In his latest dispatch from the frontlines today, military blogger and photographer Michael Yon reflected on the shocking death of former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. Among his comments came a warning against knee-jerk speculation surrounding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) being a driving force behind the senseless killing:
Chris was known for helping folks suffering from PTSD. I have enjoyed hearing Chris talk at times (not to me personally but interviews) and I am sure that he would frown on people blaming such acts on PTSD.
Reckless speculation hurts our veterans.
It is also unseemly to immediately speculate that PTSD was the cause of the shootings. This reflexive labeling unfolds every time vets are involved.
Just an hour after it was learned that a US Soldier was the likely murderer of 17 people in Panjwai, Afghanistan, many people were clamoring that he had PTSD. His name had not yet been revealed. We knew almost nothing about him.
His experiences were not yet public, yet he was already labeled with PTSD, despite that experts know that PTSD does not lead to mass murder.
The American public in general is so ignorant about PTSD that reading popular commentary is like consulting people living under bridges for financial advice.
Yon's points are important. While such random acts of violence have opened a door to vital discussions about mental health in America, ignorance breeds contempt.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can affect anyone exposed to psychological trauma -- whether it take place in a dangerous war zone, or within the confines of one's own home. This means that it's hard to pin down a specific type of person who suffers from it and, as Yon notes, application of the PTSD label is often subjective:
In popular commentary, PTSD can make someone innocent or guilty, depending on whether we like the victims or the perpetrator more.
The enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan were never labeled with PTSD because we could not care less that they are human, too. They are just savages. If the savage is afraid after seeing years of combat, he is coward, while if our folks exhibit the same symptoms, they are considered wounded heroes or ticking bombs, depending on whether or not we like vets.
Yon's dispatch is thought-provoking, insightful and well-worth the full read. Get the whole thing here.