• Quote of the Day
    "Worrying is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere."
    Van Wilder, posted by Daniel
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And yet another school shooting. How tragic for all the students at Virginia Tech and their families and friends. I don't understand how/why someone could do such a thing.
 

Daniel

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Mari

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Virginia Tech

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims of this tragedy.
I could not bear the news and slept for a bit until the phone woke me. Now I hear on the news that 33 people are dead including the shooter. Dozens of students are injured including those who jumped out windows. For personal reasons this affects me terribly. I have been trying to gain information on statistics over the past year and it has been most difficult. I can find listings of statistics but not the actual information that backs up the statistics. I do think that violence among young people is increasing and that generally people are becoming more and more inured to violence. Writing this has helped me calm down a bit. :( Mari
 

Daniel

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Re: Virginia Tech

I do think that violence among young people is increasing

Before this incident, I had read that violence among young people has actually been down for the last decade.
 

David Baxter

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Horrific School Violence Leaves Question, Concern in its Wake

Horrific School Violence Leaves Question, Concern in its Wake
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In the wake of the tragic events yesterday at Virginia Tech, we must all now come to terms with the nation's deadliest mass shooting. In reading about the most recent evidence, it appears that the two incidents were in fact the work of the same shooter, who has now been identified as Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old student from South Korea. Very little information has been released about what transpired as police are still investigating.

Perhaps the most difficult question to ask or answer at this point is why. What could bring someone to the point where they kill 32 other human beings? As Dr. Lily Hung wrote earlier here in response to previous school violence, there are no easy answers to those questions. Police have encountered trouble in finding information about this most recent shooter. They've described him as a "loner," something that has been said of earlier school shooters.

By all accounts, the school, county and state of Virginia have acted as quickly as possible to establish counseling services and to begin to foster what will surely be a long recovery process. For the rest of us, we need to make sure that this is a topic that we can discuss openly. This event illustrates how any of our lives can be effected by gun violence, and now especially in the wake of this tragedy, it is important to be vigilant for others who might take a cue from this incident and copy what they have seen. Now that he has been identified, we can expect to see Cho's picture in every conceivable media outlet, and that kind of exposure can certainly seem like a positive result to others who have contemplate these kinds of horrendous acts. While it may seem trite, it can't be stressed enough just how unacceptable this type of outcome is, but only through increased awareness, something that should come easily in these difficult weeks and months of recovery, can we hope to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

Our thoughts will be with the members of the Blacksburg community and all those whose lives have been touched by this tragedy.

UPDATE: Newsweek has published a story about the struggle to come to terms with the hows and the whys. It's a worthwhile read.
 

David Baxter

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Warning signs from VA Tech shooter

Warning signs from VA Tech shooter
By Treatment Advocacy Center
April 18, 2007

Lucinda Roy, Virginia Tech English Department, told Neal Cohen on Talk of the Nation that the Virginia Tech shooter was a disturbed young man ... and that she had tried to get him some help to no avail.

"I just felt that he was a very depressed youth and seemed to be angry about some things and so I felt that there was some things I needed to do ... because that's what you're meant to do as a teacher ..."

"I contacted the police, contacted counseling, student affairs, the college to try to sound the alarm, and they felt that their hands were tied legally for various reasons ... as you probably know until someone actually threatens to do something, it can be incredibly difficult to make something happen ..."​
We?ve heard this all too many times before - one Virginia mother asked ?what do I have to do, have him kill someone to get him treatment?? shortly before her son killed her. We?ve been sounding the alarm that Virginia?s law, which is one of the most restrictive in the nation, needs to be reformed. Perhaps someone will now listen.
 

Daniel

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Re: Virginia Tech

BTW, I've seen comments in news blogs citing the article below, which argues that children of dry cleaners may be more likely to develop schizophrenia:

Tetrachloroethylene exposure and risk of schizophrenia: offspring of dry cleaners in a population birth cohort, preliminary findings.

Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York, 10032, USA.

Tetrachloroethylene is a solvent used in dry cleaning with reported neurotoxic effects. Using proportional hazard methods, we examined the relationship between parental occupation as a dry cleaner and risk for schizophrenia in a prospective population-based cohort of 88,829 offspring born in Jerusalem from 1964 through 1976, followed from birth to age 21-33 years. Of 144 offspring whose parents were dry cleaners, 4 developed schizophrenia. We observed an increased incidence of schizophrenia in offspring of parents who were dry cleaners (RR=3.4, 95% CI, 1.3-9.2, p=0.01). Tetrachloroethylene exposure warrants further investigation as a risk factor for schizophrenia.

