Once again, we are stunned by another mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. One person lost their life, and 4 others are hospitalized. Our prayers go out to these individuals and their families. Also, it is yet another awakening to the mass shooting crisis we are having in our country that has recorded more than one mass shooting each day.
These mass shootings are senseless and their impact is devastating to all who are involved directly or indirectly. Once again, we are told that this was a veteran who was seeking help that he believed he could not receive from the Veteran’s Administration. It appears he was seeking help for some condition and became reactive to the medical environment where he shot innocent medical professionals.
The suspect, Deion Patterson was a former Coast Guardsman. Patterson “entered the Coast Guard in July 2018 and last served as an Electrician’s Mate Second Class,” a statement from the Coast Guard said. “He was discharged from active duty in January 2023.”
We do not know the details of his discharge. However, his behavior several months later was erratic. He was excessive in his response which sounds like he was in high threat and severely triggered. He created an extreme manhunt afterwards and was strategic in his hiding but easily found by police.
This is not in any way a perceived excuse for his acts of violence, but it does signal the fact that something happened to him that was destabilizing. The details will probably follow in the next few days but it is alarming that someone in the service to our country found himself in this dire condition where he felt the need or desire to hurt others.
As we know there is clearly not enough attention given medically or psychologically to our veterans. I have spoken to veterans due to our trauma work who have experienced a lack of understanding and treatment options for their post-traumatic stress or other adversities. Whether this was a pre-military condition or some related consequence, we have witnessed with this type of shooting some serious mental condition which signaled a cry for help. All of us in the helping profession need to listen carefully to our veterans and others who are trying to bring balance to their chaotic brains and help them find help that will cut off the opportunity for a violent response of desperation.
There is no way to know and predict what someone may do and how desperate they may be so I do not hold any professionals responsible for this shooting. I think it does show us that we have an epidemic of mental health issues in America that desperately needs our attention. That reality plus the availability of guns to these individuals makes for a dangerous combination of terror which has left us in fear and insecurity for our families and citizens.
I am all for measures to help limit guns that might be placed in the hands of those who are struggling mentally. However, that will be hard to enforce. What we can do is take seriously the mental health crisis and offer them the care and support they need to prevent these types of tragedies.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO