a psychiatrist and Chief of Mental Health at the Philadelphia VA. He says there’s been a dramatic increase in veterans needing mental health services, and he says the VA is especially adept at treating PTSD, but patients have to be active participants.

“Just to say somebody’s in treatment doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s a misconception that we can be 100 percent effective in treating mental illness, or that we would have a crystal ball to know when somebody might do something really dangerous or bad like this,” said Dr. Oslin.

There are reports the 34-year-old shooter had sleep disorders, was paranoid and heard voices.

“It wouldn’t put him at any more risk for suddenly having this break or suddenly doing this horrendous act,” said Dr. Oslin.

While Alexis, a Navy reservist, had been discharged for misconduct, he was not declared mentally unfit, so he retained security clearance and was apparently still working.

“Just having a psychotic illness doesn’t itself preclude you from being in the work force and doing a very good job,” said Dr. Oslin.

Dr. Oslin says violent outbursts would be a red flag that someone needs more intense help.

For veteran mental health information, visit: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov

For general mental health information, visit: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

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