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Colleges face dilemma deciding fate of mentally ill students
San Antonio Express-News ^ | 04/20/2007 12:30 AM CDT | Melissa Ludwig

Posted on 04/20/2007 10:19:51 AM PDT by fgoodwin

Colleges face dilemma deciding fate of mentally ill students

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA042007.01A.campus.mental.health.35bbf82.html
http://tinyurl.com/3xtbcl

Web Posted: 04/20/2007 12:30 AM CDT
Melissa Ludwig
Express-News

Campus administrators, health professionals and police, caught between federal privacy and anti-discrimination laws and the need to protect their campuses, face a daunting challenge deciding the fate of mentally ill students.

Before 23-year-old Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui gunned down 32 students and teachers Monday, his violent, lurid work in a creative writing class sparked a string of efforts to get him help.

In 2005, after complaints from two female students that Cho was harassing them and a tip that he might be suicidal, campus police tried to have him involuntarily committed to a mental institution. The evaluating doctor found that Cho was mentally ill, but not an imminent danger. The judge declined to commit him, ordering outpatient treatment instead.

In hindsight, the missed opportunity is haunting. In the moment, campus officials say, deciding if odd behavior adds up to mental illness, or presents a danger of suicide or violence against others, involves a web of factors.

"You have to look at all these angles, your legal obligation, your human obligation, your obligation to the individual and campus community," said Gage Paine, vice president for student affairs at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "The problem in situations like this is that we need to be right 100 percent of the time, but that's not real. All the systems in the world don't always help mentally ill people."

Since 2002, campus officials have been riding a seesaw when it comes to mental health issues.

That year, the parents of Elizabeth Shin, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sued the school for $27 million after Shin committed suicide by setting herself on fire in her dorm room. They faulted the university's counseling services for not dealing with her depression adequately. The university settled for an undisclosed sum.

In the wake of that case, universities moved hard in one direction, kicking students they suspected of being unstable off campus, either permanently or temporarily. That move sparked its own backlash.

Last year, George Washington University settled with Jordan Nott, a student who sued the university after he was kicked off campus when he sought treatment for depression. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Last month, Virginia passed the nation's first law banning public colleges and universities from punishing or kicking out students solely because they tried to commit suicide or seek mental health treatment.

Some campuses, notably the University of Illinois and the University of Washington, require students who talk about suicide to get counseling or take a leave, according to March article on Salon.com about the challenges campus officials face dealing with students they believe are suicidal.

But even if students do get counseling, federal privacy laws bar the counselor from sharing information with other university professionals unless the student makes a specific threat, said Elizabeth Stanczak, director of counseling and health services at UTSA.

And the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects mentally ill people from discrimination, prevents campus officials from tossing someone out of school simply for being depressed or schizophrenic. If a student is clearly violating the campus' code of conduct, however, suspension is an option, Paine said.

Part of the challenge of identifying and dealing with mental illness has to do with the very nature of campus life. Many universities tolerate a higher level of wacky behavior than other institutions, and being weird, even dreaming up violent scenes for a writing class, doesn't mean a student is going to kill people, Stanczak said.

"We cannot take away someone's rights based on assumption," she said.

Paine describes an incident 15 years ago, when she worked at the University of Texas at Austin, that she said demonstrates the tightrope administrators walk.

At that time, a student had a psychotic breakdown in class and took a voluntary mental health leave. He was allowed to come back after doctors prescribed medication. But doctors got the diagnosis wrong, and when the student returned to class, he had a second breakdown. The school tried to suspend the student, but his lawyer warned them that such a move would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The university allowed the student to stay, but he was later kicked out after threatening someone with a knife.

"People in that class thought we were wrong to let him back in," Paine said. "There was no good decision in that situation. Should we have violated ADA? No."

Stanczak, who attended a conference in Fort Worth this week of the Texas University and College Counseling Directors Association, said she and her colleagues expect changes as a result of the Virginia Tech killings.

"You will see knee jerk responses on campuses — faculty seeing things in students they didn't pay attention to before," she said. "We are all saying, 'Let's take that one step a little further and be cautious.'"

Psychologist Robert Geffner said paying attention to warning signs and doing something about them is crucial.

