Army veteran Esteban Santiago (26), the suspect in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shootout on January 6, 2017, had sought help for his mental health problems weeks before the incident, as per his brother Bryan Santiago.
Bryan said that Esteban was discharged after a mental health evaluation in just four days. On November 7, 2016, Esteban had walked into an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska to report that he was hearing voices that the CIA wanted him to join the ISIS. While the police found no ties to terrorism, the motive behind the Friday shooting was still under probe.
As per the affidavit filed by the FBI on January 9, Esteban had checked in a bag with a Walther 9mm handgun and two magazines of ammunition, loaded it in the bathroom, stepped out of it and shot the first people he saw.
Esteban had served in the National Guard and according to federal law enforcement agencies, he was undergoing treatment for mental health problems. As per Bryan, during a visit to Alaska a month ago, Esteban had told him that he was hearing voices, was seeing people following him and that the CIA and the government were writing him secret codes to join the ISIS. Bryan then advised his brother to seek professional help.
Accused of killing five and seriously injuring six people at the airport, Esteban was told by the judge that the maximum penalty that he could face would be death. Charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami with committing an act of violence and two firearm-related offenses, Esteban is held without a bond but will have a detention hearing on January 17, 2017.
Veterans and their mental issues
Owing to the adverse situations in war zones and other disturbed areas, soldiers often develop some mental problem, which can have both short- and long-term consequences. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common mental disorder that happens to veterans, especially after witnessing or experiencing a life-threatening event.
There are four types of PTSD symptoms:
- Reliving the event
- Avoiding event-reminding situations
- Feeling keyed up
- Having negative beliefs and feelings
PTSD patients can also experience other problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, hopelessness, chronic pain, employment problems and relationship issues. The two main types of treatment for PTSD involve psychotherapy and medication.
PTSD among war veterans: A growing national concern
As per his uncle Hernan Rivera (70), Esteban was a different person when he returned after an Iraq stint. He moved to Alaska where he had several encounters with law from January to October 2016. His unpredictable behavior escalated in November 2016 when he complained to the FBI that his mind was being controlled by an intelligence agency. His neighbors had also sensed that something was wrong with him and they thought that he might have been suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) most Alaskans suffer from because of the limited sunlight in the northwestern state during the winter.
Following the airport shooting, the issue of veterans’ mental health and medical care has once again gained national attention. On January 8, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the U.S. has not done enough to help veterans deal with PTSD and other mental illnesses. Defense Secretary Carter said that the U.S. keeps on learning more about how to deal with such kind of illness and that the U.S. has to do more about it.
Recovery and rehabilitation
As per the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), about six of every 10 men and five of every 10 women experience at least one trauma in their lives. The number of veterans suffering from PTSD varies by their service area. In a given year, 11-20 veterans out of 100 who were part of the Iraq war, about 12 of every 100 veterans who were involved in the Gulf war and about 15 of 100 veterans who served during the Vietnam war have suffered from PTSD.
If you know a war veteran or someone in active services who is dealing with PTSD symptoms or any other kind of mental illness, contact Sovereign Health to get access to the finest mental health treatment centers in Los Angeles. Call us at our 24/7 helpline 866-973-7164 or chat online with our experts to know more about our top mental health facilities in Los Angeles or any other city.