What We Can Learn From Virginia Tech

In the wake of the tragic events that occurred at Virginia Tech University, many in our community will be forced to wrestle with and confront some tough questions and concerns. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and families, as well as the broader campus community. No amount of planning and preparation can ever truly prepare one for the events that unfolded on April 16, and yet our thoughts cannot resist the tendency to delve into spaces that invite critical reflection and analysis about our own vulnerability to such a tragedy within the borders of this campus.
Times like these challenge our individual and collective sensibilities as we seek to desperately cling to notions of life that are far more predictable, less scary and less unsettling. Our designs for living and patterns for interpreting reality have been shaken by this single act of horrific proportion, which dislodges us from our comfortable spaces of intellectual, emotional, behavioral and even spiritual comfort.
As people struggle to cope with this horrific tragedy, it is likely that some will experience a broad range of emotional reactions, including anxiety, confusion, depression, insecurity, anger, resentment, sadness, vulnerability and fear. Some may experience difficulty sleeping, eating or concentrating on their studies. These feelings are normal and reasonable, and consistent with what mental health professionals predict. Over time, these feelings will diminish for most people.
We want each member of our community to know that we are here for you in ways that ensure, to the best of our ability, your safety, as well as address your emotional and psychological well-being in this time of extreme distress.
In recalling the incidents of last week, I want to invite each of you to resist the temptation to espouse what could or should have been done. Hindsight is always 20/20, and none of us really knows what it was like in the moments surrounding the tragedy. What I do want to encourage and provide is an invitation to explore the implications of this tragedy for our own UC Irvine campus and the psychological resources that are available to assist us, should some incident darken our door.
First, no one can predict with absolute certainty if or when such a tragedy might occur or when individuals, whether reacting to normal life stressors or challenged to cope with some level of mental illness, are likely to erupt. We have little, if any, control over these events that so impact our lives. Fortunately, incidents like Virginia Tech or Columbine are relatively infrequent and it is important to remind ourselves that order is much more frequent than disorder and tragedy, and our blessings in life far outweigh our trials and tribulations.
What we do control is how we manage our own spaces, and how we access and/or refer individuals to the resources that can help them better cope with personal or life challenges, particularly in times of moderate or severe distress. The UCI campus is blessed with a full array of mental and physical health and wellness services. The Counseling Center provides a broad range of mental health treatment that can deliver individual and group counseling and therapy, walk-in and triage coverage, consultation, psycho-educational workshops and training, and crisis intervention. Our Student Health Mental Health Clinic, in addition to the psychological interventions listed below, also delivers psychiatric assessment, pharmacotherapy and consultation. Our campus also boasts a Health Education Center that provides important information on healthy lifestyle support that can be useful in managing or coping with a tragic circumstance. Please encourage students to take advantage of these services.
If you experience any of these symptoms or would just like someone to talk to, we invite you to contact the Counseling Center at (949) 824