School Shootings / Violence Discussion

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Therapist4Chnge, Apr 16, 2007.

  1. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    Today's events at VaTech (the deadliest school shooting incident to date) is yet another tragedy involving student violence. I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about school violence, our role as psychologists, and what we as a professionals can do to address this dangerous trend.

    This is an area of particular interest for myself (school shootings and crisis management), and was wondering if others have looked into it, and if there is any particular research that caught your eye.

    Two organizations worth looking at:

    National Organization for Victim's Assistance: Crisis Response Team
    National Emergency Assistance Team (part of the NASP)

    -t
     
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  3. Ollie123

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    Terrifying.
    Especially since my best friend applied there and was rejected - had she been accepted she could have been on-campus when all this was going on!

    I think that perhaps the single most important step in stopping things like this from happening is recognizing what causes it in the first place. There's obviously not enough information to have any idea what caused this situation, but I'm thinking back to Columbine. The killers were immediately portrayed as "psychopaths" and all the other kids at the school were assumed to be innocent victims. I don't doubt that many, were, but the idea that they all were is pure bull****. Did they deserve to die? Probably not, but I'm not as quick to say that as most people would be. Plenty of kids make it their duty to torture others, and by the time you're in high school if you haven't figured out that is wrong, I find it VERY hard to feel all that sympathetic if someone blows your head off because you've been an dingus all your life.

    But who does everyone blame? Music, gun control laws, and trench coats of course!

    Kids are often ostracized, harassed, and emotionally destroyed in schools these days. Other kids do it. Teachers often allow it, sometimes even encourage it. Rules in place these days are often set up so you have to take all kinds of abuse, but as soon as you fight back you are the "bad one".

    The result is people are placed in a position where pressure keeps building up and getting worse, and they're told that if they go punch someone who has been harassing them for a decade, they won't get into college, etc. So they try and repress it and eventually it explodes.

    I think we, as psychologists, need to work with school systems not just to focus on screening for "problem" students as our role is typically thought to be, but to consult on developing rule systems that WORK and prevent things like this from happening, instead of encouraging it. Zero tolerance policies at schools are the worst idea ever, and personally, I'd like to shoot whoever came up with that system;)

    I know at my high school, if a kid walked up and assaulted you, both you and him got suspended. Again, policies that encourage violence because 1) you know the kid you attack will get in trouble too, and 2) if you're getting suspended anyways for being attacked, why not make sure its worth it and try to seriously hurt/kill the kid?

    I could write a novel on how crappy I think our school systems are, and how little the people making school policy seem to know about how the minds of young adult's work. I think psychologists need to step in and educate these folks on some of the foundational concepts of the human mind. Namely that kids who are pushed around and generally treated like crap by everyone may reach a limit in what they can tolerate. We are dealing with kids that are 15, 16, 17 years old here, we aren't usually talking about 5 year old Johnny who punched a kid who took one of his blocks.

    Obviously, most of what I have said doesn't apply to the VT shooting since this was college, not HS. Still, I think its worth considering, and improving the situation in middle and high schools would in theory have some carryover later.

    In conclusion - yes, find out what causes people to snap and what kids are predisposed to that. But also look into WHY these kids are snapping, and cut out this garbage about how its wrong to fight back when someone tries to hurt you.
     
  4. Therapist4Chnge

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    I use to run a local chapter of a non-profit that did non-violence education in schools (everything from bullying, harassment, self-esteem issues, etc), and I saw first hand a lot of the problems. What was the most frustrating was the administration putting test scores above all else.

    You are never going to be able to 'profile' student threats, but there are a number of factors that can be worked on that may reduce the likelihood of this happening. Sad day for all.

    31 dead
    29 injured

    -t
     
  5. Ollie123

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    I realized after I posted this that this could have come across as insensitive given the immediacy of the event at hand.

    So let me be clear that my sincerest condolences go out to the people at VT and their families, and I apologize if my post could have been construed as insensitive. I'm just very passionate about this issue, and wanted to take the opportunity to examine this from an intellectual perspective as well.
     
  6. Jon Snow

    Jon Snow Senior Member
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    **** **** **** ****
     
  7. Ollie123

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    I agree you will never be able to truly "profile" student threats, but that seems to be what many people expect. What's funny is if you start singling people out as "potentially dangerous", that may inspire some into violent acts who weren't planning on it before!
     
  8. Duckygirl

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    T4C- I think your right to bring up this issue- I think there are psychologists out there that are specializing in school violence, but I believe our understanding of it is still developing.

    Being from Oregon, I feel as though we've had a disproportionate amount of school violence...in fact, we had a shooting at an alternative high school in Gresham, OR last Tuesday, where one of my very best friends is a math teacher. This odd shift in school violence is difficult to interpret, at best.

    I think Ollie brought up some good points about the circumstances that influence a major violent conflict at school. I'd recommend everyone read Project X by Jim Shephard (he's an English Professor at Williams College & has written for McSweeney's as well). It's a fictional novel, but my word, I think he nailed the kids who get wrapped up in plotting how to annihilate the school well. It's a hauntingly revealing novel told from the viewpoint of one of these kids.
     
  9. Jon4PsyD

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    I have an old high school classmate graduating this year from Va Tech. We were never friends in high school, but I'm hoping he's okay there. I also remember a few people on last years forum saying they had accepted offers from Va Tech. Hope they are okay today as well. That's the mosti mportant thing right now.

    As for the non-violence education, school districts are doing a great job of participating in these programs since Columbine. Sadly it sounds like it will have taken an event like this for Universities to get on board as well.

    There have been reports that it was triggered by a dispute with a professor. Very scary stuff.

    Jon
     
  10. amy203

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    This is an interesting article (ignore the overly simplistic headline – the rest of article is better).

    http://www.slate.com/id/2099203/

    It's about the profile that FBI psychologists and psychiatrists completed on Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The main finding is that Harris had pretty severe antisocial personality disorder (i.e. he was a psychopath), and Klebold was more of a follower and likely had depression. They were not actually driven by their "outcast status." Rather, Harris was likely to commit some sort of violent act at some point in his life.

    I've always been a little reluctant to assert that the "increase" in school shootings should be attributed to major problems in schools or society. For one thing, I've yet to find any stats suggesting there has been an increase in school shootings (school violence, yes, but not mass killings like Columbine). There have been incidences outside of the past decade, such as the Brenda Spencer case in the 70s. We know that "psychopaths" exist, and that some of them are school age, but they are rare. I guess I'm just not sure that they should be treated that differently than serial killers - horrible and frightening to be sure, but very rare, and there existence may not say much about society as a whole.

    I'm also a little reluctant to be writing about this is the midst of a tragedy. I want to add my condolences to the people who lost their lives or were injured today. In order to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring, I think it's very important that we have correct information on what these behaviors stem from.
     
  11. GiantSteps

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    I already had posted my condolences and well wishes on the SDN March Madness Thread (in retrospect, perhaps that was not the best Thread to post it on) to the victims at VT and their families along with some personal thoughts on lost dreams and friends.

    I would like to say that (I hope I am saying this tactfully since I manage to take too harsh a tone too often) psychologists too often do not approach a problem as psychologists. Our training in research would have us collect data or look at the available data first. In this case, what is the data of violent shooting deaths on college. I quickly saw the following:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18137414/?GT1=9246

    which lists the major shooting on college campuses since 1966. There are 11 listed (interestingly, the shooting which occurred ealier this year at VTech involving a policeman was not listed). Clearly, these were all tragic but I am not really convinced that this is necessarily, although more data might say otherwise, a rising trend or even a general problem. Three of the eleven killers were not even students: Whitman (an ex-marine), the Ohio National Guard, and a 49 year old parent. The first killers mentioned were trained to kill in the military. I am not sure if the identity of today's killer was revealed.

    Perhaps, there is a larger problem of smaller scale school violence (theft, bullying, crime, physical assaults), and maybe, more severe violence problems in lower level (high school) education, but this does not really seem to be (again I have hardly begun to look at data) a trend or general problem. Clearly, all schools, at all levels, need to have professional mental/medical healthcare providers to deal with tragedies and their training should be just as intense and demanding as any other area of healthcare. However, so far I see do not see a connection or trend in terribel shootings other than that they happened to take place on school campuses which, to be honest, are in many cases just small cities. Most average size American cities have a number of shooting deaths a year (I do not have the specific numbers but could easily get the documented numbers). Average number of shooting deaths on college/ university campuses since 1966 appears to be far below the national average of homicides per city since from 1966 it is not even one a year (0.26 average). Of course, there have been slightly more in recent years since 1995 but, again, they do not appear to be connected.

    O.k. guys, now go ahead and attack everything I said. Just make sure you realize that I was in no way trying to minimize the tragedy which occurred at VTech today or the importance of psychology work to deal with school tragedies. I only am questioning whether or not major homicides on college campuses is a general problem or a trend. I only say look at some hard information first before rushing in to solve something.
     
  12. Therapist4Chnge

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    I was just speaking with someone about this a couple weeks ago. (He is a well known expert in this area). We were talking about Columbine and the issues with follow-up, treatment, training, and prevention. It is really concerning that it has been EIGHT years and very little has been done. Now this happens...really frustrating and sad.