Schizophr Res. 2007 Feb;90(1-3):251-4. Epub 2006 Nov 17.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/...ve&db=PubMed&list_uids=17113267&dopt=Abstract
 

David Baxter

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Re: Virginia Tech

:confused:

What does that have to do with Virginia Tech shootings?
 

Daniel

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Re: Virginia Tech

The killer's parents were dry cleaners. So, it seems possible that he was exposed to tetrachloroethylene, which could increase his chance for getting mental illness (not necessarily schizophrenia).

However, I've now seen an argument against this applying to the killer and the killer's parents:

From what I know about local Korean dry cleaning community is that all of them took up the dry cleaning business after having children and after establishing themselves in the U.S, so this study wouldn't apply to the shooter's family.

http://www.dailytarheel.com/home/in...story_id=a8be3e32-b7a1-4dcf-be58-757bc708259c

So it probably doesn't matter, anyway, in this case.
 

David Baxter

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Cho's Behavior Alerted Counselors, Who Were Unable to Act

Cho's Behavior Alerted Counselors, Who Were Unable to Act
Chicago Tribune
April 18, 2007

CHICAGO - As new details emerged Wednesday about the alarming behavior of the student behind the Virginia Tech massacre, college mental health experts said they will re-examine ways to help disturbed students and protect those around them.

Classmates described gunman Cho Seung Hui, who killed 32 people before killing himself, as sullen and withdrawn. A professor, concerned by Cho's writings, had referred him to counseling. In 2005, a magistrate ordered him to a psychiatric hospital because of concerns he was suicidal.

Combined, the warning signs point to something being terribly wrong. But college counselors - who every year see more students suffering from depression, anxiety and stress - say it's not that simple.

College officials don't always share information with each other, because of confidentiality concerns or simply poor communication, and counseling centers may be so overwhelmed that students have to put their names on a waiting list before they're seen. Universities generally don't have psychiatrists on hand who specialize in detecting potential criminal behavior, nor do they have in-patient facilities or round-the-clock counselors.

Looking at the tragedy in Virginia, David Hayes, a clinical psychologist and director of the psychology training program at Louisiana State University's student health center, gave a succinct assessment: "Every university in the country knows that could have been them."

He said people at Virginia Tech seemed to notice, from Cho's odd and detached behavior, that there was reason to be concerned.

"The detection side of this worked pretty well," he said. "A lot of students were noticing and realizing this was outside the normal pale of things."

But he questions whether the counseling center at the university - or at any university for that matter - would have been able to properly diagnose and treat Cho, a 23-year-old senior.

"Mental health centers at universities are trained to deal with the normal problems of living - depression, anxiety," Hayes said. "I just feel any university counseling center would probably get a referral like this and want to help and do what they could. But they'd be so outmatched."

College mental health experts predict that after the horror at Virginia Tech, some colleges may refer their more severe cases to off-campus psychiatric treatment facilities. Other campuses may mandate counseling, rather than recommend it. And some may lift limits on the number of therapy sessions a student can receive.

"There will be changes. We will be little better at listening to what teachers have to say. We will probably train resident advisers a little more forcefully about when to make referrals," said Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia. "Hopefully, we will train whole student bodies that if somebody is suffering or having problems, they'll let people know about it who can help."

Nationwide, nearly 18 percent of college students say they suffer from depression, while 12 percent report experiencing anxiety disorders. About 9 percent said last year that they had seriously considered attempting suicide, according to a 2006 study by the American College Health Association.

That means that colleges and universities are "shifting from having these sleepy little therapy centers to doing more general mental health and crisis work," said Dr. Thomas Kramer, director of the Student Counseling and Resource Service at the University of Chicago. Last year, the U. of C. counseling center saw 2,100 of the campus' 14,000 students, up from 1,900 the year before.

College counselors have varying policies when working with students in crisis, but laws of confidentiality and privacy generally prevent them from sharing information unless there is a direct threat of danger to the student or others.

Just weeks ago, Virginia became the first state to pass a law that prevents public colleges and universities from dismissing or punishing students because of concerns about their mental health, including those who have attempted suicide.

That's in contrast to the policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which mandates that students have four counseling sessions if they are referred for suicidal behavior. If the students don't agree to the assessments, they can be expelled. About 150 students a year receive mandatory counseling.

Paul Joffe, a counselor at the U. of I., said he may suggest that the university also require counseling if students are showing violent tendencies or other potentially dangerous behavior. Virginia Tech professors and classmates have said that Cho's writings and screenplays were laced with violence, and one professor had him removed from her class.

