Red Flags at Work, School and Home

Cho Seung Hui, the 23-year-old in Monday's Virginia Tech rampage who killed himself and 32 others, was described in The Washington Post as an "eccentric loner." A quiet, apparently shy student on a large college campus, Cho's disturbed creative writing caused one professor to refer him to Virginia Tech's counseling service and another to alert university police, according to The Post. Interviews with his fellow students don't reveal much: An English major who largely kept to himself. Originally from South Korea, Cho graduated in 2003 from Westfield High School in Fairfax County. Essentially, someone whose behavior raised only a few red flags, which were ignored by authorities because Cho had made no direct threats.

Yet so many people now ask a valid question: Could anything have been done to prevent Cho from killing 32 innocent students, professors and employees? This is the logical question in tragedy's aftermath. It's the most important one to answer. How can we detect -- and then react wisely and constructively -- to a disturbed person at work, in our children's schools, or at home?

Solutions seem clear only in hindsight.

One night when I was 27, I stayed late in my cube to finish a project at the large advertising agency in Chicago where I worked. Alone on the 20th floor, I heard what sounded like an animal cry and furniture crashing nearby. An older male executive emerged from his office, clearly deranged, white hair disheveled, his eyes glazed. The building's security team responded to my frantic call, subdued him, and later told me that the executive had a medical condition that caused violent seizures if he didn't take medicine or eat regularly. I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future.

More recently, a beloved, exceptionally intelligent student at one of my children's schools began a strange pattern of physically attacking other students, bloodying one boy's nose, repeatedly smashing another's head into the gym floor and twisting a third boy's arm until it required medical attention. The school administration focused on the boy's troubles, appropriately, but seemed strangely in denial about the physical risk to other students. This time, I protested to school administrators until they took action to protect other students.

I could continue with tales of dark, unanswered questions. A neighbor who seemed to get overly frustrated with his child. An angry co-worker who talked too often about target shooting on weekends. A high school friend who mentioned leaving her eight year old at home on Saturday night when she went out. I think we've all had these red flag moments -- and wondered what to do in this strange interpersonal no-man's land.

Have you had a time when you raised an alarm -- or decided instead to tolerate someone's eccentricities? How did you balance a group's safety against an individual or family's right to sort out their own problems? Have you ever alerted authorities -- your boss, a child's teacher, parents, a psychiatrist, the police -- and then been ignored?

You never know when acting on your misgivings might cause trouble -- or prevent tragedy.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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First again!

Yesterday I commented about how everyone says they saw warning signs after these tragedies, and yet nothing is ever done to identify these people before they explode.

The same things being said about Cho now were said about the Columbine boys.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 6:56 AM

Of 1000 people who display the warning signs seen in the VT suspect and the Columbine students, there is one shooter for 999 people who go on to live antisocial but generally noncriminal lives. We're very bad at figuring out who will become dangerous and who will not. In a society that values civil liberties, it's impossible to lock up or otherwise restrict disturbed folks who have violent fantasies because they *might* do something terrible in the future unless they've made specific threats. Although I will grant you that stalking several women moves him way up near the top of the potentially dangerous list, if he didn't hurt them (and wasn't convicted of a crime), there still isn't much anyone can do.

Posted by: Baltimore | April 18, 2007 7:13 AM

Yes, when I was in HS I told my parents one of my classmates threatened to commit suicide. My mother addressed it immediately with the school counselors who contacted the family. I once called child protective services based on a license plate number. I saw a mother repeatedly smack a preteen child in the head with a metal can. I don't know the outcome but I do know that they found the families name and address in a matter of minutes and a social worker was called. It takes a village to raise a child and a village to protect our citizens. I have called the police on a domestic violence case. That was the scariest thing because I wasn't sure they would come and try to hurt me. But me and my neighbors both called the police on a man beating up his wife. I never considered my actions retaliation. I considered it helping them. They clearly needed some interaction from professionals.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 7:16 AM

I think you need to be careful about advocating for contacting authorities for "red flags". What are your "red flags" may be not so abnormal or just different behavior (different culture, personality, etc). People with epilepsy are not a danger to you unless they are behind the wheel of a car. You could have had a bit more compassion.

Cho's english teacher was right about referring the guy to counseling and the school should have followed up on it. Shame on them. Writing disturbing essays in class for the teacher to see is a cry for help and should have been heeded. I'm guessing the guy was severely depressed and had a psychotic break.

But for every one sicko like this kid, there are thousands whose behavior may seem wierd, but who do not kill people. It's a tough thing. If every weird person were reported to authorities, there would be a lot of trampling of human rights.

And Leslie, with regard to the violent kid at your kid's school---if what you say is true, then he is assaulting other children and needs to be either expelled from that school or to require a one-on-one adult with him to ensure the safety of others. This isn't a "red-flag" moment, this is a felony and other children are getting hurt. One of my kids was in a camp at the age of 5. Another child bit him, not once, but twice. I told the camp that this is abnormal behavior for a 5 year old and that my child's safety should be their concern (I suspect that child was autistic or developmentally delayed). My concerns were not heeded so I took him out of that camp. If your school refuses to protect children from the violent kid, then you need to take your kid out.

I think people will always say "what if". I feel for the families of the victims and for the killer's family as well. He ruined certainly ruined his parents lives. They'll always be pariahs and I'm sure they feel intense guilt.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 7:23 AM

One Thanksgiving evening, as my wife and I drove back from a friend's home, we got behind a car operated by an obviously drunk driver. He was up on the curb, weaving from side to side, etc. We called the police with the license number, which happened to be one of the distinctive NC legislature's plates. The police refused to even check on him, much less give him a citation!

I agree that the majority of people who exhibit troubling signs do not end up killing people. However, it seems that US society in general has gotten a lot more "not my business" when it comes to other people and their troubles, especially if it involves actually taking action for someone's benefit.

Notice what the instructor told the reporters, that she went to the police about Cho, and they said he didn't do anything that warranted an investigation. Then she wanted him to go to counseling, but she couldn't force him to do so (expulsion from school wasn't an option?). When 90% of his class refuses to attend for fear of him, that should have been enough for the school to have done more than just suggest counseling for him.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 7:26 AM

I agree with Baltimore. The situations that foamgame describes are no brainers. Someone physically assaulting someone should be reported to police.

But where there is a dilemma is reporting someone for violent essays. As Baltimore has said, there may be 1000 people who write disturbing things so how do you decided who is violent and who is not. It seems to me that there wasn't anyone to put together the stalking, the writings and the gun purchase. The kid was not living at home so perhaps his parents were not aware of his issues. Tough situation.

And for those of you who are NRA supporters--this kid purchased his guns legally. He had no prior record so no "red flags. Further he purchased guns whose only purpose is to kill humans (as opposed to rifles used for hunting). Pretty sad that we are so gun happy in this country. As long as these people- killing devices are legal, we will have mass killings and suicides. IF the boy had a knife instead, many more people would be alive today.

Posted by: anon today | April 18, 2007 7:32 AM

The best book to read on this topic is Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear." He gives detailed information on how to distinguish between a run-of-the-mill oddball and someone who intends to do harm to himself or others. Nearly 100% of the time, the harmful people give off plenty of warning signs. This kind of thing almost never happens without plenty of warning (I believe de Becker says that it actually NEVER happens without plenty of warning, but I can't remember exactly).

The policies of various institutions on how to deal with a harmful individual may vary, but the indicators they put forth rarely do. It's worthwhile to learn what they are.

Posted by: Lizzie | April 18, 2007 7:41 AM

Leslie doing her me-me-me act again. She thinks the mentally ill are "them" not "us". She presents examples in terms of her own fears, showing no concern for the people who are sick. For her, it's what threat is someone else's mental illness to her safety? Almost always, none at all. She evidently has no idea what it's like for a family to have to cope for a lifetime with a mentally ill spouse, child, sibling or even parent, but without violating that person's civil rights, and no sympathy from others for them (and the sick person often is ungrateful). Serious mental illness is a lot more common than Leslie imagines, and can strike any family, even elite ones (think of that Dupont heir who murdered an Olympic wrestler). It's hard for relatives when social services are overloaded, extreme fundamentalist ministers prescribe religion to cast out the devil (only solution acceptable to my relative's pastor), and other family members are embarrassed and weary of the sick person's behavior and refuse to be bothered anymore. Leslie, talk to mental health experts about how these problems impact society and families before you write this stuff, instead of tossing off your ignorance and prejudices on a subject you seem to know nothing about.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 7:41 AM

I reorted one of these "red flag" persons at work and was told to "mind my own business"!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 8:02 AM

Kay Redfield Jamison's book, An Unquiet Mind, is a helpful resource for anyone who's interested in exploring mental health issues. Jamison brings her own unique perspective to bear, as she not only has the psychological/psychiatric training, but has first hand experience with bipolar disorder.

Posted by: Murphy | April 18, 2007 8:03 AM

Now that the tragedy has taken place, there are people coming out of the woodwork saying Cho's behavior was strange. None of these actions on their own were enough to cause concern, but taken all together they start adding up to indicate Cho had some serious problems.

It wasn't just the letters and plays; his interactions with his roommates (actually he NO interaction with them), the lack of responses to people he met on the street, his actions in the classrooms, the tendency of people to consider him dangerous (when 63 out of 70 students refuse to go to a class he attends, that's a warning sign), his refusal to get counseling, possible medical treatment for mental problems (depression), etc, if they had somehow been all put together, could have identified him as a time bomb with a short fuse, and perhaps he could have gotten some help before it was too late.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 8:07 AM

"Regular, but anonymous" brings up some good points. It is a difficult balance between someone's rights and the protection of society.

And I feel for this kid's parents. I just read that the guy was on a psychiatric medication so I assume he was getting help at some point. Mental illness is so stigmatized in this country that those who need help (e.g. depressed males) don't seek it. I agree with you Reg, but anon that there should be more compassion for the mentally ill. But don't expect a lot from Leslie, she was upset that there was an epileptic in her workplace. Her first concern was for herself and not for the welfare of her co-worker. How can you expect someone like that to even consider compassion for the mentally ill?

Posted by: anon too | April 18, 2007 8:07 AM

I wish I could remember the cite, but there's currently a case in court regarding an undergrad student who committed suicide. The parents are suing the school for "not having done more" - including contacting the parents.

But getting help for university students who are under pressure can be particularly dicey. LEgally, our "college kids" are adults, and they have a right to privacy which precludes contacting family members and parents when you see a "kid" who needs help. All you can really do is attempt to persuade the student to get the help they need -- unless the person is seen as a danger to themselves or others, but as you've all already pointed out, that's a pretty tough call. A good friend of mine had a situation where the student's parents actually called her (she's a professor) and asked her point blank "What's wrong with my child? why are his grades slipping" and she was not legally allowed to tell them that they might consider substance abuse as a possible explanation.

It might be that the Virginia Tech student's teachers, RA, TA's and the like DID see something but weren't allowed to do anything with the information that they had, due to legal issues and so forth.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | April 18, 2007 8:11 AM

John L, you're right. When put all together, this boy appears very disturbing. But whose responsiblity is it to put it all together? That's the tough question.

I would caution you about calling extreme shyness a red flag. Extreme shyness is not uncommon and the vast majority of those with this are not angry or violent. I worry more about people who are depressed, are fixated on violent games and who buy guns. The purchase of guns and the stalking are the behaviors that should have received more attention.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 8:12 AM

Been down this dark and twisted road before. Here's what it took to get my husband committed: he had to either present an imminent threat to himself or others. He had to have a plan to kill himself, or to kill others. The burden of proof was upon me and his psychiatrist--not him. And he could sign himself out after 72 hours.

Cheo had the cover of a creative writing class.

How much of what he wrote is significantly different from some of the slasher/horror films people cough up money to view? What's the big difference between him and a script-writer? A few years of living, a paycheck?

Involuntary admissions are difficult to obtain, and to mandate someone stay put.

Again, I feel badly for his victims, I also feel badly for his family. This is not the sort of thing that anyone I know hoped and dreamed of in the future, when looking at our newborn child.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 18, 2007 8:12 AM

I would like to second Gavin De Becker's book. I would also like to put in a plug for Lundy Bancroft's book as well (it's aimed at women in abusive intimate relationships, sorry gents).

"An Unquiet Mind" is an interesting read and well-written, but it's very often twisted into "I'm sick, I can't be held responsible", despite Jamison's own discussions of how violent she got at one point (it took several grown men to hold her down in the midst of a manic episode--she's NOT a big woman!), how she had to go about re-paying money that was squandered (her brother bailed her out, more than once), that relationships ended, badly; how hard she fought against taking the lithium that enables her to function...

My husband tries to use it as a modern version of "The devil made me do it!" Why? Because it suits him to do so. I don't put up with it.

"I Hate You! Don't Leave Me!" by Randi Krieger is another good book (borderline personality disorder) too.

There are those who feel that BPD is PTSD writ large; or possibly atypical BP.

Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe. The behavior still needs to be addressed.

As for those who live with the mentally ill, I thought Anne Sheffield's books were useful. I'm not as enamored of Julie Fast's book--as to me it smacks of passing the buck to the family of the individual. But that may simply be due to my BPI & BPD husband's habit of trying to dump everything on me, then blaming me for his unhappiness.

Of course, every day we play, Wheel! Of! Personality! Sadly, it seems to land on bankrupt more than jackpot. Darn.

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 8:23 AM

Just yesterday when I was driving home, I noticed a driver who seemed to be driving dangerously. He ran up on me and tailgated. He did pass me and then fell behind me again. I though that he was messing with me. I got ahead of him again, by this time I was determined to stay ahead of him. I kept watching, he was tailgating others and driving on the shoulder. For the first time in some 20 years of commuting, I called 911. The state police asked if I were calling about the tan truck. I said yes. The trooper said they were already told and on their way. I just wish I had copied his tag number. Although I feel sure that someone else had.

We all have to watch out for ourselves and others!

Posted by: Fred | April 18, 2007 8:25 AM

Regular but anonymous, you are the voice of reason.

Leslie doesn't know what she is talking about. In Leslie's world, it's all about Leslie.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 8:26 AM

First off, hindsight is always 20/20. Now, what to do when we see those red flags? Maybe we should drop this recurring attitude of "when I notice a problem, I'll assume it's someone else's problem, then show anger when it's not dealt with". Why does an ill/angry/anti-social co-worker need to be reported to someone else and then ignored by the person who saw the cry for help? What the VT professor did was admirable. She showed the balance that many of us need. She took a personal interest in the well-being of another human, while keeping keeping her personal safety/professional safety by also reporting it to a higher authority. Imagine what could have happened if every person, who has retrospectively quoted on this young man's mental state, had done that as well. There is no guarantee that it would have changed anything in this case, but living a life with the mindset of help instead of blame would be much more beneficial to every person with a cry for help, not matter how small.

Posted by: FormerTeacher | April 18, 2007 8:29 AM

Okay, last thing I'll write and then I'm going to shut up (do I hear wild applause?).

"But don't expect a lot from Leslie, she was upset that there was an epileptic in her workplace."

In Leslie's defense, she didn't know at first that the person was epileptic, she knew he behaving bizarrely, she's alone, and it's frightening; and if he wasn't monitoring himself (taking his meds and eating regularly), he was endangering himself and others. That's irresponsible.

Hell, that's pretty common with people who are told to lose some weight too, or with teenagers with type I diabetes. Many of them get balky about it.

This is something ELSE that sticks in my craw. For all the attention paid to the person who is mentally ill, there is next-to-none for their family. As for the children of the mentally ill, forget it. Might as well push them off a cliff and ignore them. The privacy of the parent is all the matters--the safety of the family is a FAR distant second. If they matter at all. Mostly we don't.

I've had to inform my husband's pdoc that we had more than ONE child. After TWO years of seeing the pdoc.

NAMI still doesn't have a peer-group for the kids of mentally ill parent(s).

But there is a web site in Australia that addresses them. Children of Mentally Ill Consumers (COMIC).

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 8:33 AM

When I was a teacher, there was one kid who scared me from the get-go. He was very angry and unbelievably vicious. He never attacked anyone physically in my presence, but he did go after kids verbally and he would go right for the jugular. Usually had them crying within a minute and then he'd laugh. He was in a foster home, and the conference I had with his foster mother revealed that I was unlikely to find an ally there. The school administration knew of this kid because I certainly wasn't the first teacher to report problems. About 2 months before the end of the school year, he broke into the school over a weekend and tried to set it on fire. He was put in a juvenile detention center. I'm not sure what became of him, though nothing would surprise me.

So often, teachers are the first to recognize a serious problem with a child -- even before the parents, whose love for their child can blind them to the truth. So it was with the killer at VT and one of his professors. I wish someone had been able to reach that kid before he picked up a gun. But as other posters have pointed out, for every kid who commits a violent act, there are 100 others who showed the same symptoms.

One of the attorneys here was telling me he was surprised that none of the kids tried to take the shooter down. I told him they were likely in shock. He pointed out that if it the incident had taken place on a plane, people would have reacted differently, but I think that's because anymore when people fly, we are on edge, just in case the worst happens. God forbid if our kids start arming ourselves mentally and emotionally that way just to go to school.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 8:35 AM

"Extreme shyness" is hardly what I'd call what Cho was exhibiting, though. He wouldn't talk to even his suite-mates, he never contributed in class (or was hostile when he did), never responded to any casual greetings, had no friends, rarely spoke, etc. Even someone who is very shy will open up to some people and have interests that he can share with others.

By itself shyness isn't a warning sign, but throw it in there with everything else and the picture that is painted is of someone who needs some help.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 8:36 AM

Mental health is a tricky place to go. As the child of a schizophrenic, I dealt with suicide threats and violence before I learned to read. I knew the important phone numbers (family members), and I was able to talk my mom down many times. You can tell my mom's not right, but would you ever imagine her beating her own daughter into a week in the hospital? That was my sister, but I do remember it as a five year old.

She did some very crazy things in that time, and it's very hard for a person who has not dealt with it before to see the difference between your run of the mill weirdo and a person with the potential to kill. Though that was twenty years ago and she hasn't committed herself (or been committed) in five years, I still don't trust her. My dad swears she's fine, but I still steer clear. I already did that, for way too long.

I once stood up for a friend who was being verbally abused by her boyfriend in front of many of us. The way I felt shunned by my friends after that really affected my ability to speak up, as well as my friendships with those people.

Only now, seven years later, have I really gotten to a point where I have started to try to speak up in earnest when I see a problem. I've been trying to remind myself, what do they do when no one else is looking?

Posted by: kate | April 18, 2007 8:41 AM

Regular but anonymous and Anon too-- If you want to increase understanding for the mentally ill, your very rude attacks on Leslie are not the way to go about it. She described situations that are scary. The person having seizures wasn't lying unconscious flailing; he was walking around looking deranged and had just made horrific, furniture-bashing noises. That's very frightening. And, it doesn't sound like anyone did anything to make her feel better about it. Mentally ill people often exhibit behaviors that are very scary. You'd be an idiot not to be frightened. There is mental illness in my family too. I don't run around expecting the whole world to put up with some of the behaviors that go on. Sometimes, people need to be separated from society, in the same way as if they had a fatal, communicable disease. As for epilepsy, my brother has grand mal seizures (less than once a year), and when they happen, they are frightening, even though I've known exactly what they are since I was 6 years old, and he's usually asleep or otherwise lying down when they start. Give people a break and try educating rather than attacking.

Posted by: Also anonymous | April 18, 2007 8:41 AM

"...Leslie doesn't know what she is talking about. In Leslie's world, it's all about Leslie."

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 08:26 AM

You know, Leslie picked an excellent topic today which could engender some actual intelligent conversation. May we hear your comments on the topic?

Posted by: Fred | April 18, 2007 8:42 AM

It might be that the Virginia Tech student's teachers, RA, TA's and the like DID see something but weren't allowed to do anything with the information that they had, due to legal issues and so forth.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | April 18, 2007 08:11 AM

I think this is the bigger point, at what point is it considered intrusion or harrasmment when dealing with a student/co-worker/neighbor? The legal implications probably keep many people from contacting whatever agency or authority they think can help. Talking to parents about their kids can be a nightmare, did the school raise the issues with Cho's parents?

I am not blaming the parents, merely showing how sticky and legally challenging these situations can be.

Posted by: cmac | April 18, 2007 8:43 AM

Okay, I lied, here I am again.

'"Extreme shyness" is hardly what I'd call what Cho was exhibiting, though. He wouldn't talk to even his suite-mates, he never contributed in class (or was hostile when he did), never responded to any casual greetings, had no friends, rarely spoke, etc.'

But JohnL, that is also pretty standard with autism. Generally speaking they don't read the social cues fast enough to participate. Temple Grandin is autistic, you may want to read some of her stuff.

I doubt anyone will ever truly know why he did what he did. Not even professional profilers are going to say that. Nor will they say they can always predict who will become violent.

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 8:45 AM

"...she was upset that there was an epileptic in her workplace. Her first concern was for herself and not for the welfare of her co-worker."

And this is wrong because....? I didn't realize that everytime I find myself in a situation that concerns me, I have to first ask how the person who's scaring me is doing THEN I can call the police.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 8:45 AM

It might be that the Virginia Tech student's teachers, RA, TA's and the like DID see something but weren't allowed to do anything with the information that they had, due to legal issues and so forth.


I want to point out that unless the rules have drastically changed in the teaching profession, teachers are ethically required to report suspected issues with students -- mental health, physical health, abuse, etc. In fact, there are legal ramifications if they are aware of a problem and DON'T report it. I have not taught for some time. Perhaps someone who's currently in the field can expand.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 8:46 AM

In the realm of armchair speculation, I wonder about Antisocial Personality Disorder too. Which is basically untreatable, as the person doesn't WANT to change.

I think something that is overlooked here, is that this young man was an adult. And legally, we can't MAKE him get better, as we can't MAKE him take meds/participate in therapy/WANT to be different.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 8:51 AM

As a former teacher, I have seen so many administrators that do not want to address issues of a student with behavioral/safety problems as part of something larger, but only want to see them as isolated misbehavior. They don't want to get sued by parents or attract any negative attention to the school. Principals pride themselves on having low referral and suspension numbers and try to keep them down.
I once had a student "snap" in class and begin throwing desks and cursing. After I got him out and on his was to the office (no one to escort him down or watch my class), the other students asked me to lock the door because some were frightened he would come back. The administrator covered it up and fixed my referral form so that the student wouldn't get suspended. The guidance counselor didn't respond to my e-mail about what the student had done.
My mother, an elementary school teacher, had a student who developed a plan with another to kill another teacher with a sharpened pen. Her school administrators had them apologize and transferred the student to another school with nothing on his record.
I think its mostly that administrators don't want bad press or parents to sue them. Unfortunately, this puts everyone else in the school at risk.

Posted by: M&M | April 18, 2007 8:56 AM

Did you know that schizophrenics are actually less violent than the rest of society? It's just that when a rare one acts violently it makes the news. Leslie's older male executive was evidently epileptic, and unless she interfered with him improperly he probably wouldn't have hurt her. He must have been a very capable person to function well for many years with his meds and reach a high position in business. Leslie's lack of compassion for him is stunningly self-centered. Yes it's scary to see someone have a seizure. But part of growing up is learning to deal with things like this. Schizophrenics and epileptics used to be assumed to be possessed by the devil, and punished brutally for it. Now we know they are physical illnesses with a biological basis. Remind me never to let my hair get disheveled around Leslie, because she might get scared and call authorities to have me hauled off too.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:01 AM

MdMother, interesting comments. I commend the strength you exhibit in what you write. How do you function, yourself, day to day? The only mental illness I have dealt with in my family is an elderly relative who is very paranoid. Of course, it could (partly) be the beginnings of dementia. This relative has taken meds in the past, but they never seemed to totally work (nor did the therapy; she was too busy trying to outsmart the therapists). Dealing with this relative can be very, very draining.

As for Leslie, I'm not sure she knew the executive was an epileptic before she called security. And, epileptic or not, if the man presented a danger to himself (or others) with a seizure, security should have been called if for no other reason to help protect him.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 9:05 AM

"In Leslie's defense, she didn't know at first that the person was epileptic, she knew he behaving bizarrely, she's alone, and it's frightening; and if he wasn't monitoring himself (taking his meds and eating regularly), he was endangering himself and others. That's irresponsible."

Excuse me, but Leslie was rather unsympathetic when told that her co-worker had a medical condition. Sure she could be frightened and call 911, but when told that it was Epilepsy and not that the guy was being violent, she could have showed some compassion. And how does she know if he did or did not take his meds (the security team told her? what a nutcase she is!!!)? That is none of her business and there are people with seizure disorders who break through their meds. They are no more violent than the general population. And sure, maybe she could have educated herself about the condition so she could better understand rather than be scared to work at night. Shame on her and shame on those of you who defended her stupid remarks.

Posted by: anon today | April 18, 2007 9:10 AM

8:51, I think you make a good point. You can't make someone go to treatment or take medicine.

I have two friends who have depression. One takes her meds but also drinks and does "recreational" drugs, which affect the medicine's effects. The other refuses to take his medication. It seems that he'd rather be unhappy and unemployed.

Neither of them wants to change. No advice I give is heeded. What can we do?

Posted by: Meesh | April 18, 2007 9:11 AM

But JohnL, that is also pretty standard with autism. Generally speaking they don't read the social cues fast enough to participate.

True. I have a son on the spectrum. His school system, when he had only the ADHD diagnosis, tried to label him emotionally disturbed. The those three disorders have some similar symptoms, and many times they can be co-morbid.

Also, there seems to be such a stigma, in this country at least, against the shy, quiet, loner type. I'm not talking about Cho, but people who are by nature introverted. I wonder why.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 9:12 AM

As far as the not acknowledging when you say hello, this is the greater DC area. NOBODY acknowledges when you say hello. So unless 90 percent of the population is a step away from being homicidal maniacs, this bit of data is not meaningful. I say hello or good morning/afternoon/evening and smile because I was raised to be polite to people I encounter, yet I am the one always given the strange looks if I am even acknowledged at all.

Disturbing writing doesn't mean anything either. Look at all the horror writers and movies... society thrives on disturbing stuff. I mean, look at Blog Stats. Now THERE is someone who needs watched, if you ask me.

People can be loners or "different," and that doesn't make them menaces. For instance not every kid wearing a trench-coat is evil, so you can't stereotype someone by that measure...

On the other hand, his behavior in the classroom where he would just stare off into space when the teacher was addressing him is just about the only potential indicator of some sort of behavioral disorder. It should have been followed up on immediately to determine why he would do that when called upon. I think everyone has zoned out in class before just because they were tired, bored, or just not paying attention, but then they acknowledge they weren't paying attention and apologize... so him just being a zombie would seem very odd and be a flag worth looking into.

As far as his Ismale Ax tattoo, perhaps that is an anagram for Islam Axe? Too obvious?

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 9:15 AM

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 09:01 AM

Did you read what Kate grew up with?

What about MdMother and her kids?

Leslie isn't a trained mental health professional (and even THEY don't follow procedure when it involves THEIR loved ones), why would you expect her to say, "Oh, look, that gentleman who is gibbering and breaking furniture may be in medical distress, why don't I get closer so I see if he has a medical i.d. bracelet, read it, and THEN act appropriately?" She did do the right thing. She called security. And guess what? The individual who has the disorder (and is 100% responsible for his/her life at all times) wasn't taking care of himself.

Theory meets reality and goes for a test drive.

Not every mentally ill patient takes responsibility for their actions. That's a fact. Sometimes that has tragic consequences for the individual and the immediate family; sometimes it affects others.

Right here in Bethesda, a noted psychiatrist was murdered by a schizophrenic patient. And this doctor took on the toughest clientele. All it takes is one to hurt you. My mother was a psychiatric nurse, and was attacked by a patient who kicked her in the back and landed her in the hospital. Trained medical professional.

Would you advise that just anyone take on someone who is in the midst of a bad episode?

I don't. Call 911. I take bad episodes very seriously.

Posted by: Bethesda, MD | April 18, 2007 9:16 AM

My daughter is on the spectrum too. She is very introverted and does not play with other kids. But in no way is she violent. In fact, she is very passive. Society does seem to have issues with kids who are shy. She was placed on the autism spectrum because she only parallel plays with other kids, has a speech delay and sometimes doesn't make eye contact. I think in the past we just called these kids late bloomers or shy. Now all of sudden they have a label on the autism spectrum. It upsets me because people lump my daughter with the aggressive autistic traits and that just isn't true. Cho seemed anti social versus just shy.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 9:19 AM

Hindsight is 20/20. If Leslie had known the man was having a seizure, she probably would have acted differently, but it doesn't sound like that was the case. Give her a break.

Posted by: Beth | April 18, 2007 9:20 AM

"I have two friends who have depression. One takes her meds but also drinks and does "recreational" drugs, which affect the medicine's effects. The other refuses to take his medication. It seems that he'd rather be unhappy and unemployed.

Neither of them wants to change. No advice I give is heeded. What can we do?"

Sometimes, part of the illness is not recognizing that you need help. I know someone who would take meds for a while and then stop because she was now OK. As soon as the meds stopped, the problems came back. The meds had uncomfortable side effects, so she didn't want to take them once she was healed. The nature of the illness.

Posted by: to Meesh | April 18, 2007 9:24 AM

I raised a "red flag" once in graduate school. I saw a student playing with a switchblade under his desk. After class another student emailed him about it, and the knife-wielder went into a tirade about how it was his right to carry it, he needs it for protection, etc. I reported it to the dean of students, and he was suspended because he continued to insist to the administration that it was his right to carry it.

This occurred in 2002. He is currently suing the university about this and other similar matters.

Posted by: drmommy | April 18, 2007 9:24 AM

I think that part of the deep unease we have with situations like these is the unwanted realization that we can't stop it from happening again. As has been said already, 1000 people might meet the "spooky loner" description, and 999 of them will go on to not shoot up the school. We can try to head off these problems at the pass, but there is nothing we can do to fully prevent them. It's the natural rejection of the idea that awful things can happen at any time, and we are powerless to prevent them.

We're very, very uncomfortable with that concept. So, we search for someone, anyone to blame. It was the school--they should've recognized that Cho was a mass murderer. It was the administrators--they should've notified the students earlier of the first shootings. It was the victims--they should've rushed Cho. I think part of balance, part of living life, is the realization that there are things that will happen--awful, terrible things--and the only thing we have control over is how we respond to them.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 9:24 AM

Just to make it clear, the knife was open and he was practicing martial arts moves or something.

Posted by: drmommy | April 18, 2007 9:25 AM

Bethesda, I totally agree with you. I was most offended by Leslie's lack of compassion once she found out what was wrong. By her standards everyone whose behavior is even a little bit different would need to be locked up, so as not to scare her or offend her sensitive eyes.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:26 AM

foamgnome, your daughter is officially diagnosed? I remember you talking about that her being evaluated.

My son does have some aggressive tendencies, but not all the time. So you can imagine my upset too!

Otherwise, there's lack of eye contact, more comfort level with adults, not reading social cues, rigidity in subject matter of discussion and perseveration with animals. He is, however, pretty social in that he wants to make and keep friends. He just doesn't truly know how, although he does manage to have at least one friend here and there. But he wants sleepovers and playdates and a best friend. Hopefully he'll get those one day.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 9:27 AM

Ismale Ax could be Male Axis.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:28 AM

This is a sticky situation, especially since the typical age for personality disorders to become present happens around the early 20's--passed the legal age, yes, but still under the care of any institution a person may be attending, if applicable.

I encountered a situation with a friend when i was in college. She was a History major like I was, so we had that in common. I thought she was nice, a bit clingy and narcissistic (she had a connection with EVERY guy on campus), but otherwise ok.

By the middle of the fall semester, though, her behavior had quickly escalated into a weird combination of paranoia and the notion that a particular fraternity on campus was "out to get her." And, since they knew I was her friend, they were out to get me, too...She even believed a professor was stalking me, because he called me to give me a reference for a paper I needed.

As an RA, I was trained to look for signs of odd behavior, and this definitely fit. I had no qualms informing the appropriate officials. Really, though, it was just giving more information. This was a much smaller school than VT, and word was already out around campus of her odd behavior. I just helped confirm that there was something going on with her.

I'm not sure if it was home-sickness taken to an extreme, or if there truly was a personality disorder emerging, but she left soon after I made my statement. Her parents were notified. She packed up and went home.

I don't know if there can really be a blanket plan of implementation for college campuses to recognize odd behavior. As an RA, I only had 45 residents to be concerned with; in the residence hall at VT, where 895 students are housed, I am sure the numbers under each RA are much higher. Therefore, symptoms and changes or erratic behavior are certainly easier to miss.

Perhaps the information and some of the training that is provided to RAs should be provided to all students, so that everyone has the knowledge and ability of what to look out for.

Posted by: JRS | April 18, 2007 9:28 AM

"and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future."

I stand by my remarks. I live with someone who is mentally ill. It is HIS responsibility to take care of himself. Not mine. I do not monitor his medications, I do not hover and insist he make appointments, or go to appointments or in any way infantalize him.

What would you suggest Leslie have done? "Oh, excuse upper-echelon employee, have you taken your meds today? Would you like a glass of orange juice?" She called security. He got help. At that point, the burden was upon him. It's not up to the rest of the world to take care of YOUR medical condition. It's up to you. If he wanted to speak with her first-hand and educate her on his condition, or what would help IF it occurred again, he could have done so.

The notion that everyone has to "empower" or educate themself on every subject is bollocks. It allows insurance companies to burden sick clients with admonitions that you "empower yourself!" rather than get advice that you are paying for. It means customer service is you wending your way through a maze of button-pushing, with no human being at the end. Periodic chirrups of "we appreciate your business!" notwithstanding.

Yeah, early stages of dementia are rough. People often get belligerant, as they just can't believe they've forgotten or misplaced or lost things--very often it becomes someone stole them. They look angry a lot. Generally speaking, the first memories acquired are the last to go. Pull out the old photo albums, get a "Grandparents Journal" and get them talking about their youth. Is it time for a home aide as well?

As for how we (the kids and I) get through it? With a safety plan and exit strategy. Got to say, it's tiresome when therapy becomes your hobby!

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 9:29 AM

THE RED FLAG (by James Connell, 1899)

The workers' flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead;
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
Their life-blood dyed its every fold.
CHORUS:
Then raise the scarlet standard high;
Beneath its folds we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.

It waved above our infant might
When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We will not change its color now.
(CHORUS)

With heads uncovered, swear we all,
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark, or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn!
(CHORUS)

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 18, 2007 9:31 AM

If the school refers a student to counseling, and they don't go, can the school expel the student? I know that you cannot force adults to have treatment without involuntary committment, but can't there be a policy established that says you accept treatment or leave the school?

BTW, if my daughter described someone who was weird and wouldn't talk, I would probably tell her to avoid the person. I don't know that I would necessarily question his/her mental health and suggest taking further action.

As a matter of fact, she does think her roommate is weird. They do talk to each other, but have completely different interests. Should I be concerned? I think not. The other girl does socialize with others and doesn't scare anyone - she is just "weird" to my daughter and her friends.

I think one of the saddest things that I heard from one of the roommates of the shooter was that he did not go home for the entire school year.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:32 AM

Leslie said she was 27 when she saw the man have a seizure, so she was not a child but an adult. Surely she already knew about epilepsy from her education, or reading or TV or movies even if she'd never seen a seizure in person.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:32 AM

"I was most offended by Leslie's lack of compassion once she found out what was wrong. By her standards everyone whose behavior is even a little bit different would need to be locked up, so as not to scare her or offend her sensitive eyes"

This is fascinating, Regular but anonymous. You derived all that--forced incarceration, lack of compassion, offense rather than a justified fear for her physical safety--from the following sentence:

"I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future."

Truly impressive. You must have some superhuman powers of false deducation.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 9:33 AM

Sometimes, part of the illness is not recognizing that you need help.

When you are told, over and over and over again, that your behaviour is frightening, or inappropriate and you must address it or consequences will follow--then the monkey is on your back.

The fact that my husband continues to say that we "make him" do this, or that, or we "made him" bipolar all underlines his personality disorder.

Which, no, did not rear its ugly head until after we wed. Part of BPD is mimicking the person you currently value--he was able to keep it up for a time, then it he reverted to himself. Hollow, empty, without form.

Kind of like a boggart! But with dementor overtones, I'm sorry to say. As he can ooze unhappiness and it creeps under doors and into your very psyche, if you aren't aware of it. Fortunately, his Eeyore-voice is one giveaway. So is his screaming at me that everything is MY fault...

Gosh, if I were THAT powerful as to make him UNhappy all the time, wouldn't it work in reverse too?

*sigh*

If anyone has the Personality Fairy in a bottle, send her to me, would you?

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 9:35 AM

What was Cho like in high school? Did his problems emerge suddenly at Virginia Tech. He made it to college at least functioning somewhat. I haven't heard any horror stories from high school -- at least not yet. What happened to him?

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 9:36 AM

I reported it to the dean of students, and he was suspended because he continued to insist to the administration that it was his right to carry it.

This occurred in 2002. He is currently suing the university about this and other similar matters.

Posted by: drmommy | April 18, 2007 09:24 AM


It's all about legal liability.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:36 AM

Leslie said she was 27 when she saw the man have a seizure, so she was not a child but an adult. Surely she already knew about epilepsy from her education, or reading or TV or movies even if she'd never seen a seizure in person.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 09:32 AM

Would you recognize the beginning of a manic episode? Or would you simply think the individual is upbeat, energetic and full of enthusiasm?

You sound older than 20, surely YOU KNOW the difference in behavior between a bipolar I, bipolar II and atypical bipolar patient! Just like Leslie would, in her training in business. Wasn't there an after-school special on sociopathy?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:38 AM

theoriginalmomof2 : a neurologist recently diagnosed her. But she is on the high functioning end. DD does not miss social cues compared to her typical peers. Her speech is actually coming a long and she is now talking in full sentences. She says a few. I think we will be in speech therapy for a long time. We work on the eye contact but she does do it sometimes. Just not 100% of the time. She doesn't really show interest in friendships but has deep relationships with adults.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 9:39 AM

Dear regular but anonymous: actually, no, I have no idea what epilepsy looks like. And, oh yes, I really want to glean my knowledge of mental illness from TV or the movies...
I understand your point about the need for compassion, but I think you're reading a lot into Leslie's remark.

Posted by: pd | April 18, 2007 9:39 AM

MD Mom,
I can't even begin to understand what you must have to deal with on a daily basis. You are being particularly verbal today, is it the topic or are things rougher than usual right now? Sorry if they are.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 9:40 AM

Leslie brings up an issue today that I'm very concerned about. In fact, it's one of the reasons I began searching for an anonymous parenting blog.

I've heard that there have been pilot programs that are doing mental health screening in the public schools. Essentialy these are questionaires that attempt to identify suicidal or depression tendencies of the participants. I have a fear that one of my children may get flagged, and then I will be forced to buy medications or pay for expensive counseling which I may not agree to, but if I don't, I could be charged with neglect. I've had friends and know children put on these psychoactive grugs just for, in my opinion, being annoying at worst, perfectly normal but more active than average at best. I've also noticed, that when drugs are administered over a period of time, discontinueing them results in severely unpredictable behavior.

My stance on this issue is the parents should have the ultimate authority and final decision on the psychoactive drugs or therapy that their children should or should not take. I trust the loving decisions of parents much, much more than the systematic process of the government.

Although I am firmly against treating my son with medications, I certainly realize that drug therapy is essential to the functionality of those stricken with mental illness. I am curious of those that have used medications for their children. What was the breaking point? What is the process? What are the side effects? Should I be worried? Any information on this aspect of parenting will be appreciated.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 18, 2007 9:41 AM

"My stance on this issue is the parents should have the ultimate authority and final decision on the psychoactive drugs or therapy that their children should or should not take. I trust the loving decisions of parents much, much more than the systematic process of the government."