    "Local" shootings happen a lot, and rarely get the attention. I don't think we are doing enough to address the issues.

    I just grabbed it from Amazon.com (~$11) Thanks!

    Obviously this is N=1, but I thought i'd share it just the same.

    I hope it has improved, because back when I was involved in a non-violence program (1998-2000), we had a very mixed bag of support. The end result was, "We need you...BUT...." the BUT was not willing to make any room for the program, but still expecting it to work. The administration worried about test performance first, and then everything after that; it was a very frustrating process.

    -t
     
  13. Ollie123

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    Interesting. Not sure how I missed that slate article since I have tried to keep fairly up to date on this stuff, but I did. I'll give it a read later since I'm at work now (not like that keeps me from posting though...).

    Regardless of whether Columbine is a fitting example though, I stand by my points earlier. Mass shootings are far from the only example of how people react when pushed over the edge by peers and regulations. Just the most visible.

    Giantsteps also makes a good point about the need to collect data and approach this from an empirical standpoint (something I'm certainly guilty of not doing to the extent that I should).
     
  14. Duckygirl

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    I think GiantSteps has made some good points! I think that if you were to look up interpersonal violent crimes, the rates have dropped since the 60s...Don't quote me on this...but I feel like I covered this topic in one of my psych classes. Maybe child maltreatment or a research methods course.

    I think what is important to note about incidents like schools shootings is that they may not be marked of a drastic increase in violent crime- but rather a shift of some kind...Like perhaps a shift in societal and/or cultural behavior, where this a more tempting solution to conflict. We also live in a world now where violent crimes are certainly paid more attention by our country- forty years ago, I highly doubt you'd find lots of television news footage of the shooting in '66. We live in a country where exposure is everything.

    In addition to my Jim Shepard recommendation would be Gus Van Zandt's (spelling?) sort of documentaryish movie, "Elephant." I think it was intended to be about the Columbine shooting. It too, was very revealing and there's not much "spin" on the movie. There's not even much talking. If you've not seen it, take a look at it as well.
     
  15. Therapist4Chnge

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    Really? I might have to see that again. I saw it awhile ago, but don't remember being that impressed afterwards. One of my favorite movies (albeit a bit over-dramatic at times) is "Band Bang You're Dead". It isn't perfect by any means, but I think it gives a good idea of the type of bullying and peer conflict in schools today. It was originally written as a play pre-dating Columbine (though after Jonesboro, etc).

    -t
     
  16. psychwanabe

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    My deepest condolences to everyone in the VA Tech program. I can't even begin to imagine the craziness that is taking place on that campus right now. Then you have to think of the parents of those 25,000 students trying to reach them: the pain must be feeling is unimaginable.

    You all have made some interesting points so far. I would be curious to see comparisons to violent crimes on University campuses over the last 50 years. Perhaps the escalation is more a matter of hardware (i.e., using guns rather than fists) than incidence.

    More than the data at this point now I think of the many psychologists that need to roll up their sleeves and help these kids, faculty and parents deal with the death, survivor guilt, and PTSD symptoms that they may all be facing.

    An interesting point to note: there is information all over Facebook about this shooting. It started early this morning, perhaps before anything even made the news. These students are blogging and connecting, letting each other know they are okay. What an interesting change in the way that society deals with tragedy and connects/communicates in it's aftermath. I would love to study the impact of forums such as Facebook (or SDN for that matter) on a person's ability to cope with high stress situations.

    As said before, I mean no disrespect by looking at this awful occurance in such a detached way. But part of our job is to analyze why/what/how/what impact. I can't help but see things that way.
     
  17. RayneeDeigh

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    Elephant is an amazing movie. I had to see it twice in one day because the first time I was watching between my fingers. The violence is just so realistic and the way the camera work made it seem like you were INSIDE someone's head was really terrifying.

    One of my close friends knows somebody who was in one of the classrooms at VA Tech, and he was one of only two people in that room who didn't get shot.

    Sometimes I think our world is absolutely nuts.
     
  18. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    I think I heard out of a class, only 2-4 out of the 20-something were left living. One girl said she pretended to be dead. This was all based on random news reports so YMMV with the final facts.

    -t
     
  19. Logic Prevails

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    I'm going to be blunt and say that I believe a good chunk of the issue is gun control laws. I hope I don't offend anyone here, but it seems to me that Americans are more attached to their guns than other countries. In the discussions I've had about gun control laws, I found that Americans were more likely to argue that "It is their consitutional right" to carry a firearm - "no further discussion." More lax laws in addition to "pro gun" attitude = greater availability and use, which means that more adolescents and young adults (with still developing frontal lobes) will see this as an option to solve a problem or to make a statement.

