When Healers Kill: Psychiatry Ponders A Psychiatrist-Killer - Page 3
The sight of people hurling themselves from the upper floors of the World Trade Center still haunts my New York bedroom some 22 miles from Ground Zero. Those fleeting video frames were nothing compared to the steady grind of death and maiming we expect the Army to endure, as well as to inflict.
During the later stages of the Vietnam War, talk of The War was omnipresent in public life. In those years before the all-volunteer force, fear of imminent deployment was pervasive. Not so with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Losses from these recent wars hit small towns and military installations hard, but most of America still watches American Idol, bets on the World Series and frets over property taxes.
The U.S. Army has 408 psychiatrists to serve about 553,000 active duty troops around the world. I don't know if these, plus psychologists and other practitioners are enough. I do know that while the suffering of a few may be hidden from most of us, it holds those affected with a sturdy grip.
The role that politics, religion, deployment anxieties, or mere isolation may have played in this tragedy will not be knowable using any rational measure. It was an essentially irrational act.
Aftershocks To kill others is an act of the estranged more than the deranged. And the estrangement is an infection of PTSD that has now spread to the families of the killed, the wounded and the helpless spectators at Ft. Hood. The suffering is a shock wave reverberating across America now.
Months from now, the weight of that suffering won’t be in the headlines. But it will be secretly borne by psychiatrists and psychologists for decades.
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
- T.S. Eliot in “Ash Wednesday”
Photos Credits: Mike Korn (2004) and Ann Latner (2009)