News / USA

US Navy Yard Shooting Highlights Military's Treatment of Mental Issues

US Navy Yard Shooting Highlights Military's Treatment of Mental Issuesi
September 20, 2013 12:26 AM
The emotional state of the gunman in the Navy Yard shooting has emerged as a central element of the investigation, with questions being raised about why Navy contractor Aaron Alexis retained a security clearance despite a background of psychiatric problems. VOA’s Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Luis Ramirez
The emotional state of the gunman in the Navy Yard shooting has emerged as a central element of the investigation, with questions being raised about why Navy contractor Aaron Alexis retained a security clearance despite a background of psychiatric problems.

The more investigators learn about Aaron Alexis from police, military, and medical records, the more questions come up about why he retained his security clearance and the badge that allowed him to enter a Naval building in the U.S. Capital and kill 12 people. 
Rear Admiral John Kirby, a spokesman for the Navy, said this is among the matters being looked into. 
"Investigators are looking at this background very carefully. We in the Navy are also taking a look at his time and service in the Navy to see if there is anything that we missed that maybe we need to have addressed a little bit differently, " said Kirby.
Alexis had run-ins with the police, including gun offenses and misconduct while he was in the Navy, and more recent reports of psychiatric problems. He told police recently that he was hearing voices, information that police say they relayed to the Navy.
He also sought treatment at a government-run medical facility for veterans.
That, before going to gun store and buying a weapon to carry out the shootings.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced a broad investigation to see where the system failed.
The shooting raises further questions about the military's screening for mental illness.   
Last month, former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who had been diagnosed with gender identity and anxiety disorders, was sentenced for espionage for the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history.
Barbara Van Dahlen, a clinical psychologist, founded an organization that provides mental health services to veterans and believes the problem lies in recognizing the importance of mental health.
 “Our country is not very good at recognizing mental health as part of overall health so it's not just a military issue.  We don't often feel comfortable raising our hand and saying, 'gee, I'm depressed or I'm anxious. I need some help.'  Within the military, even more so.  There's an ethos of 'be tough, handle things,'” said Van Dahlen.
Alexis was never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and there are no indications he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.  But Van Dahlen said reports of hallucinations and his recent visit to a hospital emergency room with complaints of insomnia could have triggered a closer look. 
“You know, sleep disturbance often tells us, there's something going on, what is that about?  What is the agitation about?  And so we need to do a better job, and there's a lot of effort under way,” said Van Dahlen.
The Defense Department is now taking a hard look at how its screening process can spot warning signs. Secretary Hagel said the Pentagon will be looking for what went wrong and where.
“Why they didn't get picked up, why they didn't get incorporated into the clearance process, what he was doing, those are all legitimate questions that we're going to be dealing with,” said Hagel.
With Aaron Alexis, none of the problems, taken individually, was enough to revoke his building pass and security clearance.  Now, officials are rethinking the process with the hopes of averting another tragedy.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
September 20, 2013 3:13 AM
What triggered mass shooting? It is out of the question. The answer is gun.

by: rbockman from: Philly
September 19, 2013 10:54 PM
The military's role is to defend the U.S., to fight wars that we are forced into, not to tend crazy people. His mother knew he was nuts and did nothing.

by: Rajan Nagarkar from: Morristown, NJ
September 19, 2013 10:32 PM
If I was a family member of any of those killed, I would want to know the name and title of the individual who approved the security clearance for Alexis based on the background check conducted by USIS. Ultimately, this is the individual who carries the most responsibility for these deaths. Private sector job applicants are routinely rejected because of simple transgressions of youth and things like DUIs. How could this guy have possibly made it through for a jog involving national security?!
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs