Reacting to a Tragedy
When more than 30 people were killed this week at Virginia Technical University, we were all shocked and saddened by this useless waste of life. The killer was a student himself, an English major, and probably suffering from severe depression at least. Cho Seung-Hui was a quiet loner who wrote violent, disturbing plays in his creative writing class, according to his professor and fellow students. He had been referred for counseling in the past and even spent a day or two in a hospital, but obviously did not get the help he needed.
These killings were senseless and my heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims. My heart also goes out to Cho Seung-Hui’s parents, who are suffering a double devastation. They not only lost their son, but their memory of him will always be tainted by this terrible tragedy.
I also worry about the effect this tragedy will have on our nation’s attitude toward mental illness. There has always been a stigma associated with it, one that many of us have been working hard to eradicate. At AnxietyConnection we openly share information and experiences to better understand ourselves and each other. The same sharing happens at BipolarConnect, MyDepressionConnection and SchizophreniaConnection. Those of us who write about our daily experiences do not hide the fact that we have a mental illness. Openness is the way to educate and clear up misconceptions.
I would hate to see us return to a time when we had to hide any signs of mental illness from our bosses, coworkers and friends because if we didn’t, we would soon lose our jobs and our friends. Even today, many of us are afraid to include information about our mental illness on a job or school application because of the stigma that remains.
I think we’ve been moving toward more openness and acceptance, and I hate to see an incident like the one at Virginia Tech reverse that progress. I would hate for people to start fearing anyone who might have a mental illness. On the other hand, I hope we can learn from this tragedy that more help is needed for troubled students on campus, and that treating mental illness effectively is worth the cost.
Published On: April 23, 2007