The courts generally side with you on this one. But you may have to fight.

Posted by: to Father of 4 | April 18, 2007 9:44 AM

I'll avoid the Leslie-bashing for today, but point out that it can be in your best interests to understand what you're dealing with. In the early '80s while a grad student at Purdue, one of the students in the statistics class I taught was epileptic. He was very active in spreading knowledge about the condition (I think he ran the state or at least county chapter), and he came to my office early in the semester to explain what his condition was, what might happen and how I should deal with it. It was very helpful. When he started to have a seizure in my office one day, my office mates ran out in horror while I knew how to react because he had taught me. When he started to have a seizure in class, I was able to tell the other students what to do and thus control a potential panic situation.

Leslie didn't know the executive was epileptic and so calling security was the right thing to do. AFTER finding out the situation, though, rather than be afraid of working late again, she should have been MORE CONFIDENT working late because she would have known what was going on and how to react. It certainly wasn't her job to monitor his medications or take care of him, but it was in her best interests to understand that (a) there was an epileptic in the office; (b) what a seizure looked like; and (c) what to do when it occurs.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 18, 2007 9:44 AM

16.8% of students in Arlington Co are indentified as leaning disabled. The percentage is just too high to be reasonable. Extra LD students mean extra funding for the school system and less legal responsibility if a student does something hurtful. What you told about your children fits within the 3 sigma region.

Another important factor is the Big Pharma. In Britain only 1.5 to 2% of school age children were diagnosted as ADHD, for example, until the pharmaceutical companies started agressive marketing compain among doctors and school administrators, now it's near 10%.

Help your children to get where they want to be in terms of friends and interests, but don't try to mold them into what the Joneses expect them to be.

Posted by: to Foamgnome and theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 9:45 AM

"By her [Leslie's} standards everyone whose behavior is even a little bit different would need to be locked up, so as not to scare her or offend her sensitive eyes."

You are so off base. Where do you get this crap? Leslie never said or even implied that. What she said is this:

"I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future."

Remember that the man was having violent seizures. I would say that a violent seizure would be scary to anyone, whatever the cause. Leslie did the right thing. She called security and got the man help. And it is a perfectly normal reaction to be frightened by a violent outburst, whatever the cause may be.

Posted by: Emily | April 18, 2007 9:46 AM

Leslie was absolutely right to be concerned in her workplace. I was working one holiday by myself. I returned to my office from another area and someone was sitting at my desk! He hurriedly excused himself and left. I called security. When they reviewed their cameras they found that fellow had used a crowbar to break the lock on the door and enter the office. Heaven only knows where the crowbar was when I encountered him.

Bad stuff happens in seemingly safe situations, it is smart to be on the lookout.

I had a son with emotional issues and I found that MCPS was very quick to identify them. At the time we thought this was normal "boy" behavior, but we did take him for a psych evaluation. The therapy wasn't too helpful but he did a short stint on Zoloft and improved.

It is difficult for parents because sometimes I think they want to pigeon-hole students, but in our case it turned out to be worth looking into.

Posted by: RoseG | April 18, 2007 9:48 AM

f04: I would not rush to think the school is requiring drug therapy. I have this anti establishment paranoid friend. He believed when DD was diagnosed with high functioning autism (on the spectrum), they would force her to take some sort of drug like Ritalin. So far, drug therapy has not even been mentioned once by the school or the doctors. They simply want educational and speech therapy. I believe these therapies are great and have helped a lot. I don't think the school or doctors are always working as drug pushers. See what they have to offer. Also I don't think the public school can force a parent to pay for expensive counseling. If your son is diagnosed with learning disabilities, the school system needs to provide certain treatments for your son. I live in Fairfax too. And I have to say I have had NO problems getting services for my daughter. In fact the opposite is true. They go out of their way to provide better care for her.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 9:48 AM

Maybe Leslie needs to create an online personality quiz for everyone: If the results do not show that you are an elitist alpha female, then obviously there is something wrong with you! ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 9:48 AM

"I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future."

Why should someone never feel safe again after a coworker has a an epileptic seizure? Would Leslie feel the same way if it was a heart attack or stroke? Yes it's upsetting, but NEVER to feel safe again is overreacting and intolerant.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:48 AM

Father of 4,

There are cases of people who have done violent acts AFTER being put on meds for mental issues. Some of these have been teenage boys and young men. Their families insist that there were no violent tendencies prior to certain medications. I don't know if there has been any established link. Some think the parents are unable to accept what there children have done and are looking for something to blame. Others think that the meds themselves actually altered behavior in the users.

I am in no way an expert on anything, and what I know about this is only a little that I have picked up in casual reading. If anyone is more knowledgeable about this, I would be interested in your comments.

Posted by: anon | April 18, 2007 9:49 AM

Emily, I don't think that the point is that she called security when the first seizure occurred - I'd argue that that's sensible behavior when you don't know what's going on. It was the point about never feeling safe working late again - that's not a healthy, intelligent response to the situation. A healthy, intelligent response would have been "what was that about; what should I do if it happens in the future; okay, now I know how to handle this, life is good."

Posted by: Army Brat | April 18, 2007 9:50 AM

Leslie did not call the episode epilepsy. I think that most commenter are reading this into her brief description of what happened. As far as I know, and I do have reason to know about seizure disorder, violence is not a part of the manifestations of a epileptic seizure. In the seizure disorders that I have personally witnessed, the individual becomes unconscious and falls to the floor and starts convulsions. The individual does not become wild eyed and start to destroy furniture. the individual certainly does not walk or run about with eyes glazed over.

I think that Leslie had a proper concern for her safety.

Posted by: Fred | April 18, 2007 9:50 AM

Years ago, I was sitting in my car outside a Blockbuster waiting for my husband to come out. It was raining so hard I could barely see out of the windows. A lady with three little kids parked next to me, opened her car door slamming it into my car and when I looked at her, she started screaming at me and beating on my windows. She was calling me a child abuser (even thoough there were no children in my car) and accusing me of having a gun. Then she stood in front of my car and yelled some more while her poor children were witnessing all of this and getting soaked. And once she got inside Blockbuster, she stood in their window and yelled some more. I was terrified. But I did nothing. To this day, I'm still ashamed of myself for not calling the police. I only hope and pray she did not hurt her children.

Posted by: Michele | April 18, 2007 9:52 AM

"AFTER finding out the situation, though, rather than be afraid of working late again, she should have been MORE CONFIDENT working late because she would have known what was going on and how to react."

But how should she react? If it's late at night, she's all alone with this guy, and he has another violent seizure where he's walking around deranged, crashing into furniture and literally out of control, she should think, "Oh, it's his epilepsy that's causing him to have these violent seizures." And then, she should...what, exactly? If he's out of control, the knowledge that it's due to epilepsy doesn't really help her.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 9:52 AM

16.8% of students in Arlington Co are indentified as leaning disabled. The percentage is just too high to be reasonable. Extra LD students mean extra funding for the school system and less legal responsibility if a student does something hurtful. What you told about your children fits within the 3 sigma region.

Another important factor is the Big Pharma. In Britain only 1.5 to 2% of school age children were diagnosted as ADHD, for example, until the pharmaceutical companies started agressive marketing compain among doctors and school administrators, now it's near 10%.

Help your children to get where they want to be in terms of friends and interests, but don't try to mold them into what the Joneses expect them to be.

Posted by: to Foamgnome and theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 09:45 AM

Whenever I mention doubts about DD's condition, the professionals tell me I am in denial. I do think DD is slightly off but I think she is more shy and introverted then seriously out there. But I have learned to keep my mouth shut because the extra therapy has not seemed to hurt her. They have only benefited her.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 9:53 AM

Leslie didn't know the executive was epileptic and so calling security was the right thing to do. AFTER finding out the situation, though, rather than be afraid of working late again, she should have been MORE CONFIDENT working late because she would have known what was going on and how to react. It certainly wasn't her job to monitor his medications or take care of him, but it was in her best interests to understand that (a) there was an epileptic in the office; (b) what a seizure looked like; and (c) what to do when it occurs.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 18, 2007 09:44 AM

Posted by: To Emily | April 18, 2007 9:54 AM

"A healthy, intelligent response would have been "what was that about; what should I do if it happens in the future; okay, now I know how to handle this, life is good.""

I would not have known how to handle it in the future, even after it happened once. The man apparently made no effort to talk to her about it or reassure her that it was not a dangerous situation. Being told that he had a violent seizure that occurs when he does not take his meds does not give me any information on how to deal with it. If it had happened again, I would have been just as frightened.

Posted by: Emily | April 18, 2007 9:56 AM

Guys, come on. Leslie did not know the man had epilepsy-she wrote that security told her that AFTER the fact. And we have no idea whether or what she did to demonstrate compassion after the fact. And let's be real: anyone who has worked somewhere where there is a hierarchy knows better than to go to the sr. person the next day and say in the office "hey, saw you thrashing about and looking dishelved last night. you doing ok? how might i help you remember to take your medicine?" Regardless of why the man seemed dangerous, it was a wake up call that working late may not be as safe as it appears. How can you possibly criticize that? Let's leave the "Leslie is an elitist and mean" junk at the door today!

Posted by: daily lurker sometime poster | April 18, 2007 9:56 AM

If Leslie was still afraid after the incident, maybe she should have stopped staying at work late at night. It became her fault for still being afraid after she knew what caused the problem.

Posted by: To JS | April 18, 2007 9:58 AM

Leslie should have left her job if she didn't like the situation.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:59 AM

"If Leslie was still afraid after the incident, maybe she should have stopped staying at work late at night. It became her fault for still being afraid after she knew what caused the problem."

I still don't understand why knowing what caused the problem SOLVES the problem in this case. What was she supposed to do if this guy had another violent episode and they were alone again in the office? Stand there and say "Excuse me, Mr. Exec, I'd just like you to know, you are having this violent episode as a result of your medical condition. Carry on."

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 10:00 AM

Been on both sides--doing too much, and not doing enough. Pressuring a person to get help when they're paranoid or in denial just gives them an excuse to cut you off or see you as their enemy. On the other hand we often make excuses for odd behavior, or don't notice because we're really not paying close attention. After all, we shouldn't and don't go around suspecting mental illness every time someone says something that doesn't make sense.

