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Military, Media Quick to Report Fort Hood Shooter’s Mental Health Status

Military, Media Quick to Report Fort Hood Shooter's Mental Health StatusThere’s no way to stop the rare mass shootings that occur in the United States. You may not like it, but it’s a fact no amount of laws or background checks will ever fix.

Every time a new shooting occurs, it’s a tragedy. No words can begin to describe the senseless violence of a mass shooting.

But it’s even more of a tragedy when the media — with the help of the military, in this case — is quick to report that an alleged suspect in such shootings was seeking mental health treatment for a concern. Especially when it ended up having nothing to do with the shootings.

As it turns out, Ivan Lopez’s mental health had little to do with the shootings at Fort Hood this past Wednesday. Instead he was angry about his request to take a leave of absence. He was told to come back the next day to get the leave of absence form, which apparently angered him. He then came back later with a gun he legally purchased off-base, and proceeded to kill three people, and wounded 16 others.

But the media, always quick to jump on the mental illness bandwagon as an explanation for violence (despite the lack of scientific evidence connecting the two), was telling a different story on Wednesday and Thursday:

This is just a small sampling of the absurd link virtually all media was quick to draw once news of the shooting was released. It’s absurd because of the lack of scientific data connecting the two. It would be akin to reporting on the fact that the suspected murderer was being treated for kidney cancer, or had the flu.

It’s this kind of subtle prejudice and discrimination that makes people want to continue to hide their mental illness. “Oh, he was diagnosed with PTSD? That explains his murderous rampage, definitely!”

Producers, writers and journalists of all colors should work harder to avoid this kind of stigmatization of people with mental illness. A person’s mental health status has no bearing on their ability or desire to commit violence — so don’t report it. It’s not relevant.

What turns out to be relevant is that this was an ordinary Joe guy who was pushed too far in his anger, went and got his gun, and showed everyone who was going to have the last word. Like tens of thousands of other murderers in our country.

And yes, the military is as much to blame for first putting this information in the news organization’s sights — Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commander of Fort Hood, said the soldier, served four months in Iraq in 2011 and had “mental health issues.” Perhaps the good general was being hopeful that his behavior could be attributed to those “issues,” rather than an ordinary dispute gone horribly wrong.

Not as sexy a story, admittedly. But one that every news outlet was finally reporting on Friday, when they finally had some facts and eyewitness accounts to report on.


Read the NY Times report on the shooting: Dispute Over Leave Agitated Ft. Hood Soldier Before Shooting

Military, Media Quick to Report Fort Hood Shooter’s Mental Health Status

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Military, Media Quick to Report Fort Hood Shooter’s Mental Health Status. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 5 Apr 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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