"We are certainly going to have every practice under review," Joffe said.

Already, he said, if a student threatens to harm another individual, reports are made to the police, the university's disciplinary office, and the counseling center.

"We create a clear behavioral expectation that they will refrain from statements like this, writings like this, actions like this. If they are not able to, we act quickly to discipline, sanction, withdraw," Joffe said. "We put people on notice that threats of violence toward another person are unacceptable."

Bob Gallagher, author of an annual survey of college counseling centers, has been watching the trends in college mental health for more than two decades. He said that not only are more college students being treated for mental health problems, but their problems - including depression, bipolar disorder and learning disabilities - are more severe than in the past.

In the 2006 National Survey of Counseling Center Directors, 92 percent of counseling directors said the number of students with severe psychological problems has increased in recent years. Several experts attribute the increase in part to more students with a history of mental illness going to college, helped by new medications and improved psychotherapy. They also said students are under more pressure to achieve than their peers were in the past.

"Treatments for behavioral disorders have gotten so much better that people who would never have gone to college are now getting treatment and are in school," said Kramer, of the University of Chicago.

But once in school, students generally cannot be forced into counseling unless they have broken the law and are ordered to do so by a court, or if there is a policy like the one at U. of I.

"Your hands are really tied unless you feel that there's some sort of imminent danger," said Richard Kadison, chief of mental health services at Harvard University.

Kadison, who has researched trends in mental health, said a recent Harvard survey found roughly 45 percent of the student body had experienced debilitating depression, and 10 percent had considered suicide.

"There can be a whole range of triggers," he said. "Basically the big issue is really educating the whole community to know what some of the warning signs are to indicate a student's in trouble."

Still, there may be times when even the best mental health interventions can't prevent a tragedy, experts said.

"In the same ways that you treat cancer, you can recognize it, see that it is there, and people will still die," said Sheras, the University of Virginia psychologist. "We want to affix blame because we feel so darn powerless. We want people to say we missed something obvious so it doesn't happen again."
 

David Baxter

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Laws Limit Options When a Student Is Mentally Ill

Laws Limit Options When a Student Is Mentally Ill
By TAMAR LEWIN, New York Times
April 19, 2007

Federal privacy and antidiscrimination laws restrict how universities can deal with students who have mental health problems.

For the most part, universities cannot tell parents about their children?s problems without the student?s consent. They cannot release any information in a student?s medical record without consent. And they cannot put students on involuntary medical leave, just because they develop a serious mental illness.

Nor is knowing when to worry about student behavior, and what action to take, always so clear.

?They can?t really kick someone out because they?re writing papers about weird topics, even if they seem withdrawn and hostile,? said Dr. Richard Kadison, chief of mental health services at Harvard University. ?Most state laws are pretty clear: you can only bring students to hospitals if there is imminent risk to themselves or someone else, so universities are in a bit of a bind that way.?

But, he said, some schools do mandate limited amounts of treatment in certain circumstances.

?At the University of Missouri, if someone makes a suicide attempt, they mandate four counseling sessions, for example,? said Dr. Kadison, an author of ?College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What To Do About It.?

Universities can find themselves in a double bind. On the one hand, they may be liable if they fail to prevent a suicide or murder. After the death in 2000 of Elizabeth H. Shin, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who had written several suicide notes and used the university counseling service before setting herself on fire, the Massachusetts Superior Court allowed her parents, who had not been told of her deterioration, to sue administrators for $27.7 million. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

On the other hand, universities may be held liable if they do take action to remove a potentially suicidal student. In August, the City University of New York agreed to pay $65,000 to a student who sued after being barred from her dormitory room at Hunter College because she was hospitalized after a suicide attempt.

Also last year, George Washington University reached a confidential settlement in a case charging that it had violated antidiscrimination laws by suspending Jordan Nott, a student who had sought hospitalization for depression.

?This is a very, very difficult and gray area, when you take action to remove the student from the campus environment, versus when you encourage the student to use the resources available on campus,? said Ada Meloy, director of legal and regulatory affairs at the American Council on Education. ?In an emergency, you can share certain information, but it?s not clear what?s an emergency.?

Ms. Meloy estimated that situations complicated enough to involve a university?s lawyers arise, on average, about twice a semester at large universities.

While shootings like the one at Virginia Tech are extremely rare, suicides, threats and serious mental-health problems are not. Last year, the American College Health Association?s National College Health Assessment, covering nearly 95,000 students at 117 campuses, found that 9 percent of students had seriously considered suicide in the previous year, and 1 in 100 had attempted it.