I don't have any advice. In my experience it's a no-win situation where both the ill person and the people around them often end up suffering.

Posted by: worker bee | April 18, 2007 10:01 AM

"I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future."

Translation: "Baa."

Extrapolation of Translation: "I feel uneasy around disabled/non-elite people and feel that in distancing myself from the problem (them), it will go away. Besides, I would not want to place myself in a situation where I might have to take some sort of action."

We fear what we choose not to understand.

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:02 AM

I'd sure feel sorry for any epileptic who has to work with you. Forget the ADA, maybe fire them anyhow and hope for a quiet out-of-court settlement when the lawsuit comes?

Posted by: To JS | April 18, 2007 10:04 AM

We fear what we choose not to understand.

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:02 AM


So true.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 10:05 AM

"Leslie's lack of compassion for him is stunningly self-centered."

??? Ok, I'm really not getting the Leslie-bashing. I'd have been scared in that situation, too. Heck, I'd have been even more scared after finding out that it was a medical condition -- if all people can tell you is that the problem may recur, but they can't tell you what to do if it does, and can't even tell you what disease it is so you can research it and find out for yourself, how is that NOT scary? And Leslie's fear wasn't just for herself -- did people miss the fact that she was scared in part because she didn't know how to keep him from hurting HIMSELF?

There seems to be a real knee-jerk reaction on this blog whenever the topic of mental illness comes up, with people immediately jumping all over Leslie for not knowing what she's talking about and not being sympathetic to those who suffer from it. So I find it ironic that in this case, the example that has sparked the controversy doesn't even look like a mental illness. Looks a lot more like badly-controlled diabetes to me (if you've ever seen someone experience a serious low blood sugar event, they can become frighteningly violent).

Yes, "mental illnesses" have biological bases, just like other kinds of diseases, such a diabetes. Yes, the vast majority of people suffering from any illness are completely nonviolent and pose no threat to themselves or others. But the facts that certain behaviors have a biological basis for certain behaviors, and that 99% of people with X disease will never experience those behaviors, are all completely irrelevant when you are faced with someone who IS acting violently from some unknown cause. When someone like Leslie's coworker does act out like that, he CAN hurt himself and others -- even if he would never intentionally hurt someone otherwise.

When you are facing someone behaving violently, you have every right to be scared -- especially when you've never faced it before and don't know what to do. Simply admitting that you were scared doesn't mean you think all people suffering mental illness are violent, or that you have no compassion for them. In fact, the event is even scarier if you DO care about the person involved. If you're assaulted by some unknown raving lunatic on the street (as I was once), you can just run away (as I did); you can recognize the mental illness and feel concern for a fellow human being, but your own safety is the highest priority. But if it is someone you know and like, you stay and try to help -- so you keep yourself in the danger zone precisely because you DO care about someone other than yourself. Which is what Leslie did -- she could have just left the building to protect herself, but she stayed and called security, so that they could BOTH be safe.

That seemed to me to be the point of the column -- at what point do you step in and take action to protect yourself, others, AND the person who is acting out?

Posted by: Laura | April 18, 2007 10:07 AM

Bethesda, I totally agree with you. I was most offended by Leslie's lack of compassion once she found out what was wrong. By her standards everyone whose behavior is even a little bit different would need to be locked up, so as not to scare her or offend her sensitive eyes.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 09:26 AM

Triple agree. Rather than using her (Leslie's) experience as a teaching moment, ie "people with diabetes, medical conditions can act irrationally and crazy" she decided to focus on her fear of this man.

As for the snarky poster that assumed this man was not taking care of himself and was surprised he had risen to such prominence in this company, I am surprised at your lack of knowledge. People with medical conditions have these episodes even when they are vigilant about their health. Have some compassion.

Posted by: another reg but anonymous | April 18, 2007 10:10 AM

Furthermore, my beautiful wife has epilepsy. She left her previous employer because of immature adults who would make rude comments about her condition. For example, "now we don't want to stress her out- we don't want to cause a seizure." Being eccentric is one thing, but being a condescending elitist snob is perhaps one of the worst truly anti-social personality disorders. The only cure for it is a dose of good old fashioned humble pie.

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:10 AM

The translation as I read it is: "Wow, I am potentially vulnerable to forces and people beyond my control and I need to think more about my safety if I work late at night." Any of us would want our children, spouses and friends to come to the same conclusion REGARDLESS of why the person turned out to be dangerous (and remember, medical condition or not, he was still potentially dangerous to himself and to others).

Posted by: daily lurker sometime poster | April 18, 2007 10:11 AM

The majority of you people have way too much time on your hand and an apparent ax to grind with Leslie. I am a lurker, but it seems to me that some people come on this blog just to complain about and berate Leslie, not to provide any actual substance to the discussion.

No where in Leslie's post does she mention epilepsy. What she mentions is a man who obviously has some sort of known problem that is exacerbated by not taking his medications and that leads to violent fits and destructive tendencies. It obviously was not the first time this had happened, since the security guards knew the situation, and it makes sense that since this was a recurring issue, she had concern for her, and other's safety.

Regardless, if you continually hate what Leslie has to say and how she says it, why do you keep reading? Why don't you just accept that you aren't going to change Leslie, you will continue to dislike her, and move on to somewhere you can find happiness? That will allow those of us that are here for discussions on balance, or just balanced discussion in general, to read and write in peace, without having to sidestep your bs.

Posted by: wtf | April 18, 2007 10:11 AM

"I'd sure feel sorry for any epileptic who has to work with you. Forget the ADA, maybe fire them anyhow and hope for a quiet out-of-court settlement when the lawsuit comes?"

Don't know where you're getting the idea that the guy had epilepsy. It certainly wasn't in Leslie's post. But I am impressed at your ability to take my statements that Leslie was justified in her fears of working after hours alone with someone who had this type of violent seizure, and turn it into "epileptics should be fired, and their rights under the ADA violated." Well done.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 10:12 AM

MD Mom,
"I can't even begin to understand what you must have to deal with on a daily basis. You are being particularly verbal today, is it the topic or are things rougher than usual right now? Sorry if they are. "

More than one of us live with a mentally ill person. It is incredibly stressful and draining.

Posted by: Officer Krupke | April 18, 2007 10:13 AM

It is one thing to be scared at first, but after you have been informed, and maybe even ask a question or two, there is nothing to fear. Army Brat spelled it out earlier.

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:13 AM

Being diagnosted with autistic spectrum disorder doesn't label a kid negatively in a long run. Go for occupational, speech, and physical therapy by all means, it helps all kids, even the mainstream ones. But for ADHD, ODD and similar diagnoses the consequences are long term. First, there are meds for those conditions (unlike autism), and teachers are eager to recommend them to calm kids down while in the classroom. Meds have side effects. Next, for some jobs (and the Army) you have to indicate on your application if you were diagnosted with ADHD type disorders "past adolescence". If I really were concerned about my child emotional state, and he/she was not functioning properly in more than one social setting (not just in one particular classroom), I would consult a psychologist outside the school system, to avoid bias.

Posted by: To Foamgnome | April 18, 2007 10:13 AM

I meant my post to begin:
While the majority of this group is here for intelligent discussion, some of you people have way too much time on your hand and an apparent ax to grind with Leslie.

Please append in your mind. tx

Posted by: wtf redux | April 18, 2007 10:15 AM

Because maybe we can teach Leslie and her kind. She doesn't know everything.

Posted by: To wtf | April 18, 2007 10:15 AM

Taken one at a time, none of Cho's "symptoms" would have been a clear warning sign that something was wrong with him. However, put them all together and they make a much more disturbing composite.

It's that "well, he's just wierd and none of my business" attitude among the general public that keeps the media in business. Every time one of these tragedies takes place, the news crews interview many, many people who say every time "he was just a little wierd, I had no idea he'd do that".

Yes, autism has similar symptoms as the extreme antisocial behavior Cho had. He was a senior in college, though; you'd have thought by then that he would have developed SOME socializing skills. He never changed and his behavior had even begun deteriorating right before Monday happened.

I think that VTech should have had the ability to tell Cho that, if he did not get counseling and follow whatever recommendations they wanted, he would have been expelled. In my office, if someone does not agree to attend official mandated counseling (for drug use, personal problems, etc), they can be released from their job. I see no reason why a university cannot do the same thing with a student.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 10:17 AM

Chris, the situation Army Brat describes is student with epileptic seizures. Just because the guy in Leslie's office had seizures, it does not mean he had epilepsy. AB describes a frightening but non violent seizure. Leslie describes a violent seizure that could potentially harm her or the man having the episode. You guys are missing the points. 1) we don't know if the man had epilepsy 2) there is a difference between a non violent seizure and a violent one 3) it is not Leslie's job to keep the office safe. IT is her employers job. I also think most people would be scared if nothing else for fear he would hurt himself.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 10:17 AM

What if it wasn't epilepsy? What if it was diabetic shock, or some other physical problem? How is that different enough to change the argument? It's still physical illness.

Posted by: To JS | April 18, 2007 10:18 AM

Emily, sounds like you choose to live your life differently than me. That's fine; this isn't criticism and I apologize if it comes across that way. But, having an experience like Leslie describes in my work environment would make me want to understand who, what, and why. "Being told that he had a violent seizure that occurs when he does not take his meds does not give me any information on how to deal with it." If security didn't tell me, I'd find out myself. Then I'd make a decision - quit out of fear for my own safety; try to get the executive removed or treated; or learn how to deal with it in the future. I certainly would NOT EVER "be scared to work late at night" and keep the same job.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 18, 2007 10:18 AM

I have a neighbor who is mentally ill. She literally looks like a scared puppy all the time. Except that on occasion, she flies into rages. One late evening, she called my house in a rage, to apparently tell me that she was not having an affair with my husband, and that I should stop parking my car on the street in front of her house. She thought that that was my way of getting revenge on her. I reassured her that I had no such suspicions, and that I had simply parked the car there because the space in front of my house was taken that day. Believe me, I never parked my car in front of her house again. I admit that I do walk on eggshells around her. You never know what is going to set her off. Do I think she is dangerous? Not really. But then again, she is the kind of person who never looks at you or responds to your greetings. Never engages in any social activity. But she looks more frightened herself than threatening. Most of the time.

But what can you do? Not all mentally ill people are dangerous, and not all dangerous people are mentally ill. I think hindsight can give you a lot of clues, but in reality, you really can't predict people's behaviour. I don't think much could have been done about the shooter at VT. Especially since he had no criminal history and made no specific threats prior to the shooting.

Posted by: Emily | April 18, 2007 10:18 AM

"It is one thing to be scared at first, but after you have been informed, and maybe even ask a question or two, there is nothing to fear. Army Brat spelled it out earlier."

Yes, if he had epilepsy. But we don't know that he did--Leslie didn't say. We do know that whatever medical condition he had made him scream, damage furniture, and walk around "clearly deranged, white hair disheveled, his eyes glazed." Sounds like a far cry from the type of seizure that involves falling to the ground and having physical convulsions.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 10:19 AM

I think that VTech should have had the ability to tell Cho that, if he did not get counseling and follow whatever recommendations they wanted, he would have been expelled.

John, unless Cho had demonstrated behavior that endangered the actual LIFE of himself or someone else, what you propose is illegal and Cho would have had an excellent chance of winning a costly lawsuit against VTech.

Posted by: To John L | April 18, 2007 10:22 AM

If an alcoholic has tendencies to get drunk and drive, putting others at risk, is it not acceptable to be concerned about this and to feel fear when you see them get behind the wheel, not knowing whether they have been drinking or not?

If a person has a medical or mental condition that causes them to become violent if they have not taken their meds or eaten, and they regularly forget their meds and to eat, causing these episodes to happen, is it not acceptable to be concerned about this person and to feel fear when you are alone with them, not knowing whether they are on their meds or have eaten?

There has been talk that Leslie was an adult and, as such, should have recognized the signs of epilepsy, if that is what the problem was. I think the bigger issue is that this man was an adult and should have known better how to handle his problem, not allowing himself to get to the state, through lack of meds or food, where he became a danger to anyone. His problem was, apparently, completely controllable, which puts the onus on him to control it, not Leslie to accept his lack of control.

Posted by: A thought | April 18, 2007 10:23 AM

SECURITY SAID (consider the source!): "the executive had a medical condition that caused violent seizures if he didn't take medicine or eat regularly."

Leslie wrote: "I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future."

I don't see where it's epilepsy. I don't know what you would suggest she would need to do, if working late, to prevent HIS having another seizure.

If he did have another violent seizure, she would still be wise to call 911, or security, to ensure that whatever his underlying medical condition MAY be (remember, we don't know if this is epilepsy, diabetes [in which case he may have had to be hospitalized] or other!).

It's not up to us to educate ourselves on everyone else's problems. If he had taken it upon himself to introduce himself, address what had happened, and maybe advised her, that would have been a good thing.

I didn't know they were issuing medical licenses in boxes of Cracker Jacks these days. Where's mine?

Posted by: to | April 18, 2007 10:24 AM

My point is, knowing that the guy's behavior was a result of his medical condition means that it wasn't the guy's fault. It does not mean that the knowledge arms Leslie with the means to handle the situation should it arise again. Because of that, I think Leslie was totally justified in being scared. What she did in response to her fears, I don't know, and neither do any of us. Maybe she changed her schedule. Maybe she got additional information and felt comfortable enough to work late again. Maybe she didn't work late unless someone else was there. Maybe she went to the gym and bulked up enough to be able to physically subdue the guy if necessary. Maybe she bought a taser. We don't know.

But the fact that she was scared is a reasonable response, and doesn't make her insensitive to the needs and realities of people with mental illnesses.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 10:24 AM

Officer Krupke,
I was not trying to downplay anyone else's family mental health problems. I was not aware of yours (if you are talking about yourself)but simply acknowledging Md Mother's comments of today. No offense meant.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 10:24 AM

If you read the plays he wrote, it sounds like Cho was abused.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 10:25 AM

a college friend of mine died because his parents were christian scientist & they refused to treat his pneumonia. so, no parents do not always do what is best for their children.

Posted by: quark | April 18, 2007 10:27 AM

I really don't understand all the Leslie bashing that goes on here. She shares her opinion/thought/experience and gets nailed to the wall on an almost daily basis. Are all of you doing the bashing really that perfect and compassionate?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 10:27 AM

"It is one thing to be scared at first, but after you have been informed, and maybe even ask a question or two, there is nothing to fear. Army Brat spelled it out earlier."

Chris --

I agree with you on the epilepsy front. The problem is, no one was able to tell Leslie that it WAS epilepsy. Medical privacy laws and all that. Could have been that, could have been diabetes, could have been a psychotic break, could have been any number of other things.

If you know what the problem is, you can research the disease and take steps to prepare yourself, as Army Brat suggested. But no one COULD tell Leslie what the problem really was -- and that's precisely what makes the situation scary. To me, hearing "yes, it could happen again, but I can't tell you what caused it or what to do if it does" is just as frightening as the first incident.

Posted by: Laura | April 18, 2007 10:27 AM

"John, unless Cho had demonstrated behavior that endangered the actual LIFE of himself or someone else, what you propose is illegal and Cho would have had an excellent chance of winning a costly lawsuit against VTech."

That's the point I was trying to make; that the information about Cho was in different places and not all together. Had more been known about his behavior by the school, then perhaps they could have put more pressure on him to attend the counseling. Perhaps also the laws should be changed to allow the schools more leeway on what it takes to expel a student.

I realize that privacy issues prevent VTech from disclosing his grades, but I wonder how he was doing in these classes if the students and faculty were as concerned about him as these reports indicate.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 10:27 AM

Cho's mother sounds like some sort of religious fanatic who was trying to force him to believe just like her. See 1st Amendment, mom.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 10:28 AM

It is possible to raise a "red flag," but not so simple for authorities to follow through with action. At GWU a few years ago, a student was expelled from campus due to a determination that he was a potential danger to himself and others. In response, there was a lawsuit against the school. In litigious times, universities in particular may be hesitant to take action against individuals.

Posted by: U.S. Mom | April 18, 2007 10:29 AM

Perhaps also the laws should be changed to allow the schools more leeway on what it takes to expel a student.

Welcome to the Gulag.

Posted by: To John L | April 18, 2007 10:30 AM

JohnL: One article said he failed to attend one of his classes for a month. That would be a big indication something is wrong. But again with HIPA it is hard to release any medical information to outsiders. The whole situation is just plain sad.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 10:30 AM

Laura's post is exactly what I think Leslie was getting at. If someone is being violent, whatever the reason, it is important to protect yourself and then others.

If your daughter asked your advice about this situation, would you tell her to get help or would you tell her to try to subdue the violent man?

And Chris, I really like your irreverant posts, but can you stop with the whole sheep thing? I hate to say it, but most of the people in the world are the "sheep" you refer to. There are some leaders and many followers in the world. The world should not be made completely of leaders. Ever hear the saying "too many cooks in the kitchen"? If there weren't sheep, would would the leaders lead?

Calling people sheep will not shame them (unless they're really touchy), so I don't really see the point of bringing it up.

Okay, spotlight off my pet peeve! BTW, I'm glad you enjoyed the Etiquette Hell site.

Posted by: Meesh | April 18, 2007 10:31 AM

There are good reasons for HIPAA. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Posted by: To Foamgnome | April 18, 2007 10:32 AM

Well, a seizure disorder. Admitedly, it could have been something other than epilepsy. That is STILL besides the point. It is still a disability. As someone above stated it doesn't change anything.
---
"Regardless, if you continually hate what Leslie has to say and how she says it, why do you keep reading?"
We must all be deranged masochistic subhuman (not-elitist) freaks. ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:32 AM

Foamgnome, you said that "One article said he failed to attend one of his classes for a month. That would be a big indication something is wrong."

I have to disagree with you here. I blew off classes for a month with a couple of my friends in my sophomore year on a dare. It was an indication that I was young and stupid, nothing more!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 10:32 AM

This young man could have been helped but only if he wanted to get help or if his behavior presented a clear danger to himself and others. Frankly, anti-social behavior and writing violent stories doesn't meet the requirements for involuntary committment. As an adult, the school, even his own parents, would have faced pretty big hurdles to force him to get help. This tragedy touches on many issues, mental health being one. but this is also an issue of cultural acclimation, ethnic stereotypes, and gender politics. Could things have been different if he had emigrated at a younger age? Moving is hard for kids but moving to a new culture, country, and language would be daunting for anyone at any age. Did he, as many Asians (myself included) suffer from the image of Asians as classic overachievers? If he had overachieving older siblings, he could have easily felt overshadowed and invisible. If the police hadn't assumed the first shooting was "domestic," would he have been apprehended before he got to the classroom? How much does our culture's baises regarding domestic violence play into this?

I work at a university and have had several students (even a faculty member) with mental health problems. By in large, these problems haven't risen to the level of contacting authorities. My biggest frustration has been in the lack of resources for people on the fringe, troubled but not yet a danger to themselves or others. Sadly, one of our brightest students now lives under a bush in a nearby park. He has a PhD from U of Chicago. He is angry, but not crazy. But there is no place for him to get help because he doesn't have healthy insurance (DO NOT get me started on mental health parity) and because he isn't a danger, no one can commit him and until he hurts himself or others, the police can't arrest him.

Posted by: LM in WI | April 18, 2007 10:32 AM

From the Washington Post's front page article:

"Roy said she warned school officials. "I was determined that people were going to take notice," Roy said. "I felt I'd said to so many people, 'Please, will you look at this young man?' "

Roy, now the alumni distinguished professor of English and co-director of the creative writing program, said university officials were responsive and sympathetic to her warnings but indicated that because Cho had made no direct threats, there was little they could do.

"I don't want to be accusatory or blaming other people," Roy said. "I do just want to say, though, it's such a shame if people don't listen very carefully and if the law constricts them so that they can't do what is best for the student.""

