Murder-suicide at Fort Hood raises questions

Incident forces look at psychological stress on troops' families

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AUSTIN, Texas — Investigators search for answers in Tuesday's murder-suicide inside a Fort Hood home, which left a 43-year-old military husband and two young daughters dead. Experts and advocates say the incident raises questions about whether, even after 13 years of war, the military is paying enough attention to the psychological stress on families during troops' overseas deployments.

The mental health problems facing male military spouses, in particular, have received scant attention from officials or researchers, even though women have been entering the armed forces in ever-greater numbers.

Details remain scarce in the Fort Hood killings.

Army investigators said only that murder-suicide is the likely explanation for the discovery of the three bodies — identified as Rouhad Ahamd Ezzeddine, 43, and daughters Leila Rouhad Ezzeddine, 9, and Zeinab Rouhad Ezzeddine, 4 — on Tuesday morning at a home on the sprawling Army post.

The man's wife, who apparently escaped harm and was identified as Pfc. Carla Santisteban, had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.

It wasn't clear how many deployments the soldier had made or whether her husband had ever served in the military.

While suicides among soldiers and veterans have been studied extensively, much less is known about the mental health of military families.

No entity tracks suicides among military family members, though Congress has directed the secretary of defense to report by Saturday on the feasibility of conducting such a study.

Karen Ruedisueli, the deputy director of government relations for the National Military Family Association, said such a study will be vital.

"Anecdotally we have heard that suicide rates among military families have increased," she said. "As deployments decrease ... people may think that behavioral health resources for families are no longer needed. The residual effects will be long-lasting."

Ami Neiberger-Miller, spokeswoman for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, said the Fort Hood incident was more evidence of the need for additional resources for, and research into, military families.

"Military families tend to be very resilient, and they tend to pride themselves on being resilient," she said.

"That culture can sometimes create the sense that they shouldn't ask for help. ... The question is, how do we put in good support around people so they can say, 'Hey, I'm struggling.'"

Most studies on military family mental health have focused on children. Fewer studies have looked at the impacts on spouses.