Is Help Here?:Taking Stock of Mental Health Since Virgina Tech
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the day that Seung-Hui Cho began a shooting spree at a Virginia Tech dormitory and then killed 33 people, including himself. Across the country, people took the time to remember the events of the day and reflect that even those who were not directly involved were affected.
This rang especially true for college students. But how far have we come in preventing attacks like this one? Just two months ago, Steven Kazmierczak killed five people at Northern Illinois University.
The fact that such attacks occur so soon apart and so often says something about the system that allows for them to do so. How much have we learned from the Virginia Tech shootings and how much have our campuses made changes to prevent further attacks?
Increasing security and improving rapid response time is not the solution. After the Virginia Tech shootings, it became clear that Cho was mentally disturbed and showed signs that he was headed down a deadly path. A year after those deaths, it seems that the educational system has yet to adapt itself to the mental health needs of students.
William Kim, a senior at Virginia Tech, is a perfect example. Kim, a Korean-American like Cho, was deeply affected by the shootings. He felt that the students would mistake him for the shooter and descended into depression.
Even though Kim’s friends and family tried to get him psychological help on campus, his father claims that the school didn’t do enough for his son despite the frequent warning signs that he needed help. Wellness checks weren’t taken seriously, and a psychologist never reached out to Kim.
Kim shot himself in the head in December 2007, nearly eight months after the original massacre. Why did Kim’s case go under-noticed? His death, on top of the deaths of the direct victims of the massacre, should have sparked enough public support to enact the necessary changes in the mental health systems on our campuses.
What worries me most about Kim’s case is not only his suicide, but the fact that he, like Cho, displayed frequent warning signs of his deeply troubled state. If the campus where the shootings occurred, isn’t doing enough for its students, then campuses around the nation could be facing similar problems.