Shock.Horror.Outrage.Frustration. A year ago, the usual pattern that the
United States has of dealing with bloody killing sprees repeated itself once
more, after the worst-ever massacre at an educational institution. On April 16,
2007, ChoSeung Hui, a
student at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, whom a judge had arranged
psychiatric treatment for two years earlier, shot and killed 32 fellow students
and professors, then himself. Shock and horror were followed by outrage.
Proponents of stricter gun controls were indignant about the fact that someone
like Cho, who a judge had declared dangerously mentally ill less than two years
before, was able to purchase firearms unimpeded.
Gun rights advocates were
indignant, because the university forbids the carrying of firearms. If the
victims in Norris Hall would have had guns, so the logic goes, Cho couldn't
have killed 32 people.
Shock.Horror.Outrage.Frustration. Somewhere amid all of these emotions,
reforms are inevitably promised. In the case of the Blacksburg massacre, there
were hopeful signs. A commission of inquiry appointed by Virginia Governor
Timothy Kaine noted in its final report two primary
factors that made possible this act of madness: Loopholes in the gun control
laws and a health care system in which mentally ill people often get no help.
The debate over gun control erupts loudly and often, yet it's a discussion
without consequences. The way people with psychological problems are handled,
however, is a silent scandal. Even after Blacksburg, American society is so
uncomfortable with the topic that it was quickly suppressed.
Even more than the U.S. mania
for weapons, this bloody killing spree represents the often tragic consequences
of a system in which mental suffering is not only ignored - it is criminalized.
"Virginia's mental health laws are flawed and services for mental health
users are inadequate" the Blacksburg Report found .
Posted by WORLDMEETS.US
While at school, Cho Seung Hoi's severe mental problems had been diagnosed. At that
stage the problem could have actually been addressed. But like hundreds of
thousands of other mentally ill people, he was then left to his own devices.
Alliance on Mentally Illness , an advocacy
group, estimates that in the United States, one in five mental illnesses in
children and adolescents ever get treatment. In adults that rate is even lower.
Insurance companies frequently exclude treatment for mental illness and
government assistance usually comes too late. It's significant that the largest
psychiatric hospitals in the United States is located
in a prison. According to a 1998 study by the U.S. Department of Justice ,
roughly 16 percent of all prisoners in the country (283,800) were insane. More
than 547,800 were on probation. At the end of their sentences, treatment for
prisoners usually ends, along medication and assistance.
Prompted by the Blacksburg
massacre, the U.S. Congress made selling weapons to the mentally ill more
difficult. A national database has been improved to facilitate the sharing of
information with gun dealers. But the situation of patients remains unchanged.
Only stigma and social ostracism have grown.
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