The choice of news articles below is intended to spark the spirit of inquiry.
Stephen M. Raffle, M.D. & Associates may or may not have special expertise on topics addressed below. We do not endorse any point of view expressed and we do not vouch for data or research. Source publications sometimes “pull” a news item and it can no longer be viewed; the internet may lead you to the article using the title to search.
Common Psychological Attributes Among Serial Killers
A common feature is a lack of empathy with victims. Most serial killers (with few exceptions) understand they are committing a crime because they take care not to be caught. Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder commonly are present. Sadomasochism is also a common feature. Depending on the shared characteristics of the victims, the serial killer may have problems with impotence, paranoia, or sexual perversions which cannot otherwise be satisfied. Paranoid Schizophrenia is a common psychiatric disorder but not universal. A diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, in and of itself, does not necessarily justify a finding of insanity, because “insanity” is a legal construct, not a psychiatric diagnosis.
VA Declares May is Mental Health Month (Department Veterans Affairs)
The Department of Veterans Affairs announces May is Mental Health Month. Veterans who have struggled with mental health may find resources at the website for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Raffle has served as an Expert Witness in military and military zone cases, for plaintiff and defense, in military courts, court-martial, JAG and DBA (Defense Base Act) cases involving civilian contractors in areas of conflict, combat zones, also referred to as military zones of danger, VA cases, and, in all cases, questions of psychiatric disability. Further, Dr. Raffle is a Forensic Psychiatrist expert in the areas of PTSD, Emotional Distress, Depression, Anxiety, and many mental health conditions which may be service-related and/or relevant to civilian private contractors under the DBA in war, conflict, and zones of danger. Dr. Raffle is a Retired Captain in the Army, an experience which enriches his ability to better address and testify objectively about these issues.
Virginia Journalists Shot During Live Broadcast
New York Times, August 26, 2015
By Hawes Spencer, Katie Rogers, Alan Blinder and Richard Pérez-Peña
“A man described as a disgruntled former employee of a Virginia television station shot and killed two of the station’s journalists Wednesday morning, recording the act on video himself as the journalists were broadcasting live and then posting the video online…Both the police and the station, WDBJ identified the gunman as Bryce Williams, who had been a reporter at the station, and whose real name is Vester Lee Flanagan…Mr. Williams was a multimedia journalist at WDBJ, but left the station in February 2013…”Mr. Williams’…said, “I filmed the shooting see Facebook,” and mentioned grievances against the two journalists.”
“Bryce Williams, Suspect in Virginia Newscrew Shooting, Dies“
New York Times August 26, 2015
By Hawes Spencer, Katie Rogers, Alan Blinder and Richard Pérez-Peña
“A former reporter who was fired by a Virginia television station shot and killed two of the station’s journalists as they broadcast live on Wednesday morning…The police and WDBJ identified the gunman as Bryce Williams, whose real name is Vester Lee Flanagan. Mr. Williams had aired grievances against the station and other employees there before and after he was dismissed two years ago.”
Mental Health: “ARMY STRONG”?
“MILITARY SUICIDES DROPPED LAST YEAR AMID CHANGING “CULTURAL MINDSET”
CBS AP, April 25, 2014
ARMY PSYCHIATRIST, NIDAL HASAN, CONVICTED OF 2009 FATAL SHOOTING OF 13 PEOPLE AND INJURING 31 OTHERS (Dr. Raffle was first contacted about this case shortly after the shooting…at which time it was thought that Major Hasan, himself a psychiatrist, had had a mental decompensation….on August 23, 2013, he was found guilty after he chose to represent himself at trial and characterized his acts as faith based. You are encouraged to read about the trial, as well as the articles below. No diagnosis is made here, nor medical opinion expressed or side taken. We hope, however, that these articles will engender thought and discussion.)
NIDAL HASSAN FOUND GUILTY
Rick Jervis and Doug Stanlin, USA Today, August 23, 2013
Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army Psychiatrist, was found guilty of fatally shooting 13 and injuring more than 30 others in the November 5, 2009, Fort Hood shooting. The mass shooting occurred less than a month before he was due to deploy to Afghanistan.)
“NIDAL HASAN CONVICTED OF FORT HOOD KILLINGS”
By Billy Kember, Washington Post, August 23, 2013
….”Nidal Malik Hasan faces a possible death sentence after being found guilty Friday of killing 13 people and wounding dozens more when he opened fire at the Fort Hood Army post in Texas in November 2009.”
..”Aside from a very brief opening statement and a few questions of prosecution witnesses, the military psychiatrist has shown little interest in mounting a defense. Hasan, who was prohibited by military law from entering a guilty plea, declined to call any witnesses, testify himself or give a closing argument.” …read the complete article
WALTER REED OFFICIAL ASK: WAS HASAN PSYCHOTIC?
By Daniel Zwerdling, NPR, November 11, 2009
“Deeply Troubling, Schizoid Behavior
“…When a group of key officials gathered in the spring of 2008 for their monthly meeting in a Bethesda, Md., office, one of the leading — and most perplexing — items on their agenda was: What should we do about Hasan?