    I think the outcome is horrible - especially because the shooter is an ethnic minority (there is already enough tension as it is) and because this is just going to encourage schools to treat their students like criminals by searching them daily and installing metal detectors - what a way to live and learn! (in fear).
     
  20. emc17

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    This is absolutely mind-boggling to me. First and foremost, I offer my condolences and prayers to all the hokies, victims and their families/friends, students, survivors and the VT community. I know someone who is a senior at VT, but luckily she was not involved. What is bothering me most right now, is that there are preliminary reports stating that the senior english major who committed the massacre had been referred to VT's counseling services because his creative writing was so disturbing. Furthermore, they are also reporting that he had become increasingly violent and erratic and that he may have been on meds for depression. In addition, there are also reports that he left a note in his dorm room in which he cited "rich kids" "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" as problems in our society and stated "you caused me to do this."

    This massacre was obviously a well-planned attack which he had thought about for some time. The 2 hours he took in between the first 2 shootings in the dorm room and the rest in the classroom gave him a lot of time to reflect on his first actions and cement his committment to the rest of his day. Witnesses said that the shooter had a very calm and serious look on his face, and was picking his victims at random. I've also heard reports that all of his victims had multiple gun-shot wounds, indicating that he was also very brutal in carrying out his plan.

    After all of this rambling, my biggest concern as someone hoping to attain an advanced degree in psychology is how this could've gotten so far. I do not have experience as a clinician and I understand the importance of confidentiality, but if this individual was so obviously disturbed that he was referred to counseling services by the English department, why wasn't more done? I understand that he was on medication, and that health care does not cover much psychotherapy these days, but if he was becoming increasingly erratic and violent, why weren't further steps taken? It is definetely a difficult position for clinicians, in that they must take confidentiality into account while also attempting to protect the rest of the community. I guess it's difficult to analyze the situation on the limited amoung of information we have at the moment - I'm just highly disturbed. :(
     
  21. RayneeDeigh

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    emc17, I agree. I've been reading news reports about it since I woke up this morning. Apparently the shooter had been stalking several women recently. I'm thinking that stalking women would be a good enough reason to investigate the guy's psychological state... but apparently it wasn't. Unfortunately I think this is a case where law enforcement, school officials, and mental health professionals all dropped the ball. It's absolutely horrible that so many people died as a result.

    They're starting to release information about the victims. One of the teachers who was shot actually survived the holocaust.

    Maybe I'm especially vindictive, but I absolutely HATE that so many of these blitz shooters kill themselves afterwards. They get to do something that they obviously are aware is horrible (since they kill themselves after), and then they don't have to stick around to deal with the aftermath.

    And as for what LogicPrevails (I think) said, I agree that gun control has a lot to do with what happened, but Montreal has also had quite a few school shootings.

    In a way, I think the coverage given to these shooters in the news inspires other disturbed young men (I was trying to think of any female school shooters and I couldn't, oddly enough) to repeat the process. It seems to be fairly contagious and that's scary.
     
  22. docjohng

    docjohng Founder & CEO, PsychCentral.com
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    There are many challenges with all of this, most of which looks *so obvious* in hindsight (but is not so obvious before all of this happened).

    1. Our social/cultural/justice systems often don't communicate with each other, or don't communicate well with one another. Assuming for the moment that the information trickling out about this individual is true, did the doc who prescribe the meds talk or know about his other behaviors? Did the teacher know about the antidepressants? Did the police who interacted with him earlier know about the doc or teacher concerns? In a perfect world, all three would've been connected and because of that communication, may have raised their concerns about him to a higher level.

    2. Even had all 3 communicated with one another (assuming privacy issues were addressed, blah blah blah), it's still not clear they'd know he acquired a gun if he did so illegally or surreptitiously. Which is what many (most?) criminals do when they want to commit a crime. So even if they had been more closely keeping "an eye" on him, it still may not have prevented the tragedy from occurring.

    3. There is no "one size fits all" answer to an irrational act of senseless violence like that. We don't live in the safe, perfect world many of us believe we do and nothing we can do can provide such a world. Certainly there are preventative steps and measures all colleges and universities can implement if they want to try and prevent future tragedies such as this (such as more comprehensive mental health and social services to their students; installing metal detectors in all dorm, classroom, and social gathering buildings; etc.). But I doubt this will be the last time something like this happens because no matter how hard we try, people are still going to find a way to act senselessly and with disregard for other people's lives.

    Also, someone mentioned a fallacy about antisocial personality disorder. Not all people with antisocial personality disorder are criminals or turn into murderers or psychopaths. Conversely, not everyone who commits a crime has antisocial personality disorder.

