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Can mentally ill "fool" therapists?

Reported by: Jamie Smith
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Updated: 9/17/2013 7:32 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Navy Yard shooter not only obsessed over violent video games like Call of Duty, he was also suffering from a host of mental disorders including paranoia and a sleep disorder.

Jacksonville psychologist Tabitha Johnson's patients deal with those same issues.

"People like that can easily go into that slump and even with PTSD go into that slump where they feel there's no other way out. They turn to either harming themself or harming somebody else," said Johnson.

Because, however, psychology is not an exact science, Johnson said warning signs can be missed on occasion.

"You're only seeing that person for a very limited amount of time." Johnson told Action News, "It certainly can be missed. There are people that fool you."

But most patients can't fool their therapist. To avoid tragedies like the one in Washington, patients exhibiting the warning signs are reported to authorities."

Johnson said, "We have the authority to be able to make that call. If they need to go to the hospital to be committed and be evaluated, then they have to be held for a certain number of hours before they are released again."

With his personal daily battle, Matt Masingill knows all too well about dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I just started withdrawing as whole from society," Masingill told Action News. During his 20 years in the U.S. Navy, he saw plenty of combat. Now he sees plenty of his dog, Dozer. After recently graduating from Ponte Vedra's K9s for Warriors school where they teach vets how to cope with PTSD, he's now an apprentice to teach at the school.

"The dog forms a bond with the vet. It's a distraction for the veteran. But more importantly than that, it gives him the courage to do what he hasn't had in a long time," said Masingill.

The Navy Yard shooter reportedly dealt with similar issues. After his arrest nine years ago for shooting out someone's car tires, Aaron Alexis blamed his action then on an anger-fueled "blackout," according to a Seattle Police report.

His father told police his son had "anger-management issues" from post-traumatic stress disorder after being an "active participant in rescue attempts of September 11th 2001."

It's an excuse Masingill, who's coping with the disease, doesn't buy.

"I don't know any of my friends who've ever spoken of doing harm to others based on their PTSD. They're basically causing harm to themselves," said Masingill.

According to the Keiser Foundation, Florida spends about $40 per capita on mental health funding. The national average is $120 per capita.
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