Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sifting through the carnage

As with all frightening and seemingly senseless events, we seek answers so as to try to learn lessons and thereby protect the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. The first question regarding the Virginia Tech massacre is why?

A profile is emerging of a very disturbed young man; a loner. I refuse to use his name because I don't believe in giving these types of maniacs any kind of misplaced glory or notoriety, for fear of encouraging other loose cannons to take similar action out of desperation or whatever happens to motivate them.

However, we have learned that the killer was reported to have issues that should have set off warning bells long before this tragic event. The Sun gives us the background of a very worrisome student who had set off a fire in his dorm, was difficult to get along with, and who wrote very violent fiction. None of these might have been enough to cause his expulsion, but it did seem that there was a lack of follow up when he was encouraged to seek therapy by teachers and school officials.

There will be much discussion in colleges and universities everywhere regarding the need to be aware of such dangerous students, and the proper way to deal with them so that they don't fall through the cracks.

So many other issues arise as well, such as should the entire campus been shut down after the first two murders? Lorrie Goldstein seems to give the administration the benefit of the doubt.

Should students, or at least campus police have been allowed to carry concealed handguns? This and more will be debated in the weeks and months to come.

I believe that the one overriding lesson that is very self-evident however, is that each of us has to start becoming more aware of what is around us; more attentive to the people in our lives and on the periphery. We need to start taking responsibility for those that seem on the brink of despair and alert the appropriate authorities rather than turning a blind eye.

It's so easy to get caught up in our own little world of misplaced priorities, but the tragedy at Virginia Tech reminds us of the danger of that kind of attitude.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Joanne
This young man was identified by a faculty member as having a mental instability
he should not have been allowed to remain at the school
his parents should have been involved and a psychiatric evaluation done
this is a sad case
undoutedly mental illness was the main player in this sad sad outcome

Florence

Mary said...

yes, apparently the English Teacher who recognised that the dark themes in his compositions and writings showed a disturbed young man who needed attention. I think she tried to get him help, which was inadequate as he was taking medication for depression, and when he refused to talk and they said that they could not make him deal with his issues until he got out of line, and did something bad or illegal, and get out of line he did with such disastrous results. He was a disaster waiting to happen, because there is such an emphasis on individual liberties that authorities are afraid of being sued and so they dither about until it is too late.

Canadi-anna said...

You and your commenters are right. We should pay more attention -- hopefully before people get to the point of despair, but it's all well and good for people to notice these things, but doing something about them when the person hasn't committed any overt act, is very hard.

It seems this guy had some mental health referral and still, this was the outcome. Maybe the suggestion that he was crazy is what set him off. Who knows?

I think the most disturbing thing of all is the utter helplessness at not being able to predict and prevent.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

He was a disaster waiting to happen, because there is such an emphasis on individual liberties that authorities are afraid of being sued and so they dither about until it is too late.

Good point. It has also come out that he had a history of stalking. So we add up a stalker, a loner, someone who writes very disturbing fiction, a fire bug and a history of depression and instability.

Yet this person was allowed to continue to attend school. Interesting. (Not that it would have necessarily prevented this tragedy if he had been expelled).

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I think the most disturbing thing of all is the utter helplessness at not being able to predict and prevent.

So true. We can only exercise reasonable caution, and then we must go on with our lives; as with the threat of terrorism.

Anonymous said...

Joanne
i strongly disagree that we are helpless to act
universities want to involve parents when they want a donation of money they need to deal with families when admitting their students and they need to keep in touch with the families not just to ask for money
our son took his Doctorate in the UK after undergraduate studies at the U of Toronto
the only time we heard from Toronto was a pitch for money
the UK required that we send a letter supporting our sons studies and treated us like Royalty when ever we visited and on Graduation day
we look the other way being told your child is an adult we don't need to talk to parents or family
how do you think that young man's family are feeling
don't you agree they should have been brought into the mental health picture of that young man
when he refused help or before as parents we must demand changes to how our children are viewed by the educational instutions

Florence

Joanne (True Blue) said...

don't you agree they should have been brought into the mental health picture of that young man
when he refused help or before as parents we must demand changes to how our children are viewed by the educational instutions


Florence, I hear you. As a mother of a recent college grad I can concur with the arm's length manner in which parents are treated. It may have something to do with privacy laws, etc.

There does seem to be a need for more communication at all levels.

JR said...

Joanne,

Excellent post. We do have to be aware of the dangers around us but also to be better conditioned to respond effectively when they materialize. Easier said than done, I know. See Mark Steyn's recent NRO article here.

Anonymous said...

Do you "jr" believe Professor Librescu was wrong to not employ the assisstance of the adult students to keep the shooter out ?
or Do you agree that he understood that although they were adult in body perhaps they wre still young adults having been protected by the school system and not ready to face a mad man with two guns fully loaded.
Did he make the right decision?
I think he did and he deserves the title of true hero.
Should we condem the young adult males for juming out the window?
No I do not.
I do condem our education system

Florence

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Thanks, JR.

It's pretty hard to protect yourself against insanity. You can only do the best you can, and then just pray.

JR said...

Florence, There’s no doubt in my mind - Prof. Librescu was a true hero - perhaps the only one out of the hundreds in his building at VA Tech that day. And I don’t think anyone did anything “wrong” (except the gunman and perhaps the campus police). People reacted according to how they were conditioned to react - mostly panic - it was a ‘once-in-their life’ seemingly out of control situation with a psychotic gunman in charge.

But I don’t think it’s wise to promote a society in which everyone relies blindly on the appointed ‘official authorities’ to save the day in every situation. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the ‘authorities’ either won’t get there on time or will botch the rescue somehow. So the question becomes: how do we set things up so that there’s a better chance that more people, including our young adult ‘children’, will be able react in ways that saves their’s and others’ lives?

As it is, our society seems to be drifting further and further in the opposite direction. Not a very healthy direction to be heading in the long run.

Anonymous said...

He did not have to be expelled many students are granted a leave if they have pressing emergencies or health problems.
i am saying this young man needed help and he did not get it
how easy to condem him as a mad man after the fact
we must use prevention
i don't agree that he was told he was crazy
however he was mentally ill and i think we can all agree that people with mental illness need help and hospitalization and the proper medication
is it not better to prevent these horrendous acts?
must we be hampered by a law that states we must wait until a crime is committed?
lets work to change how we deal with these mentally ill people before they purchase guns and murder such large numbers of inocent people

Florence

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Florence, you're not turning into a bleeding heart Liberal on me, are you? ;)

Anonymous said...

No Joanne but before retirement I was an MD

Florence

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Florence, I hope you didn't take offense at my remark.

I agree with you that mentally ill people need to be identified and helped much more than is the case right now. However, is this the case of someone just being mentally ill or is it the manifestation of pure evil?

One thing for sure, he obviously felt that he had no other way to cope with his issues. How many more are there like him? That's the scary part.

Anonymous said...

This is 100% mental illness and the unfortunate part is that it is 100% treatable

Florence

Joanne (True Blue) said...

O.K. Florence, you're the doctor. How would you diagnose this one, and what treatment would you prescribe?

Anonymous said...

a common and serious mental disorder characterized by loss of contact with reality(psychosis), hallucinations(false perceptions), delusions (false beliefs), abnormal thinking, flattened affect(restricted range of emotions), diminished motivation, and disturbed work and social functioning. Schizophrenia
this can be hidden during interviews thus people family school chums need to be involed as they shed light into the behaviour

Florence
although treatment is not easy at first when the patient feels better they willingly participate
must be hospitilized
in Canada doctors can commit for 30 days