    It's a sad, sad tragedy and my heart goes out to those at VA Tech who lost a loved one or were directly impacted by this...

    John
     
  23. Jon Snow

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    To those of you asking about these signs and why wasn't more done. . .

    What would you have them do?

    Baker act everyone with violent fantasies expressed through creative writing indefinitely (Stephen King would never see the light of day). Apparently, he was receiving treatment. That it was not wholly effective is not an indictment of the system. It doesn't always work out.


    As for gun control, perhaps if VT didn't have a no guns on campus rule, one of the cadets, or someone else, could have defended themselves. That is, btw, what happened in Texas in '66. Students returned fire, driving the shooter (ex-marine) to a tower. All gun control laws do is keep the guns out of law-abiding citizens hands. . . makes for easier victims.
     
  24. RayneeDeigh

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    Then how do you explain Canada's extremely decreased gun violence rate, in relation to the US?
     
  25. amy203

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    I was the one who brought up antisocial personality disorder - I was referring to Columbine. I should clarify that I primarily used that term because I was taught (in my undergrad abnormal psych class) that "psychopath" is not actually a term used by psychologists. However, the psychiatrist quoted in the article used it, so maybe it is a term used in some circles? Does anyone know?

    Also, if my post seemed to imply that having the diagnosis was what caused the psychologists to predict that Harris would have one day committed a violent crime (even if Columbine had not occurred) that was not my intention. There were other factors used to make this prediction.

    The FBI profile (and diagnosis) was not based solely on the fact that Harris committed a crime - they analyzed his journals and other interactions and found that he had many characteristics of someone with antisocial personality disorder, including deceitfulness, contempt for others, and lack of empathy.

    The main reason I posted about "psychopaths" has to do with your 3rd point. From what I understand, we just don't know much about how to "treat" people like this. I guess I'm just not sure that mental health treatments are the best way of avoiding these problems in the future. I could be completely wrong though! I don't know much about criminal psychology... Also, of course the man who committed the VT shooting may not have had antisocial personality disorder.

    Which brings me to your first point... You are exactly right that not everyone with antisocial personality disorder will commit a violent act.
    Nor will everyone who reports violent fantasies. In fact, the vast majority will not. That's why I'm so uncomfortable with the idea of psychologists communicating with teachers and especially police about their patients mental health problems. Privacy for patients is not a "blah blah blah" issue. A patient should be able to discuss disturbing thoughts or start on medication without it being revealed to even their family if they choose, not to mention the police!

    There have been episodes throughout history where psychiatric diagnosis was used as an excuse to suppress and even imprison people thought to be a danger to society. Psychiatric diagnosis should never be used as an excuse to target or punish someone for a crime they have yet to commit. In times like these, when everyone is panicking and looking for someone to blame, I think it is important to reassert that our field must never be used this way again
     
  26. Therapist4Chnge

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    I think if people want to continue the discussion of gun control, it may be helpful to split out the gun control stuff to one of the off-topic forums (All Students)? Let me know if anyone makes a link, or if this is something you want me to post.

    *edit*

    GUN CONTROL, GUN VIOLENCE thread.

    -t

    ps. I happen to agree with Jon, but I can expound upon that if people choose to discuss this in another thread. ;)
     
  27. emc17

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    I agree with you in that you have to respect an individual's right to free speech. If the individual in the VT massacre had only wrote about a few things in creative writing class, I don't think I'd be as upset. There are reports, however, that he had been stalking women over the past few months and had become violent. I think that this coupled with his creative writing should've been a warning sign. In fact, I heard an interview with one of the students who had been in a creative writing class with him and he was saying that one time before he had entered class, his fellow classmates sat there discussing whether or not he would one day be a school shooter.

    I don't want to get into a lengthy discussion about gun control because I will be the first to admit that I do not know all the facts. I will say, however, that someone who is being treated for depression should probably not be able to purchase 2 weapons. I also feel that gun control needs to be a lot tighter. I personally don't see the need for guns beyond law enforcement officials, military personnel and hunters. I understand the 2nd ammendment, and I know that people believe that they are protecting themselves when they purchase guns but I honestly believe that in pedestrian life, they cause more harm than good. I know that this is an isolated event and it is receiving a lot of attention, but school shootings and other gun-related violence happen on a daily basis and don't receive a lot of news coverage.
     
  28. Logic Prevails

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    You're right. We just need MORE guns so that we can shoot the irresponsible ones that don't know how to constrain their own use of them.:rolleyes:
     
  29. amy203

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    This exactly what I'm talking about. A psychiatric diagnosis should not ever be used as a reason to limit someone's civil rights! What's next - someone with a diagnosis of depression should not be allowed to drive ("they might decide to swerve and kill someone!") or have kids ("they aren't fit to be mothers!")? It's a dangerous, slippery slope.

