The Va. Tech Shootings – The Media – American Mental Health Attitudes
I am as appalled and saddened as all people are about the students who were killed at Va. Tech on Monday. But I am even more disturbed over other events regarding this terrible tragedy.
The media coverage has built this event up to the point that on a nation wide basis, colleges and high schools are barraged with people young and old trying to get their moment of fame. In Florida a fourteen year old boy has been arrested on felony charges because he has been saying for about two weeks that he was going to kill people. With all the media coverage over Tech, the boy decided that he would kill even more people than the fellow at Tech. He wants to set a new record.
He was turned in when a parent intercepted his email. He likewise turned himself in when he found out his plan was discovered. Now in California, a mentally ill man has issued a threat to kill and caused several counties to put their schools on lock down as authorities look for the man. In Arizona, I believe, a suspicious package is being investigated. Bomb threats have become daily occurrences across the nation. The media frenzy is certainly having a negative impact.
But, I find there is even more information coming out that is even more disturbing to me. I have heard a reporters call Cho a madman, a psychopath, and several other names. The media has also discussed how it has discovered how the kids at Tech ridiculed Cho. Then one reporter says, I don’t care. Many people are ridiculed and they don’t turn into killers.
Had Cho had a visible physical defect or disability, would people be so eager to accept it as OK to ridicule him for being different? Would the college have stepped in and put a stop to this inappropriate conduct? In America we have probably one of the most backward attitudes in existence about mental illness! We convict the mentally ill for committing crimes. Then we send them to “get well’ so we can imprison or execute them. We look at the symptomatic behaviors of mental illnesses as rational behaviors and a matter of choice by the mentally ill. We ostracise and place labels on mentally ill that they can not get out from under.
We have cut back on programs and mental health funding and insurance coverage to the point where mentally ill can not afford treatment. Support groups and networks that used to exist are virtually non existent now! As a person with Panic Disorder and PTSD I have over 35 years of firsthand knowledge in this area.
One thing that I find criminal is that in Virginia, and I am sure many other states, mentally ill can be taken before a Mental Health Screener and talk to them for about thirty minutes and be released as no threat to themselves or anyone else. Almost any mentally ill person can hold it together for thirty minutes. They may be mentally ill but they aren’t stupid! Just being in a facility of this nature offers a sense of false security for many types of mental illness that a person can actually appear as no threat to anyone else or themselves! There is a tiny part of a mentally ill person that says if I go nuts here, nothing bad will happen.
This boy, Cho, should have had follow up the mental health facility that evaluated him. He should have had more help from the counseling services at Tech. Anyone who displays symptoms of stalking canbe extremely dangerous. We should raise our kids not to ridicule others because they are different. It is cruel in the extreme. But, to ridicule a mentally ill person is incomprehensible! We need to not place blanket stigmas and lifelong labels on all mentally ill. There are many people who become or are mentally ill who recover fully and never have a re-occurrence of their illness. They actually become very productive and responsible people who are better adjusted and have better coping skills than the “well” element of our society.
The social attitude we have in our country today is directly responsible for the tragedy at Tech on Monday and other such tragedies in recent past. In every case signs existed that were ignored by the people who were in positions to provide help for the individuals involved. I will grant that there are some cases where the individual does not get well for whatever reason. But, the unnecessary death tolls we are seeing that are continuing to rise are preventable inmost cases!