This is my last post on this topic, but I can’t leave the topic before addressing some questions that most people don’t seem to be exploring. My apologies for going off-topic. We’ll get back to discussing writing tomorrow.
The facts that I have read indicate that the Virginia Tech shooter was a very disturbed young man. Everyone around him seemed to know how disturbed he was. One teacher had him removed from class. The police investigated “stalking” type behavior. He was even admitted to a mental hospital and diagnosed as dangerous to himself and others.
Folks, this isn’t an instance where an individual slipped through the cracks of the mental health system. Nor is this an instance where somebody suddenly snapped and reacted in an unexpected fashion. This is an instance where the mental health system was involved in the situation and failed.
I submit to you that the mental health system in our society is broken. It was broken in this instance in at least the following ways:
- The education professionals did not know what steps to take to help an obviously disturbed young man.
- The mental hospital diagnosed him as dangerous and then released him after only one night.
- A mentally ill person who had been diagnosed as a danger to himself and to others was allowed to purchase weapons.
The mental health system in our society is broken and we paid for it with the innocent blood of those students. We must not let this happen again.
I don’t have all the answers, but I suggest the following as start:
- Educate yourself about mental illness. Here are a few places to start: The Virginia Tech Tragedy: Distinguishing Mental Illness from Violence and Healthy Minds.
- Encourage your friends and family to learn about mental illness.
- Ask your educators what precautions they have in place to protect students. Encourage them to learn about mental illness AND to find out how to assist students that appear to be mentally ill.
- If you live in America, contact your local congressman and ask questions. Let them know that you are concerned about this issue. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Is there a law in my area to allow a hospital to hold a mentally person for further testing if they are thought to be a danger to themselves or others?
- Is there a law in my area to prevent individuals with a diagnosis of mental illness from purchasing weapons?
- Do health programs for the poor and itinerant individuals cover treatment for mental illness?
Yes, I do know that not all mentally ill people are violent. In fact, according to statistics they are more likely to be a victim, than a victimizer.
Yes, I understand that there are civil liberties involved (the right of an individual to refuse treatment, the right to bear arms, and so on). I do think, with work, we can use checks and balances to protect both liberty and safety.
Yes, I understand that health programs are expensive. There are some things we can’t afford to skimp on.
Let us learn from this tragedy before it fades from our memory!
Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.