So mental health experts emphasize that, whatever a college?s concerns about liability, the goal of campus policies should be to maximize the likelihood that those who need mental-health treatment will get it.

?What we really need to do is encourage students to seek mental health treatment if they need it, to remove any barriers to their getting help, destigmatize it, and make it safe, so they know there won?t be negative consequences,? said Karen Bower, a lawyer at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, who represented Mr. Nott.

With the Virginia Tech killings, many universities are planning to remind faculty members of their protocols. ?We?re actually going to go ahead and have the counseling service here do a session for all our instructors and faculty on what to look for, what the procedures are, and what the counseling center can do,? said Shannon Miller, chairwoman of the English department at Temple University.

At Harvard, Dr. Kadison said, dormitory resident assistants watch for signs of trouble, and are usually the first to become aware of worrisome behavior ? and to call a dean.

?The dean might insist that they get an evaluation to make sure they?re healthy enough to live in a dorm,? he said. ?If it?s not thought that they?re in any immediate danger, they can take or not take the recommendation.?

Last month, Virginia passed a law, the first in the nation, prohibiting public colleges and universities from expelling or punishing students solely for attempting suicide or seeking mental-health treatment for suicidal thoughts.

?In one sense, the new law doesn?t cover new territory, because discrimination against people with mental health problems is already prohibited,? said Dana L. Fleming, a lawyer in Manchester, N.H., who is an expert on education law. ?But in another sense, it?s ground-breaking since it?s the first time we?ve seen states focus on student suicides and come up with some code of conduct for schools.?

College counseling services nationwide are seeing more use.

?We?re seeing more students in our service consistently every year,? said Alejandro Martinez, director for counseling and psychological services at Stanford University, which sees about 10 percent of the student body each year. ?Certainly more students are experiencing mental illness, including depression.

?But there?s also been a cultural shift,? Mr. Martinez said, ?in that more students are willing to get help.?

College officials say that a growing number of students arrive on campus with a history of mental-health problems and a prescription for psychotropic drugs. But screening for such problems would be illegal, admissions officers say.

?We?re restricted by the disabilities act from asking,? said Rick Shaw, Stanford?s admissions director. ?We do ask a question, as most institutions do, about whether a student has been suspended or expelled from school, and if they have been, we ask them to write an explanation of it.?

Federal laws also restrict what universities can reveal. Generally, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Ferpa, passed in 1974, makes it illegal to disclose a student?s records to family members without the student?s authorization.

?Colleges can disclose a student?s private records if they believe there?s a health and safety emergency, but that health and safety exception hasn?t been much tested in the courts, so it?s left to be figured out case by case,? Ms. Fleming said.

And the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibits the release of medical records. ?The interaction of all these laws does not make things easy,? she said.
 

ThatLady

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This has been a devastating event for so many people. Thirty-three lives were lost because one poor, hopeless individual was unable to cope anymore. From what I've read, this young man had been a troubled soul since he was very young. Efforts to help him had failed miserably. He didn't talk to anyone, rejected all offers of friendship or companionship, refused counselling (although, as I understand it, he had been temporarily held in custody as a danger to self/others in 2005, but it was a voluntary hold and he decided to leave on his own), and finally ended his life and that of those he killed. His actions have left those who survived with permanent scars on their souls.

It's all just too sad to comprehend. The laws governing who can, and who cannot be remanded to custody for treatment MUST change. People like this young man are unable to make rational decisions for themselves. It's not about their rights. It's about their inability to use those rights to their own benefit and the benefit of society as a whole.
 

healthbound

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I hope we don't experience massive backlash towards mental illness.

My understanding is that many mental illnesses are treatable if the systems and resources are in place to identify and appropriately deal with those who are ill (as TL mentioned).

The stigma surrounding mental illness still prevents our ability to provide general education and awareness as well as implement adequate resources and research.

There is still so much we need to learn in order to treat victims of mental illness (both those who are affected as well as those who are effected).
 

Tampa11

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I pose this question, what makes us(society) any different than Cho? On his tapes he totally blames society for why he did it, without taking any responsibility . Society totally blames Cho for what he did, without taking any responsibility. Even his grandfather, by calling Cho a SOB, thinks he has admonished himself of any responsibility. People in society discuss, why would anyone do such a thing? I believe we talk around the elephant in the room. Some of the people, giving interviews that had contact with Cho when he was growing up, stated he never spoke so he was an easy target for harassment. When I look back in my past, I have said and done things that have offended people. Straws placed on a camels back, are one at a time.
 

