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Waco VA Mental Health Experts Discuss Fort Hood Shooting, Demands of Job

Nov. 9, 2009

Some attention has been placed on the fact that the gunman in yesterday's Ft. Hood killings, major Nidal Malik Hasan, was an army psychiatrist whose job was to counsel soldiers dealing with the effects of war and military life. KWBU spoke to Dr. Susie Gulliver, director of the Center for Excellence at the VA hospital for dealing with mental health issues, as well as psychiatrist and Air Force Reservist Dr. David Tharp about the demands of the job. Dr. Gulliver landed in San Juan last night, only to turn around and fly immediately back upon hearing the news. She says mental health professionals are always ready for such an event.

Such a tragedy can strain professionals dealing with grief-stricken soldiers and family members. But the day-to-day aspect of hearing from soldiers dealing the the realities of battle has to be managed by psychiatrists as well. It was a task entrusted to Major Hasan on a regular basis. About to be deployed himself, Nadal knew what he was facing. Dr. David Tharp has friends currently serving overseas, and has served himself as well. He said bearing fellow solder's burdens can be tough, but that he and his colleagues are well-trained and receive support of their own when dealing.

So, as have have speculated, could Nidal Malik Hasan, already upset about being deployed, have been pushed even further by the vivid descriptions of war from his patients, realizing that he too may about too be experiencing them. Says Dr. Gulliver, that's a question for another time.

While all soldiers, psychiatrists, and everyone working with the military experience anxiety occasionally, Dr. Tharp falls back on why so many of them enrolled to begin with.

For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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