Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre


2 weapons recovered at the scene
22 mm. handgun, 9mm semi-automatic

I don't understand these things, guns

an isolated domestic violence incident

Hospital official: This man was brutal. There wasn't a shooting victim with less than 3 bullet wounds, abdomen, chest, head. We're a small rural hospital, 126 beds, we had to send three out to Roanoake.

Roanoacke trauma center 3
Louisgale Hospital 3
Montgomery Regional Hospital 9
families are bedside
these are the survivors

33 GONE

deadliest shooting spree in US history
one year post-Columbine, almost to the day

Zach Petkowicz--hero--barricaded another classroom shut using a rectangular table, held off the gunman who tried to push into the room full of students

psychotic energy (my words)

Face Book

black ribbons

The Virginia Tech Web Site:
Campus closed today; convocation at Cassell

Updated at 7 a.m., Tuesday, 04.17.2007

Counseling assistance for students is available at West Ambler Johnston and McComas Hall until 9 p.m. Students are encouraged to utilize these services. Students may also gather at the Old Dominion Ballroom in Squires Student Center.

Counseling assistance for faculty and staff today has been moved to Brush Mountain Room A in Squires, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Two shooting incidents on campus Monday left 33 dead. Thirty-one, including the gunman, died at Norris Hall; two died at West Ambler Johnston Hall. Fifteen other victims from Norris are being treated at area hospitals.

Officials are in the process of identifying victims and notifying next-of-kin. Names will not be released until that process is complete.

Essential personnel are to report for work today. Classes are canceled.

A public gathering will be held at Cassell Coliseum at 2 p.m.


How does this happen? Why?

Can we assume he had counseling and that it didn't help?
Can we assume he was either an emotional, physically, or verbally abused person?
Can we assume that he was failing? Engineering is hard.
Can we assume that he lost in love?
Can we assume he was mentally ill, that he heard voices, that it was premeditated?

Therapy doc pundits like me assume it all in varying combinations. The median age for onset of schizophrenia is early to mid-twenties, and delusional paranoid schizophrenia is associated with violent behavior. That's certainly possible. Bi-polars are usually spontaneous and this seemed premeditated.

He wore something that looked like a boyscout uniform.

We'll find out, I hope, in the coming days. Meanwhile, the counseling centers in Blacksburg have their work cut out for them. Graduation is in three weeks and there is no way, simply no way that the students at this school will put the past behind them so soon.

Oh. And of course, I forgot. If you happen to need to buy a gun? Go to Virginia, the second easiest state in the country, apparently to whiz through the purchasing process. No background checks, no licenses. Anyone can get one.

Ironically, it's an election day in Chicago. Now here's a cause, for those of you who feel you need to get involved in something. I'm always pushing my patients to get involved in SOMETHING. This might be interesting, gun control.

I wonder what people will be talking about in my office today?

Sadly yours,

TherapyDoc

10 comments:

diane said...

You are not far off. As I'm sure you've read by now, the gunman had an unstable history, and had lately exhibited "growingly erratic behavior." It is speculated he was on antidepressents. He was recommended for counseling, but no one knows yet if he pursued it.
The state of mental health in this world and our respones to it concerns me far more than the state of guns. Far, far more.

TherapyDoc said...

Thanks for keeping me up on it. I can check comments between patients, usually, but watching CNN is out of the question. It's all pretty worrisome, I agree.

TherapyDoc said...

A patient was late. I found this at CNN:
The 23-year-old English major accused of exacting a bloody rampage at Virginia Tech authored two plays so "twisted" that his classmates suspected he might be a school shooter before they knew for sure, a student said.

Ian McFarland, who said he had class with suspected shooter Cho Seung-hui, called the plays "very graphic" and "extremely disturbing."

McFarland is an employee of America Online, which has provided the writings to CNN.

"It was like something out of a nightmare," McFarland wrote in a blog. "The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of.

"Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter."

A university official also said that Cho scribed writings so "disturbing" they were sent to administrators, a university official said Tuesday.

The official did not provide details about the writings, which first came to the attention of faculty in the English department, but said they were passed on to the department chairwoman and university administrators.

Cho left a long and vitriolic note in his dorm room, law enforcement sources told ABC News. It contained an explanation of his actions and states, "You caused me to do this," ABC News reported.

It also railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus, according to the Chicago Tribune.

ONCE AGAIN, IT TAKES A VILLAGE. A TEACHER WHO READS SOMETHING THAT'S DISTURBING SHOULD BE DISTURBED AND SEE IF IT IS AT ALL POSSIBLE TO HAVE THE DISTURBED STUDENT GET HELP. Sure, 20/20 hindsight. But is this sort of thing taught to young teachers when they're in training? Should be, right?

Mark said...

