Another tragedy of the Fort Hood shooting is that, once again, we might all downplay the role of trauma, stress and brain chemistry, instead of using the second mass killing at this base in five years to fuel a deeper conversation for more holistic and compassionate programs to support mental wellness for veterans.
I learned about the shooting at Fort Hood while returning from New York, where Deepak Chopra hosted an event for Congressman Tim Ryan to discuss the healing work of mindfulness and his advocacy for our nation's veterans. After several days of energizing conversations about the opportunity to build and promote new approaches and policies for supporting mental wellness, I was curious about Army Lt. General Mark Milley 's statement about Ivan Lopez's mental health history and the role it played on that tragic day at Fort Hood.
We will never know.
What we do know is that Ivan Lopez was in psychiatric care being evaluated for Post Traumatic Stress. He was on medication and in treatment for depression, insomnia and anxiety. What we do know is that arguments over leave should not result in the death of five service members and honorable veterans, including the man who was in the midst of a health crisis. What we do know is that this is the second shooting at Fort Hood in five years. What we do know is that death by suicide at Fort Hood escalated to 22 in 2010, the most on any Army post during the recent wars.
According to a recent Washington Post op-ed, suicides have become an epidemic in the military: "This year, more soldiers, seamen, airmen and Marines died by their own hand than died in battle. Suicide was the number one cause of death for U.S. troops."
Questions of "how/why" always remain during times of shock and trauma related to our country's tragedies around shootings. What we should know is that we cannot look the other way. This requires all of our attention, focus and care. Our veterans deserve our support, a more honest look at brain health, funding for research and a more generous offering of resources to help them.
While we have a long way to go, we are starting to see glimmers of hope as we are making progress thanks to the activism by some of our philanthropic and political heroes.
Congressman Tim Ryan has co-sponsored legislation to give greater access to mental health care to veterans, and is continuing to work to develop holistic approaches to mental health and well-being for veterans.
"Too many veterans are serving their countries and coming home to take their own lives. We need to remain committed to providing these veterans with the health care services they earned, including mental health services," Congressman Ryan said.
Give Back Yoga Foundation's veteran's programs support yoga practice for veterans. From the Veterans Administration to nonprofit organizations and community-based support groups, programs are being developed for veterans of Vietnam, the Gulf War and for the men and women returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan to help them to deal with combat-related stress issues.
Discoveries and analysis from Patrick Kennedy and Garen Staglin's One Mind 4 Research provide measurable and actionable information to support better public policies for veterans.
The Center for Mind-Body Medicine has been working to bring the population-wide healing model that has worked so well in traumatized regions overseas to US troops, veterans and their families. They train military, VA and civilian health providers working with these populations nationwide, by bringing them to annual Mind-Body Medicine Professional Trainings, and providing ongoing supervision. The center is seeking to develop base-specific and institution-specific Healing Our Troops trainings in the future.
The creative geniuses of PeaceLove Studios do so much to promote healing for our veterans through their powerful messaging and art programs. If we all wore these Create Peace of Mind VA Tees we would be sending much love to our heroes.
Tim McGraw and his family have been ardent supporters of our veterans through their innovative foundation's work to raise awareness about PTSD.
And once again, the community from Newtown, Connecticut, inspires us all with their selfless action to advocate for safer and healthier communities. Mark Barden, who lost his son in the Sandy Hook tragedy, sent an email with the title, "Send your love to Fort Hood" and the following inspiring message:
"What this senseless shooting at Fort Hood - which claimed the lives of three people and wounded 16 - showed is that a holistic approach is vital to preventing gun violence, especially in communities prone to acute stress and trauma. Sandy Hook Promise strongly believes that access to improved mental health treatment, early intervention, community dialogue and common sense legislative reforms are all essential pieces of the real and lasting change we seek."
Let's join this awe-inspiring community from Connecticut and send love to Fort Hood and to each of our nation's veterans who we owe endless gratitude to every single day.