“Hasan had been a trouble spot on officials’ radar since he started training at Walter Reed, six years earlier. Several officials confirm that supervisors had repeatedly given him poor evaluations and warned him that he was doing substandard work.
“Both fellow students and faculty were deeply troubled by Hasan’s behavior — which they variously called disconnected, aloof, paranoid, belligerent, and schizoid. The officials say he antagonized some students and faculty by espousing what they perceived to be extremist Islamic views. His supervisors at Walter Reed had even reprimanded him for telling at least one patient that “Islam can save your soul.” …read the entire article (This article from 2009 provides an interesting glimpse into a man who, at his trial presented himself as a man acting on his faith, and did not claim mental incompetence.)
“STUDY: MENTAL HEALTH WOES, NOT DEPLOYMENT OR COMBAT, RAISE MILITARY SUICIDE RISK”
By Ryan Jaslow, CBS News, August 6, 2013
“Military suicide rates have increased sharply in recent years, drawing the attention of government officials and mental health experts looking for ways to reverse the trend.”
…”But, “The findings from this study do not support an association between deployment or combat with suicide, rather they are consistent with previous research indicating that mental health problems increase suicide risk,” the authors added. “…read the complete article
What Dramatically Increases the Risk of Dementia Later in Life
The Wall Street Journal, “Injuries of Veterans, Football Players Are Linked to Dementia Later in Life,” By Shirley S. Wang, July 19, 2011
In two studies, one of 280,000 veterans and another of 500 professional football players, traumatic injury to the brain was found linked to the emergence of Alzheimer’s Disease later in life. In the study of veterans, diagnoses of traumatic brain injuries tripled the risk for diagnosis of dementia or the sumptoms of dementia later in life. The studies were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris in 2011.
Women in Combat More Vulnerable to PTSD
Los Angeles Times Booster Shots (Health Blog), Women on War Front More Likely to Get Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Study Finds, By Shari Roan, May 19, 2011
Men have always been in combat, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), has become a familiar term as a result. After World War I it was called “Shell Shock” and many are familiar with the psychiatric scars the Vietnam War left on many veterans. The war in Iraq, however, has been fought by more women than any war before, and paying the price in disproportionate numbers according to one study.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Depression
Health Day, “Major Depression Often Follows Brain Injury,”
By Amanda Gardner, May 18, 2010
“Patients…are at 8 times the risk after head trauma, study finds…In this study of 559 patients with traumatic brain injury, more than half (53.1 percent) also endured major depressive disorder at some point during the study follow-up.”…read the complete article at HealthDay.com
Los Angeles Times, Booster Shots (Health Blog at latimes.com), “In concussion’s wake, sadness and anxiety thrive”
“In the year following a traumatic brain injury, roughly half of survivors likely experience a bout of clinical depression…says a study published Tuesday [5/18/10] in The Journal of the American Medical Assn.….reported significantly more pain, greater mobility problems and more difficulty carrying out their usual responsibilities than those who were not plagued by post-injury depression…”
… latimesblogs.com/booster shots
Reuters, “Major Depression Common After Brain Injury,”
By Rachael Myers Lowe, May 18, 2010
“Severe depression within the first year of a traumatic brain injury[TBI] is common but treatment is not, Washington State Researchers Report.”…reuters.com
Research Referenced (in all articles) from: The Journal of the American Medical Association: “Rates of Major Depressive Disorder and Clinical Outcomes Following Traumatic Brain Injury.” By Bombardier, Fann, Temkin, Esselman, Barber, and Dikmen, JAMA. 2010;303(19):1938-1945.
More Military Hospitalizations for Mental Disorders Than Injuries
USA TODAY, “Mental Care Stays Are Up in Military,”
By Gregg Zoroya, May 14, 2010
“WASHINGTON — Mental health disorders caused more hospitalizations among U.S. troops in 2009 than any other reason, according to medical data released recently by the Pentagon…historic high reflects the growing toll of nearly nine years of war…”
“…In 2009, there were 17,538 hospitalizations for mental health issues throughout the military, the study shows. That compares with 17,354 for pregnancy and childbirth reasons, and 11,156 for injuries and battle wounds….” [emphasis added]
Dr. Raffle On Convicted Canadian Serial Murderer
Toronto Star, “Is Russell Williams Still Grasping for Control?”
By Jim Rankin, April 18, 2010
[Background: Col. Russell Williams in the Canadian Forces and a former Base Commander was convicted in a string of murders, rapes, breaking and entering, forcible confinement and sexual assault, following a history of escalating violent behavior. At the time the murders were first discovered, Toronto Star reporter Jim Rankin interviewed Stephen Raffle, M.D., and other forensic mental health experts to gain insight into Col. Williams’ behavior in jail: a hunger strike, what appear to be suicide attempts and their meaning]
“…the major thing is loss of control and trying to remain in control of an out-of-control situation,” says Raffle, who has interviewed serial killers and gives expert testimony in criminal cases…Hypothetically, assuming that he did these things, there may be a sense of shame, and he sees (suicide) as an honourable way out,” says Raffle. “I think this is a man trying to regain control. It’s his only possible escape at this point….”