    By the way, I'm all for stricter gun control laws, but they should be applied to everyone, or at least to people who have actually committed a crime.
     
  30. Therapist4Chnge

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  31. RayneeDeigh

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    Actually, I don't know how it works in the US but in Canada if you've ever been diagnosed with a mental disorder (including depression) you're required by law to report it and get a letter from a mental health professional stating that you have been in treatment and are able to function "normally" while driving. On the one hand I know someone with OCD who had to go through all the red tape and it was quite a nuisance for him. On the other, someone I used to be very close to is a paranoid schizophrenic and he lied to get his license and then nearly killed one of my friends. So I do actually believe that mental disorders are grounds for at least INVESTIGATING whether someone is fit to have the same privileges as others. (I don't think driving is a civil right, otherwise we'd automatically get licenses at a certain age).
     
  32. Duckygirl

    Duckygirl Back on the saddle
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    I agree with Raynee on this one, Jon. First and foremost, I have got to believe that nearly every university in this country has a "weapons-free" campus! Right? Doesn't that make sense? I think people with concealed weapon permits (in some states at least) are allowed to have guns in their cars...but I highly doubt that most colleges in the US have liberal student weapon-toting policies.

    Furthermore...we all have to keep in mind that one is probably more likely to be hit by a car in a cross walk, have his body flown on a plane somewhere, and have the plane crash and the corpse go up in flames, than you are to be involved in a violent school confrontation like the one at VA Tech yesterday. School shootings are a shift in societal and cultural norms/influences- one of which I think is guns. It makes ABSOLUTELY no sense that universities would allow students to carry weapons, with the intention that students will be able to arm themselves in an incident like this. The numbers just can't be there... At many schools, even the campus public safety employees aren't allowed to carry guns. Why should students?

    To add to Raynee's astute observation that Canada has significanty less gun violence- look at the UK where gun control is high and where police officers in London don't even carry guns. They get batons. There is much less violent crime involving guns in the UK as well. Think back to cross-cultural psych...wanna examine an aspect of your culture? Look at other countries/groups and contrast.

    I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to own weapons~ it's not my thing, but it is still a constitutional right that we have yet to get rid of. My main thought of this post was to add to Raynee's point that in cultures where guns are more restricted, gun-related violent crime is less. But then I got a fire under my butt about the rationalization of universities letting students carry weapons around, in the event a student with a psychotic break comes to school- I had to think out loud with you all about why I'm just not convinced.
     
  33. RayneeDeigh

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    I wonder if there are Psychologists who are dedicating their lives to studying these sorts of school shootings. If I didn't already have my research interests locked in for the next 5 years, I'd think it would be a very interesting thing to study. I know there's a guy at Temple who does a lot of those A&E specials on teenage rampage killings.

    I think society in general is getting more and more angry. Yesterday I saw a list of school shootings in the US/Canada and there has been one almost every month for the past few years. That's incredible (and very sad, obviously).

    Last summer I started reading a book called something like "the sociopath next door" and I think it said that one in twenty North Americans has no conscious guilt in most situations. That's a HUGE number. But it also shows that a lot of these people are able to integrate well and some in fact rise to the top of their industries (there's a joke about business majors just waiting to happen here). I think too often we get hung up on saying that shooters have APD, without studying the differences between those who have it and DO shoot people, and those who have it and do not.
     
  34. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    Ok ya'll....time to get back on the topic about what PSYCHOLOGISTS can do....

    -t
     
  35. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    Yes, there are people who specialize in these areas. I find it fascinating, but not something I'd do full time.

    -t
     
  36. amy203

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    I just want to point out that discussion should include what psychologists should not be doing as well... Meaning, at what point does preventing violence lead to unnecessary profiling and marginalization of the mentally ill?
     
  37. RayneeDeigh

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    Okay so... I just read this: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070417/ap_on_re_us/virginia_tech_shooting and from that, I started thinking... school shooters don't magically get created in Universities, they have to come from SOMEWHERE. Maybe if school psychologists were more present in elementary and junior high school settings, we'd see a decrease in later violence. I only know what it was like at the schools I attended, but I can only recall one instance where we were ever aware a school psychologist existed, and it was after a school bus was in an accident and two kids were in a coma. I think more training needs to be given to teachers about what to look for in kids who may need some extra support.

    I know a lot of clinical psych people tend to joke that school psychologists are the ones who didn't get into clinical, but I think this is a perfect example of there being a HUGE need for school Psychologists.
     
  38. psychRA

    psychRA Psychologist
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    I declined an offer from Virginia Tech in favor of another program this year, after weeks of agonizing. Tech has a great clinical psych program, with genuinely wonderful faculty and staff, and was one of my top choices. I know I would have been really happy there, even in the wake of this event. It is such a warm, friendly school, with so much spirit and camraderie. I am just heartbroken right now. Tech doesn't deserve to be suffering like this. No school deserves to be suffering like this. People have been asking if I feel better about my grad school decision now. I don't, not one bit. Just terribly, terribly sad for everyone involved. :(
     
  39. amy203

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    My Abnormal Psychology Textbook (Abnormal Psychology by Seligman, Walker, and Rosenham) has a section on rampage killing. I'm including quotes from two sections:

    "Rampage killing may have a psychobiological underpinning. The brain activation of murderers differs from that of nonviolent controls... In addition, rampage killers show a substantial amount of prediagnosed mental disorders. They usually leave a trail of explicit hints about they are going to kill and when they are going to kill. They worry their family and friends a great deal, but usually not enough for effective prevention to occur. And they slip through our tattered system of health care."

    "Two cautions are in order to prevent us from further stigmatizing and maltreating the mentally ill. First, only a minute percentage of those with mental disorders are violent. Second, while violence is frequent in our society, rampage killings are rare. Attempts to predict it are like attempts to predict airplane crashes or suicide: weak statistical predictions can be made, but particular crashes can almost never be predicted. The false alarm rate of predicting rampage killings would so high as to be totally unacceptable to a free society. Our society only apprehends and punishes those who commit crimes, not those who are more "likely" than those in control groups to commit crimes or those who merely intend to commit crimes. With these caveats explicit, we believe that making rampage killing and, more generally, violence, a legitimate object of study in Abnormal Psychology will save many lives and will prevent the ruination of even more lives. With scrupulous regard for the rights of the mentally ill and for the protection of the innocent, a science and practice built around the prevention and treatment of violence is long overdue."
     
  40. amy203

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    I tried googling this and couldn't find much. Is there actually any evidence to support that people with mental illness are worse at driving?

    To pull it back on topic, there isn't any evidence to suggest that the mentally ill are more violent, so I don't see how we can justify limiting their access to guns any more than we can limit other peoples. (Just to clarify, people who commit violent acts are more likely to be mentally ill, but people who are mentally ill are not more likely to be violent - remember your logic courses!).
     
  41. RayneeDeigh

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    To clarify, all I said was that where I live, you're required to disclose any mental diagnoses before getting your license. I assumed it was the same way in the US but from what you're saying I guess it isn't?
     
  42. RayneeDeigh

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    Nobody was debating this as far as I can tell.

    T4C asked what psychology can do to prevent school shootings and similar scenarios in general. Nobody said that throwing labels at people and calling them "at risk for violence" was an effective strategy.

    The fact is though, that these people ARE different in some way from people who don't do these sorts of things. Surely there's a way to at least try to predict risk factors and intervene.
     
  43. GiantSteps

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    I just wanted to point out two of the victims.

    One was Ryan Clark, age 22, African American male, from Georgia. He carried a 4.0 and was a Bio, English, and Psych. major. He was to graduate and wanted to get a Ph.D. in Psychology. No information if he was accepted anywhere. He was a student resident advisor and lead a school dance/ pep team. I winder if he was on SDN.

    Another was Liviu Librescu age 76. He was an engineering professor who was widely published. A Romanian born Jew, he escaped Nazi persecution (not sure if he was in a death death camp) and then escaped the communists after WWII. He went to Israel in 78 and became a citizen. He had been a professor at VTech since 1985. He died while blocking the door to his classroom so that his students could have more time to jump out windows. In a terrible irony, his death coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day.
     
  44. emc17

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    Just wanted to clarify something - I think one of my comments came out wrong haha. I don't think that the mentally ill should be stripped of their rights, but I do think that maybe this information should be disclosed in certain instances (like what Raynee said). We have to look out for everyone's safety in situations like this. Now to get off of gun control for good (bc T4C might get angry :laugh: ). I think that, on the university level, there should be more communication between all levels of administration. We know that this person was referred to counseling services, but I don't think he was ever followed up on (meaning noone actually knows if he went). Furthermore, the idea that he was stalking women and setting fires in dorm rooms should've sent up a red flag - should the campus police who dealt with the situations have referred him to counseling as well? Its a very touchy subject because of confidentiality, but I think that communication on various levels definetely needs to be fostered.
     