Daniel

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I do think his family should have taken him to a therapist/psychologist a long time ago. Being shy is one thing but having a tendency of not responding when your own family and other people are talking to you is a big deal:

Cho "troubled his parents a lot when he was young because he couldn't speak well, but was well-behaved," the grandfather, who was identified by only his last name, Kim, told the Dong-a Ilbo daily.

The family was worried that Cho might even be mute, the 81-year-old grandfather said in a separate interview with the Hankyoreh newspaper.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/na...,1367322.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines
 

healthbound

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When I look back in my past, I have said and done things that have offended people. Straws placed on a camels back, are one at a time.

And just as "we" may contribute to a build up of straw, we can also begin lifting those pieces away. Every little bit of positive action counts.

Thanks for reminding me that I have the power to contribute to positive change right now.
 

David Baxter

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Media reacts to Cho
By Treatment Advocacy Center

Behind some of the plaints of Virginia Tech staff that nothing could be done about Cho, you can hear the undercurrent: Who were we to judge? Of course, if he had occasionally uttered racial slurs rather than frightening those around him with bizarre behavior, the full apparatus of administrative power at Virginia Tech would have been brought down on him.

But Virginia Tech also had to cope with an extremely strict state law that requires that someone represent an "imminent danger" to himself or others before he can be compelled to seek treatment. ...
There is, of course, a balance to be struck between civil liberties and treating the mentally ill. But that balance is now badly off-kilter. Cho Seung-Hui was basically abandoned to his private mental hell at Virginia Tech. While he hatched his lunatic and hateful plot, everyone tried to ignore the scary guy in class behind the sunglasses.

- Rich Lowry, editor of National Review

Cho became by any person's reckoning a danger not only to himself but to others, although his future behavior was hard to predict. Because of that unpredictability, the law in California and elsewhere should allow involuntary detention based on current actions and past history of mental illness.

No one wants anyone held involuntarily without reason. No one wants anyone housed in Dickensian facilities. There can be, however, times when one person's continued liberty collides with the public's safety. This week's shooting spree was such a time.

- San Diego Union Tribune

But when you face a decision about a human life that is crumbling before your eyes, and the law reduces the complexities of a malfunctioning mind -- or, if you prefer, a lost soul -- to a printed checklist ("Alternatives to involuntary hospitalization and treatment . . . were deemed suitable," says choice "A" on Virginia's Form DMH 1006), it's time to treat the law as it treats people in pain: dismissively.

- Marc Fisher, Washington Post

Common sense and human decency also would have dictated some mandated treatment for the tormented Mr. Cho. But the law put that out of reach, as well. And here we are.

This situation is an understandable overreaction to abuses of the past, when the mentally ill were confined too often and too long. But it's time for the pendulum to swing back to a more sensible middle.

That's slowly happening.

- Steve Blow, Dallas Morning News
 

David Baxter

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Virginia AG calls for better mental illness treatment law
By Treatment Advocacy Center
April 24, 2007

Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell explained to WDBJ 7 Roanoke that he will ask the Virginia legislature to pass Kendra’s Law when they return in January. As regular readers of this blog will remember, legislation to update Virginia’s outpatient commitment standard was passed over by the Virginia Courts of Justice committee in January.

Their reasoning? They wanted to wait for the Supreme Court Commission’s report, due in 2008 and since bumped to 2009.

Recent events at Virginia Tech may finally convince legislators that compelling treatment for a small number of the sickest people is not only humane, but cannot wait 2 more years – people across the state are suffering every day. Just because their stories don’t make international headlines doesn’t mean they aren’t horrible and worthy of attention. For instance, in the same week of the Virginia Tech shooting, a man in Roanoke was killed by police responding to a call that he was suicidal – he had bipolar disorder and was not taking medication.

TAC commends the attorney general for recognizing the many benefits that improved outpatient commitment standards can bring to the Virginia mental health system.
 

Mari

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I do think his family should have taken him to a therapist/psychologist a long time ago. Being shy is one thing but having a tendency of not responding when your own family and other people are talking to you is a big deal

Response

This topic is too close for comfort but do you actually know if his family tried?

These are some responses I got when I expressed concerns about my son.

'He is a wonderful, engaging young man - you have nothing to be concerned about'

'We work with many shy students - you do not have to worry about your son'

'He is very intelligent and can work things out on his own - I have people who really need help'

'He is one of the nicest, happiest kids I know - you worry too much'

FYI My son died by suicide. :( Mari
 

Daniel

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This topic is too close for comfort but do you actually know if his family tried?

There's no indication from news reports that the family sought out medical/psychological evaluation regarding his speech problem.
 

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