The aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings are everywhere. Nothing has received this much media attention since hurricane Katrina. It's very unsettling to see what is being covered, too. It can be summed up with two major issues - mental illness and gun control.
I have something to say about mental illness.
This incident is not about mental illness! If it becomes about that, we just went 20 years back in advocating for the rights of those with mental illness. Cho Seung-Hui is no representation of mental illness. He is a representation of terrorism. He had guns, an elaborate plan, and believed himself to be a martyr. This was a suicide bombing, except that it was carried out by an individual rather than an organization.
So doesn't the fact that Cho was delusional in his beliefs make him "psychotic"? The 911 terrorists believed they would be greeted by virgins after crashing into the Twin Towers. They believed they would be honored as martyrs and that they were saviors to those who had been victimized by Americans. Why aren't they called "psychotic?" Cho's thinking was very dark and evil, and I see no difference in the way terrorists think.
Our need for a scapegoat in the face of tragedy is more apparent in this situation than in any other that I've seen since the Iraqi war. The only one to blame is Cho! But since he's dead, the need for a scapegoat remains. So let's just make one up. How about something really convenient, like the mentally ill?
Oh great. Bring on the stigma. Like we need more.
The more the media makes it about mental illness, the more rights of those with mental illness are jeopardized. Our rights are always in jeopardy as it is. People with mental illness should not have to be the scapegoats of an evil terrorist!
This is the only thing I've read so far that comes close to what I'm saying:
Mental health professionals are concerned this massacre may imply people to believe mentally ill people are violent when in fact most are not. "It shines a light in a way that only reinforces ignorance and discrimination, and so I'm very concerned about that," David Shern of Mental Health America said.
Statistically, the population who are considered mentally ill are far less violent than the general population and are far more prone to be victims of violence. This is a known fact.
But when someone who commits a violent crime has also been diagnosed with a mental illness, the media jumps on it. It makes the story more sensational. What about violent criminals who have not been diagnosed with a mental illness? Are they sane? What is mental illness in the face of violence?
Those who hadn't been diagnosed simply had not sought treatment within the mental health system. Those who enter the mental health system get a diagnosis - for insurance purposes if nothing else. And it's so easy to diagnose the average person who walks through those doors. The DSM has everyone covered. It takes so-called "abnormal" human behaviors and places them into categories. If your behaviors fit a specific category, you get a diagnosis, and if it doesn't quite fit a category, there are wastebasket diagnoses to cover it. The term is NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). Getting a diagnosis has nothing to do with being violent, although violent behaviors, just like all "abnormal" behaviors, have their DSM categories, too. The DSM does not discriminate.
The truth is, nobody knows for sure what causes this kind of violence. Theories are abundant, and much damage can come from theory alone.
Much damage has already come from theory alone.
I need to stop watching the news. But I want to understand. I want to cry my eyes out and gain a perspective I can live with. I want to honor the families and light a candle and see the faces of those who died so I know who I'm honoring. I want to hear about the courageous stories. I want to feel hope for those who can't feel it right now. I don't want to hear about Cho's bout with "mental illness" or see his videos or hear his words. The last thing I want to do at this point is see his face and honor his dying wishes all over the media. The current media massacre is simply honoring a man who deserves no such thing.
The families of those who were shot have my heart. The students who are heading back to school on Monday have my compassion. My brother died of a gun accident when he was 35. It was incredibly difficult to process because it seemed like such a senseless tragedy. This was just one man and one gun where no terrorism was involved, and it was one of the toughest times of my life. I can only imagine what the families in Virginia are going through.
What about their mental health? Let's not overshadow their pain and fear and uncertainty with the pain and anger of some evil terrorist! Those students need us now. Cho Seung-Hui doesn't need anybody. He never did.