  45. amy203

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    There are several issues with this. If a university student is referred to mental health services, do they have to go? What happens if they don't? Should their failure to go be reported to their teachers or administrators? I am OK with court mandated counseling after a crime has been committed (such as lighting fires) and the person has been found guilty in a court of law. But what if someone just writes some disturbing stories? Should they be forced to go into therapy? And do they have the right to keep their choice to decline therapy private?

    Also, I think the discussion of gun control would be appropriate for this thread if it is specific to whether the mentally ill should be allowed to buy weapons. To me, this issue seems to have immediate implications for psychologists, but I’ll defer to T4C on this…
     
  46. NeuroPsyStudent

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    "The mentally ill" is an interesting phrase. It certainly seems to emerge when tragedy strikes. I'm sure we could identify clear differences between the mental functioning (even at the neurological level) of the young man at VA Tech and a typical college student. But defining mentally ill is usually difficult. I wonder where you would set the limit. Do you mean psychotic? Psychopathic? Or would someone with depression be mentally ill? How depressed/anxious would you need to be to carry that label?

    There is a school of thought that understands mental wellness or illness as a purely societal construct. In some harsh environments narcissism and violence have been adaptive. And certainly paranoia/anxiety can be adaptive in some situations as well.

    I am not challenging the label for this young man. Certainly he was mentally ill. I'm just wondering if people see a continuum, or some clear cut-off.
     
  47. amy203

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    I do think psychologists can play a role in preventing violence. That is why I posted the excerpt from my textbook. However, if cases like rampage killings, I have several issues:

    1) I doubt that general interventions directed at the entire population (such as school-based programs) will have much of an impact on people capable committing these crimes. It's not that I think that these programs aren't valuable - I'm sure they prevent many types of interpersonal violence - but I don't think they'd be effective in halting someone capable of committing this level of violence, especially if that person has a disorder that includes lacking empathy for others. However, I could be wrong about this...

    2) So it seems like the solution would be to target people for intensive intervention. But (as the excerpt from my textbook states) there would an enormous number of false positives. Think of implications... Would you force people into therapy because of a crime they might commit in the future? Should psychologists warn the community about someone based on whether they fit a certain symptom profile? It just has a creepy Brave New World quality to it that I'm not OK with.

    One approach that I'm more comfortable with is early intervention. In fact, one of the research issues I'm most interested in is whether treatment for Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Conduct Disorder in childhood and adolescence leads to reduced rates of violence in adulthood. I know there is evidence for certain types of violence, but I don't know about rampage killing or other forms of serial murder. It's such a small N - it would be difficult to study.
     
  48. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty
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    I definitely agree. I was glad to see on CNN and MSNBC that the clinicians they had on said all of the right stuff (as far as I saw). Some of the other 'experts' (the SWAT guy...not so much, in regard to the profiling, etc)

    Admittedly my original question above isn't one that has a definitive answer, but instead is/was meant to evoke some exploration into the variety areas where we as professionals may be able to contribute.

    The reason why I wanted to split out gun control, is that it is like bringing up the death penalty....it is such a large issue that it may overshadow the other topics in the thread.

    -t
     
  49. Anon15

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    What a hero. If we can gather anything positive about this terrible event, it may be that individuals such as Liviu Libescu exist in the world.

    Many folks have posted about what can we as psychologist/future psychologists do? This, of course, is not an easy question to answer. The best method may be prevention, but the world will never be rid of terrible/violent acts. Therefore, as clinicians it will be our role to educate ourselves and our patients about the course and treatment of PTSD.
     
  50. Ollie123

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    Wow. Miss alot when you work 12 hour hell-days at the hospital.

    Working another one tomorrow. Will catch up to the thread after that since I have a lot to add once my brain is functioning again (probably thursday when I can go back to my normal slacker self and read the boards at work:) ).

    For the record Raynee since I don't think anyone answered, no, I believe you only have to disclose vision impairments or other disorders that could SERIOUSLY and directly affect driving (e.g. epilepsy). I suppose someone suffering from severe visual hallucinations might be expected to disclose. Depression/eating disorders/etc. wouldn't as far as I know.
     
  51. thewesternsky

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    Don't have time right now to respond to everything, but wanted to provide a quick answer to this:

    "If a university student is referred to mental health services, do they have to go? What happens if they don't? Should their failure to go be reported to their teachers or administrators?"

    I'm not sure how generalizable this is, but I'm a don (a.k.a. residence advisor) at a university, and at my school the answer is no. Students can be referred to counselling services by dons, profs, teaching assistants, nurses at the university health centre, etc., but they are under no obligation to make an appointment. And the people at counselling are required to keep everything confidential, including whether or not an appointment was made. The people who refer students never find out if the student actually went (unless of course the student decides to tell them him/herself). And honestly, I think that's generally the best way of doing things.
     

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