"What is clear is the prevention efforts, the follow-through, the ways of identifying people who may be under high stress and may be in trouble are not as good as we would like," he said. "We need to put more effort into these situations, not only at the college level but at all educational levels."

Rethinking how we live together, as a society, is part of the challenge, said Soad Michelsen, a psychiatrist at Southwest Mental Health Center, a pediatric hospital, and president-elect of the Bexar County Psychiatric Society.

American culture values independence and, as a result, people don't always watch out for each other. With Cho's long history of mental instability, there should have been a support system for him and mentors to follow up on his progress, she said.

"When you look at these school shootings, what kind of cultures really have this problem?" Michelsen said. "It only happens in the more independent cultures. Have more empathy toward the person sitting right by you."

---
mludwig@express-news.net
Staff Writer Marina Pisano contributed to this report.

---

Understanding Mental Illness

There are many organizations across the country and in Texas to turn to for information about mental illness — and help:

• National Alliance on Mental Illness, San Antonio chapter, (210) 734-3349 or visit http://www.nami.org
• National Institute of Mental Health, part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, http://www.nimh.nih.gov
• The American Association of Suicidology in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide. If you need immediate help, call its hotline: (800) 273-8255 or, for more information, see http://www.suicidology.org

Compiled by Jena Heath


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: blacksburg; blamethevictim; cho; guncontrol; gunrights; hokies; mentalillness; secondamendment; suethebastards; vatech; virginiatech; vt

1 posted on 04/20/2007 10:19:54 AM PDT by fgoodwin
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To: fgoodwin
"We cannot take away someone's rights based on assumption," she said.

Well good. Tell that to the gun grabbers as they most assuredly have a mental disorder.

2 posted on 04/20/2007 10:32:22 AM PDT by beltfed308 (Rudy: When you absolutely,positively need a liberal for President.)
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To: fgoodwin

Any ELEMENTARY school teacher can tell you that
the time to pinpoint the disturbed personality
is at the 7th/8th grade level...NOT the College
kiddo. Almost too late when they hit junior
status in high school...they probably already
have a social/police/psychological profile record
a mile long by that time. And, because of the
fear of a law suit, the administrators overlook
tangible evidence, hoping the NEXT person in
charge of the potential perpetrator will take
the necessary action.
The situation is not too different than a
threatened victim being told by the police
that there is nothing they can do until the
threatener actually performs the deed. By
that time, of course, the victim is dead.


3 posted on 04/20/2007 10:51:40 AM PDT by Grendel9
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To: beltfed308

Dilemma, what dilemma? A student must meet some basic criteria to be granted admission. Higher education has lowered and lowered those standards until there are no standards. In attempting to reach the few at the bottom, they have endangered everyone above them.


4 posted on 04/20/2007 10:56:03 AM PDT by theBuckwheat
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To: fgoodwin

To paraphrse from “Apocalypse Now”: “College. Sh__!”


5 posted on 04/20/2007 10:59:50 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: fgoodwin

“Colleges face dilemma deciding fate of mentally ill students.”

Young Democrats? They might grow out of it.


6 posted on 04/20/2007 11:09:01 AM PDT by tumblindice
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To: theBuckwheat
There is a dilemna as I used to work with the adolescent criminally insane. You have the police arresting and doing their jobs. You have sacred bleeding heart lawyers that decide murderers and assaulters need mental health, not jail time. Then they get to the mental health facility and people have to find justification for keeping them there and also policing the dangerous ones when they're preying on the really mentally ill

Then you have the problem with pressures from administrators who are being stressed by people in our government to show their new mental illness techniques are actually working when they're not. Then you have problems with pressures on Social workers and the Psych nurses either ignoring severe behaviour or turning a blind eye so as, a) not to get reamed by the patient b) not to p*ss off the administration as a horn blower c) being obsequious to a failing system that merely wants turnover to make their pie charts look efficient.

I've personally seen and heard patients threastening to kill their children, their parents etc and then MAYBE a Tara Sof is written but more than likely not and they follow through on their threats. Thankfully I'm out of the profession as I was charting everything and was not very well liked in the hospital as my charting made everyone, including their policies look like cr*p. Seriously, when the police are throwing them in the hospitals and the mental health officials are pressured to toss them back on the streets the whole system needs and overhaul and it's not going to happen as there's too many big wigs, talking heads and money involved with mental health advocacy groups that are basically endeavoring to have the patient make rational decisions and annexing consequences for severe dangerous behaviour.

JMHO

7 posted on 04/20/2007 11:14:13 AM PDT by Karliner ("Things are more like they are now than they ever were before. DDE)
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To: All

VT is in a no-win situation here.

Had VT expelled Cho, his parents (or ACLU or some bleeding heart organization) would have sued VT for violating his rights under ADA or whatever ruse they come up with.

As it is, some ambulance-chasing trial lawyer will sign up as many parents of the dead as he can, and sue VT into bankruptcy.

So, as conservatives, what do you think VT could or should have done differently (if anything), given the risks on all sides?


8 posted on 04/20/2007 11:43:36 AM PDT by fgoodwin (Fundamentalist, right-wing nut and proud father of a Star Scout!)
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To: fgoodwin

Shouldn’t expulsion be adequate?


9 posted on 04/20/2007 11:54:36 AM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Elections have consequences.)
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To: Karliner

Good points and information.


10 posted on 04/20/2007 12:21:42 PM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue.)
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To: fgoodwin

I really don’t know. I’m not into condemning them, nor anyone who really didn’t do the crime.


11 posted on 04/20/2007 12:22:46 PM PDT by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue.)
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To: fgoodwin

“”We cannot take away someone’s rights based on assumption,” she said. “

And that attitude is why 32 kids were murdered.


12 posted on 04/20/2007 12:24:42 PM PDT by Scotswife
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To: Grendel9

from what little I have read about scizophrenia (if that is the problem) - that often does not surface until early adulthood.


13 posted on 04/20/2007 12:25:56 PM PDT by Scotswife
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To: fgoodwin

“So, as conservatives, what do you think VT could or should have done differently (if anything), given the risks on all sides?”

The only person so far I’ve seen who did something that made sense is the professor who refused to teach the kid and refused to have him in her class.

At that point another woman agreed to tutor him despite her fear for her own safety.
Wrong move.She should have refused as well.

Was VTech really going to risk losing 2 profs over one violent kid?

Everyone who was expected to pass him along should have refused.

That forces Cho up the chain of command until someone finally has to say the kid needs to go.

Colleges have expelled for much less than this.


14 posted on 04/20/2007 12:31:43 PM PDT by Scotswife
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To: Scotswife

If parents had any idea of the number of really sick kids who are in college they would be shocked. A lot of parents just don’t want these kids at home. Many times they’re afraid of them.


15 posted on 04/20/2007 12:31:55 PM PDT by ladyjane
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To: ladyjane

oh I can imagine there are a heluva lot of kids like this out there.
I see what the high school level is like and it ain’t purty.

Parents do get worn down.
They work hard and all they get is grief from the kid and calls from the school.


16 posted on 04/20/2007 12:34:21 PM PDT by Scotswife
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To: Scotswife

I have a friend in academia who does medical research and recruits college students. He has a hard time finding recruits who are not on some kind of drugs. A huge percentage of them are being treated for depression or for ADD.


17 posted on 04/20/2007 12:43:05 PM PDT by ladyjane
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To: ladyjane

my husband were talking about this alot this whole school year.
They are ANGRY.
Today’s kids are very very angry kids.
Narcissistic, arrogant, and downright mean.


18 posted on 04/20/2007 12:48:45 PM PDT by Scotswife
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To: fgoodwin
But even if students do get counseling, federal privacy laws bar the counselor from sharing information with other university professionals unless the student makes a specific threat, said Elizabeth Stanczak, director of counseling and health services at UTSA.

And the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects mentally ill people from discrimination, prevents campus officials from tossing someone out of school simply for being depressed or schizophrenic. If a student is clearly violating the campus' code of conduct, however, suspension is an option, Paine said.

If anybody actually wanted to stop such a massacre from happening again, these would be the laws to re-examine and revise so that a student whose behavior menaced classmates and teachers, as Cho's did, could be permanently removed from a public college before he turned violent.

19 posted on 04/20/2007 1:27:46 PM PDT by madprof98 ("moritur et ridet" - salvianus)
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To: fgoodwin
The trouble is, the "caring" professions have become a hotbed of leftie ideology, where in the quest to drive out the concepts of sin, inborn conscience and personal responsibility, a patient displaying criminal ideation is excused, with misplaced compassion. His criminal threats and plans, rationalized as reactions to his upbringing, are somehow no longer criminal and the doctors feel no responsibility to alert authorities, either police or at the university.