Yes it should be taught to teachers. I think that even if they are taught, there is such a diverse amount of language, dress, behavior that it would be very difficult to discern who truly needs help and who is simply expressing themselves in a non-traditional way. As you said, it is always easier in hindsight to say, wow, knowing what was known, someone should of ...

TherapyDoc said...

agreed on the How do you Know thing. But the plays that were so disturbing- that's not a diversity thing, I don't think. It's like a dirty look in any language, no? Violent thoughts, ideas are universal I think.

deeply saddened said...

My deepest sympathies go out to those families whose lives have been forever disrupted by this horror. The fact that we compare this to other tragedies -- that there are "comparable" tragedies-- speaks to the culture of violence that is everywhere in our society, most sadly, in schools.

I agree that it takes a village... and I wonder where the village was in this young man's life all along. It's natural to speculate on the immediate events that triggered such violence in a young person, but I know you'll agree when I say that the "root" causes go back further than the past few weeks or even the past few months. In my experience with people who suffer mental illness (not professionally, so I defer to you here), they report having dealt with "behavioral" issues as children or teens... much of which is dismissed until they become seriously mentally ill as adults. it seems that the stigma around mental illness -- and a lack of awareness among pediatricians, school principles, etc? -- means that individuals don't get treatment until they are a) adults who have been guided in making bad mental health choices since childhood, AND b) in crisis and struggling just to keep their heads above water (because they were never taught how to seek the help they need).

Which is why I feel so strongly about your reference to college "teachers". This is (at least) the second time you've posted about the responsibilities of "teachers" in a college environment. as you know, there is a significant distinction in terms of training and education between elementary school teachers and college professors. the necessary credential for a college professor is a doctorate (just like yours.. in a field like english or engineering or spanish or even psych). there is no "teacher training" because college profs teach specialized courses in their own field of expertise. This is not elementary school, where students spend the day with the same teacher -- all day, every day. if you think back to college, you'll remember that students spend only several hours a week with each prof -- often in the context of a LARGE class (say, 75-100 students).

like any other professional, profs are human and they have a range of sensitivities to the emotional well-being of the students in their classes. a prof may see something disturbing in a student's work or behavior and follow up, but as the discussion thread about Chuck Mahoney's tragic suicide showed, there is lots of legal and administrative red tape that often keeps a prof from doing all that you might want him/her to do -- or even that S/HE might want to do. (in fact, it seems that there was a prof at VT who made an effort to get Cho into counseling, but he refused and the counselors made it clear that they could not force him to get therapy.)

Please, PLEASE, refrain from asking "where were his teachers?" While it might be their job as fellow humans, it is NOT their professional responsibility. It is tragic when human beings fail one another -- but college profs (in this case OR the Chuck Mahoney suicide) are not superhuman... nor can they effectively parent the hundreds of students who sit in their classes for a few hours each week. If a person is not stable enough to handle living on his/her own in a college environment, then college is not the appropriate place for that individual. It is unfair to demand that profs -- or colleges for that matter -- take on a parental role.

What Cho did was unspeakable. What drove him to that unspeakable act is probably equally unspeakable. and THAT is where the responsbility for this tragedy rests.

J said...

How does one even begin to try to understand the reasons for something like this? In what world is this a sensible response to anything? In some situations it seems futile to ask why--and personally, sometimes I'm satisfied with looking no further than "he was totally off his nut."

But maybe I just don't want to believe that society or anyone else is responsible for shaping someone capable of this.

TherapyDoc said...

Dear Deeply Saddened,

I'm really sorry and I'm going to cut and paste this into a new post next week. This is a very important discussion.

Never again, I promise, will I ask Where were the teachers? Indeed, his professors were heroic. One threatened to quit her job if Cho wasn't removed from class, another reported to police and did make sure he got some counseling.

And three of them (is that right?) are no longer with us.

I posted on premorbid stuff on 4-18-07. But the story's still unfolding.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog and sharing your point of view.

TherapyDoc said...

J, "totally off his nut" might be an okay explanation if genetics weren't vulnerable to environmental stress. And people do stress one another.

A perfect society, Yoda says, We have not.

Anonymous said...

Please be aware of the following breaking news story appearing on ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/VATech/story?id=3050483&page=1 )

Cho Likely Schizophrenic, Evidence Suggests
A Closer Look at the Minds of Mass Shooters
By MICHAEL WELNER, M.D.
April 17, 2007 — - Renowned forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner has examined some of the most notorious mass shooters of recent years. As details emerge about Seung-Hui Cho, the chairman of the Forensic Panel is following the case for ABC News and sharing his insights from his experience and current medical literature. Using the latest informaton, Welner believes the evidence strongly supports that Cho had paranoid schizophrenia.
Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures