The gunman that took 13 lives including his own last night in Thousand Oaks, California was a Marines veteran. He spent five years on active duty from 2008 to 2013. During that time he spent parts of 2010 and 2011 in Afghanistan on deployment. He was honorably discharged in 2013.
National media reports say that he suffered from mental illness upon his exit from the military. Richard Berge, a neighbor, says his mother “lived in fear” of what he might do, and that he refused to get help.
Local psychologist Jane Velez, Psy.D., A.B.P.S. told us what causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “The three factores that cause people to develop PTSD are the duration of the trauma they are faced with, the age at the time of the trauma, and the severity of the trauma,” she explained.
She added that the younger a person is when they suffer trauma, the more likely they are to develop PTSD. The shooter was a teenager when he joined the armed forces.
While the shooter may have suffered from PTSD, Velez does not believe that is what caused him to attack on Wednesday night. She explained, “This episode, the shooting, was not caused by a PTSD episode. Because PTSD, it can’t be planned. It’s triggered by the environment and it comes rapidly with no warning and goes just as quickly.”
She thinks he probably suffered from other mental illness.
Stereotyping veterans that suffer from mental illness is a problem she is concerned with. “I jsut want to make sure we don’t lump all combat veterans into one category,” she added. “They fought to save us and a lot of them are suffering now with the memories they have from war experiences that we can’t even imagine,” explained Velez.
Mental health resources for veterans are available through the VA and many other mental health providers in the area.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, Velez says the best thing to do is reach out for help to a friend, family member, or professional.
The veterans crisis hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.