I hope the doctors who "treated" this boy and released him are having sleepless nights now, comparable to the parents of the victims. But something tells me their humanist vanity might prevent that.

20 posted on 04/20/2007 2:02:40 PM PDT by Albion Wilde (...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -2 Cor 3:17)
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To: Grendel9
The situation is not too different than a threatened victim being told by the police that there is nothing they can do until the threatener actually performs the deed. By that time, of course, the victim is dead.

Yes, I know a mother who went through that with a disgruntled ex who was threatening them. No one would help unless he actually hurt them physically.

21 posted on 04/20/2007 2:04:47 PM PDT by Albion Wilde (...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -2 Cor 3:17)
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To: Karliner
I've personally seen and heard patients threastening to kill their children, their parents etc and then MAYBE a Tara Sof is written but more than likely not and they follow through on their threats.

What is a Tara Sof?

22 posted on 04/20/2007 2:07:13 PM PDT by Albion Wilde (...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -2 Cor 3:17)
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To: madprof98
Ya have to be very careful about the definition of “menaced.”

Had friend and customer get suspended from a job ‘cause he had some gun magazines in his office and a coworker felt “menaced” or “uncomfortable.”

23 posted on 04/20/2007 2:15:36 PM PDT by Little Ray (Rudy Guiliani: if his wives can't trust him, why should we?)
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To: Mad_Tom_Rackham
Shouldn’t expulsion be adequate?

Lawyers are making anything logical, common sense or preventative into "bigotry", "discrimination" or "hatred." It's an enormous cash cow for them.

On the practical level, the psychology of violent mental illness is such that when the person with the damaged ego is rejected, for whatever reason, that is the time they choose to unleash the violent retribution. This is why many women end up staying with batterers, or having to go into shelters if they manage to expel them from the home. Most domestic killings occur just when the woman manages to enforce the separation.

So in the VT case, expelling Cho might have had the same result as what did happen. This boy was now looking at graduation, leaving a familiar environment in which he was at least tolerated, and having to go into a new environment where he would be looked at as weird and rejected again, this time with higher stakes. He had a psychotic break, taking the symbols of his oppression -- well-adjusted kids -- out with him as he committed suicide.

24 posted on 04/20/2007 2:17:22 PM PDT by Albion Wilde (...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -2 Cor 3:17)
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To: Scotswife

See post 24.


25 posted on 04/20/2007 2:20:04 PM PDT by Albion Wilde (...where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -2 Cor 3:17)
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To: Albion Wilde
A Tara ZSof is a legal document that is written when a staff member overhears verbal threats or plans as to how the patient is to kill or harm someone.

The staff can issue a Tarasof through the courts and contact the soon to be victim warning them this person is going to be released a such and such a date so please watch your six. Have a nice day!

26 posted on 04/20/2007 2:58:06 PM PDT by Karliner ("Things are more like they are now than they ever were before. DDE)
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To: the OlLine Rebel

Thanks. There’s a heck of a lot more to it but the bottom line is the mental health system rarely helps anyone. Letting them loose is worse.


27 posted on 04/20/2007 3:01:18 PM PDT by Karliner ("Things are more like they are now than they ever were before. DDE)
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To: Scotswife

Today some gal called in to the
TV station and said she was pretty
sure when all the chips are pulled
away on the Cho kid they’ll find
he actually followed the format of
the suicide terrorists: kill as
many Americans as you can with
one fell blow. In light of what
his Grandfather said about the kid,
Time will tell if the gal was right.


28 posted on 04/20/2007 3:50:46 PM PDT by Grendel9
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To: fgoodwin
Universities are bastions of lieberalism.

Lieberalism is a mental disorder.

Therefore, universities have become a haven for those with mental disorders.

The logical solution is to concentrate it.

Transfer the mose lieberal professors to the most lieberal institutions. Do the same with the students and reorganize them as mental institutions.

29 posted on 04/20/2007 8:48:45 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Are there any men left in Washington? Or are there only cowards? Ahmad Shah Massoud)
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