Struggling with mental health: Understanding PTSD

Houston Police said the suspected gunman who went on a deadly shooting spree last weekend struggled with depression and other factors since returning to the U.S. after tours in Afghanistan.

On a broader scale, this brings up a lot of questions because when a military member returns home, there's often a struggle that comes with returning to civilian life

As a concerned family member, how do you know when to get help?

Dr. Michelle Patriquin, psychologist at Menninger Clinic and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, has experience with service members and said there are a few obvious signs of distress when a military member returns home struggling with mental health issues.

“Maybe they're withdrawing socially, avoiding things they used to participate in, as well as re-experiencing things they may have experienced overseas,” Patriquin said.

While many times this is associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, Patriquin said it's critical not to link violent behavior to PTSD.

“Things like substance abuse can play a role in violent behaviors, but really not mental illness,” she said. “Really the two are disconnected. There are so many other factors at play when somebody is violent and we really want to be careful when we link the two because it's really not founded in fact.”

She said PTSD can be associated with nightmares, feeling threatened or strong reactions to loud noises.

“Those all can be signs that something deeper can be going on,” Patriquin said.

If you recognize something is not right, Patriquin suggests starting with your primary care doctor at a private practice or through the Veteran's Affairs Hospital.

“They can really connect you to individuals either in the community or at the VA as well,” Patriquin said.

Patriquin said while violent behaviors or delusional thoughts are different from PTSD, they are still fall under mental health issues and need immediate attention.

The Houston VA Hospital is located here 
2002 Holcombe Blvd
Houston, TX 77030

The Menninger Clinic in Houston is located here
12301 Main Street
Houston, TX 77035