The NYTimes has an article on “violence” at Fort Hood. At Army Base Some Violence is All To Familiar” the headlines cry.

Yes, one more “Ain’t it awful” report on how violent veterans are, without mentioning that the “violent crime” rate is still lower than that of Chicago.

The problems of violence on military bases is not new, nor is the problem of violence and suicide after exposure to combat. Indeed, the military is aware of the problem, and has programs in place to address the issue. Indeed, the article notes the extensive outreach to soldiers and their families to try to stop domestic violence and suicides.

Right now we are seeing a slew of articles on stress, the military and the shootings at Fort Hood. Most of those articles  seem to miss the point: Doctor Hasan may have had pre existing psychological problems that had little or nothing to do with his Army career.

Why do I say this?

Because the dirty little secret is that physicians have a much higher suicide rate than veterans.

Let’s watch the spin on suicide in veterans:

The army suicide rate is now higher than that among the general American population. The rate has been calculated as 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, compared with 19.5 per 100,000 civilians. This is a shocking statistic

Well, not really: because the dirty little secret is that the male suicide rate for men 20-24 is actually 24. The statistics give a false impression because men commit suicide at a much higher rate than women.

So where does Major Hasan fit into this? Was he a “suicide by jihad” (a variation of suicide by cop)?


From Medscape:

The overall physician suicide rate cited by most studies has been between 28 and 40 per 100,000, compared with the overall rate in the general population of 12.3 per 100,000

Ah, but what about suicide in younger physicians?

Rates of clinical depression among interns have been reported to be 27%[13] and 30%,[14] and 25% of interns have been reported to have suicidal ideation …

And what makes physicians vulnerable?

examination of the early histories of these physicians revealed that these difficulties were strongly associated with life adjustment before medical school, such as childhood instability and adolescent adjustment problems. The study also found that physicians were more likely than controls to show traits of dependency, pessimism, passivity, and self-doubt. The authors concluded that problems are more likely to develop when physicians ask themselves to give more than they have been given.

And guess which group of physicians is at the highest risk?

They found that 51% of female physicians and 32% of female PhDs they selected from the general community had a history of depression. Among physicians, psychiatrists had the highest rates, with 73% reporting a history of depression compared with 46% of other female physicians.

Years ago, I discussed this statistic with a fellow feminist (PhD) we both thought the statistics were too low, since most of our female collegues were depressed.

The problem?  The Rodney Dangerfield one: We don’t get no respect.

When I read psychobabble about the severe anti Muslim attitudes supposedly upsetting Dr. Hasan, I laugh. Try being a woman physician 40 years ago when only 6 percent of your fellow physicians were women.

In other words, the psychobabble about “post traumatic stress syndrome” is nonsense, but there is a need for the public to understand that premorbid personality problems can be exacerbated by stress, and may have made Major Hasan’s vulnerability to jihadi propaganda that justified violence more likely.

The difference is that in the Army, he did get intervention to try to help him with these problems, if news reports are to be believed.

There is another problem with the psychological approach and psychobabble in the newspaper coverage: This is because such sympathetic coverage encourages copy cat crimes.

In this, President Obama is correct in stressing the courage of the ordinary people instead of sympathy for those who chose evil.

We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes

We are a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.

One hopes the press will take a clue from the US President when they cover the story in the future.

Just like 24/7 reports on crimes can inspire copy cat murders, so too can stories that stress the bravery of ordinary men and women inspire others to emulate their example.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. and she writes medical essays at HeyDoc Xanga Blog.


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