Christopher M. Anderson implores Americans to explode the myth that “real men” don’t ask for help.
Lack of adequate mental health care resources for returning veterans is a significant problem. But even with adequate staffing and access to mental health care services, there are significant cultural obstacles and outdated stereotypes that make it far more difficult for many male members of the armed forces to connect to the services that could help them. Many males feel the need for a “real” man to be “tough.” Many male survivors of abuse and trauma (rightfully) fear the stigma that some people hold that they will become abusers, molesters, and potentially killers simply because they themselves were hurt in some way. This “vampire myth” is a serious problem, and must also be addressed.
While there is no way to know whether or not better resources might have forestalled this most recent tragedy at Fort Hood, it’s important to stress that we cannot allow acts such as this to make us fear those who struggle with brain injuries, PTSD, and the emotional aftermath of exposure trauma and abuse.
Exposure to trauma is a universal experience. The entire Ft. Hood community has been traumatized again in a second mass shooting, and we need to find ways to share more than just sympathy and sorrow for the survivors. Exposure to any traumatic event has the potential to cause significant emotional complication for survivors.
There may never be an adequate explanation of “why” this happened. But we cannot allow that to make us more suspicious and fearful of returning veterans, or any persons who have survived trauma and/or abuse. Exposure to trauma does not, by itself, turn someone into a monster. But anything that we do as a community that makes it harder for any survivor to get the hope and support they need to do the hard work of emotional healing makes events like this more likely.
We can’t expect better gun laws to solve the problem. Nor can we expect that tightening security measures will make us safer. Unless we understand the ways in which we all have the ability to make it easier for survivors of trauma and abuse to heal, we will continue to see episodes like this happen with shameful frequency. We can do better. We must do better.