Roy is saying the same thing I've been saying; the school felt there was not enough of a threat or evidence to take action to help Cho. Had others come forward with what they observed about him, perhaps they might have.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 10:34 AM

It was an indication that I was young and stupid, nothing more!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 10:32 AM


Especially if it was in the Spring :-))))

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 10:35 AM

I didn't call anyone a sheep today! I said, "baa." There is a subtle difference, ewe know. ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:35 AM

Responding to a comment made by Armchair Mom at 8:11

LEgally, our "college kids" are adults,

I heard a horror story yesterday that I'm going to have to verify soon. I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a year or so yesterday. I knew from mutual friends that her college freshman daughter had been badly hurt in a car wreck last year, so I asked how things were going.

The mother (my old friend) lives in MD; her daughter was going to school in Pittsburgh. The daughter was in the car wreck and had significant head injuries; she was unconscious for about a week, and suffered some brain damage. (After about 9 months, she's finally making good progress.) A college roommate of the daughter called the mother to tell her what had happened; the mother and her husband hustled up to Pittsburgh. She got to the hospital, explained who she was (and had dcoumentation to prove that she was the mother) - and was told by the hospital that they couldn't even tell her what her daughter's condition was, let alone let her see her daughter or talk to the doctor. The reason was that the daughter was 19 and thus was an adult, and there was no designation of the mother as the one who had the right to make medical decisions for her adult daughter.

My friend tells me it took hours of screaming matches to make progress; the hospital was preparing a petition to the court to designate a guardian for the daughter. She finally got them to accept her as the guardian.

My friend tells me that she was told that if there was a power of attorney or some other legal document designating that she had the right to make medical decisions for her adult daughter in the event of the daughter's incapacitation, a lot of that could have been avoided.

So, with a daughter of my own now 18, and going off to college in the fall, I'm going to have to check that one out.

Posted by: Army Brat | April 18, 2007 10:36 AM

I am curious of those that have used medications for their children. What was the breaking point? What is the process? What are the side effects? Should I be worried? Any information on this aspect of parenting will be appreciated.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 18, 2007 09:41 AM

I have. I hate doing it, too, because the side effects end up outweighing the benefits. So far, nothing has really worked. I'm about to try another, because I want to help him get his self-control in order and rebuild his self-esteem. When it seemed that the behavior and the disorders impacted not only his education but his self-esteem, I decided to try medication along with therapy and services. Notice I talk about him and how he feels -- I don't give a d*mn about how the school feels.

The key for me is not to medicate into submission, but to help what looks like suffering. I also do not want a cocktail of meds for my son.

School systems can have a way of "encouraging" one to medicate his or her child. Suspensions, removal from school and into "special" programs for emotional and behavior problem children, differential treatment of your child, unofficially labeling him as the problem child. I've never been threatened with a neglect charge for not medicating; the public school was too busy pegging my son as a problem child and (not deliberately but nevertheless) tearing down his self-esteem.

The side effects depend on the medication. I would check out www.adhdnews.com and the parent boards that discuss medications for ADHD (I'm guessing you would be curious about ADHD drugs based on your previous posts). I always worry, but I counter that by always advocating for my son. I research everything, monitor his behavior and seek resources. And follow your gut; as a parent, you really do know best.

May I ask, what does your son do that concerns you about the school system's actions?

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 10:36 AM

I am not saying HIPAA doesn't have merit. I am just saying it makes it difficult to release medical information. The school would have been tied.

WorkingmomX: Wow you skipped class for a month. If I was a teacher and one of my students skipped for a month, I think I would talk to the student about why they were skipping. If the reaction is a) embarassed-then I would figure OK-caught and will be in class next week b) explains it was a dare-I would think OK-caught, told it was stupid, expect to see student next class c) because the world is out to get me and I don't want to be part of society-I would think NOT OK. Consult counselors on campus.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 10:37 AM

At the other end of life, sometimes our senior citizens are also medicated into submission in nursing homes.

Posted by: To Father of 4 and theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 10:44 AM

Well, I was doing well in school (3.3 average) and I thought I was invincible. I had someone turn in homework if the teacher required it, but I did not show my face in class for 30 days. That was the deal. If I recall correctly, the wager was a case of beer. Molson Bredor (sp?) if I remember correctly -- it had a higher alcohol content . . . Good times.

Also, at least on a college campus, I think it's unreasonable to assume that a professor would (a) notice, (b) care, and/or (c) act if one of his/her many students skipped class for a month. When I was a sophomore, most of my classes were lecture format.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 10:46 AM

Maybe Leslie was sill suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome, which contributed to her fears....

Posted by: Liz | April 18, 2007 10:46 AM

Also, at least on a college campus, I think it's unreasonable to assume that a professor would (a) notice, (b) care, and/or (c) act if one of his/her many students skipped class for a month. When I was a sophomore, most of my classes were lecture format.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 10:46 AM
the professor obviously remembered he skipped class for a month because he reported to the newspapers. I guess the idea is if you do notice, care and take action. A simple phone call or email would probably have cleared up any worries. I know I taught some small lab classes (50-60) students and followed up with students who missed more then 5 absences. But some departments have guide lines on those matter. The stat department automatically failed anyone who missed more then 4 classes. Excused or unexcused. The only exemption was a student who was committed to a hospital. That was a big research university too. The rule applied to the 200 + lecture part of the class as well.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 10:50 AM

Where I went to school, depending on the class the prof. would notice. It was a smaller school, if you missed more than, I think 3, unexcused days of class, your grade dropped. But those were the arts and science electives, my engineering classes, the profs knew, but also knew your chances of passing were reduced so they didn't care, or figured it served you right.

I always missed the maximum # of days that wouldn't impact my grades.

Posted by: to WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 10:51 AM

In another newspaper today:

In a spring 2006 survey of nearly 95,000 students on 117 campuses:

Nearly half of the students felt so depressed it was difficult to function at least once during the prior academic year; 16 percent felt that way on at least five occasions.

About 9 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide; about 1 percent had attempted it.

Nearly two-thirds had felt things were hopeless at least once.

More than 93 percent had felt overwhelmed by all they had to do at least once.

Posted by: Re troubled college students | April 18, 2007 10:52 AM

Well, I graduated 15 years ago, and times were different then. :)

At the time, I always thought the British had it best. Some of my friends who went to University there didn't show up to class for the entire second year. Of course, their system was significantly different.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 18, 2007 10:53 AM

I had a class in which about 500 students blew off class- it was because the teacher could not speak english and nobody understood wtf he was saying. Ah, the joys of astrophysics 101.

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:53 AM

"More than 93 percent had felt overwhelmed by all they had to do at least once."

Sounds like life.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 10:53 AM

Did anybody notice he got a speeding ticket 2 weeks ago? Strained relationship with his parents, no friends, nobody to borrow money from, no social skils to get a temp job, no way to even go to day labor site and earn a hundred dollars.
And now he has to go to court. And to jail, with his inability to make a judge sympatetic. Better death. And if one has to die, one can at least make a statement...

This is a system with positive feedback which accelerates itself into a red zone and blows up.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 10:54 AM

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that Virginia became the first state to approve a law preventing public colleges and universities from punishing or expelling students "solely for attempting to commit suicide, or seeking mental-health treatment for suicidal thoughts or behaviors."

Posted by: More news | April 18, 2007 10:56 AM

Universities can expel someone for getting bad enough grades (mine could anyway), so why not expel someone for not getting recommended counseling?

After all, in the first example the only person who is being hurt by the bad grades is the student; in the second example there's the potential for the student to not only hurt himself, but a lot of others too.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 10:57 AM

I think that JS's comments are so perceptive and insightful that they bear repeating. So, here again is what JS had to say @9:24 a.m.:

I think that part of the deep unease we have with situations like these is the unwanted realization that we can't stop it from happening again. As has been said already, 1000 people might meet the "spooky loner" description, and 999 of them will go on to not shoot up the school. We can try to head off these problems at the pass, but there is nothing we can do to fully prevent them. It's the natural rejection of the idea that awful things can happen at any time, and we are powerless to prevent them.

We're very, very uncomfortable with that concept. So, we search for someone, anyone to blame. It was the school--they should've recognized that Cho was a mass murderer. It was the administrators--they should've notified the students earlier of the first shootings. It was the victims--they should've rushed Cho. I think part of balance, part of living life, is the realization that there are things that will happen--awful, terrible things--and the only thing we have control over is how we respond to them.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 09:24 AM

Posted by: pittypat | April 18, 2007 10:57 AM

workingmomx: Times are different. When I was in graduate school and was TA stat 101, I was amazed at the attendance requirement. But the universities point was CYA. Now a days if little Johnny or Suzie fails stat 101 it must be the schools fault. The school did not make them attend class, do homework or study. It was a definite CYA requirement. You know what, even though the rules were spelled out clearly and the students had to sign a statement saying they understood the rules, at least 10 kids failed each semester due purely from attendance. And at least 3 parents complained post fact.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 10:58 AM

RE: seizures

Freshman year in college I went to a friend's room to pick up a book. Her roommate, after opening the door and letting me in, had a seizure. It involved her eyes rolling back, not being able to talk, spinning in circles, knocking things over and arms and leggs being thrown every which way. Having no clue what to do, I got her to sit down and put a pillow on her lap so she could grasp something. As soon as she could talk again I got the hell out of there.

Afterward she did talk to me and explain that she had epilepsy and asked exactly what happened so that she could report back to her doc. Yes, having the information was great, but I didn't feel comfortable being alone with her ever again. Maybe it was b/c I was 18, but still, the bruises I got convinced me to stay away.

Posted by: fed worker | April 18, 2007 10:58 AM

My husband and I turned in our own child (his child, my stepchild) to authorities because of concerns of violence against others. He was being treated for depression and impulsive behavior and had been seeing both a psychiatrist and psychologist for several years (from fifth grade) because of problems with anger and depression. He had failed seventh grade once and was set to fail it again (in spite of a high IQ and standardized test score that put him in the 90th percentile and higher in most academic areas). When he got his third quarter report card with a string of F's he said that what he wanted to do was to kill all of his teachers.

While we strongly suspected that this was his sick idea of a joke and that he wouldn't or couldn't follow through on this threat, we still took it seriously. We notified the school and got him to his psychiatrist immediately. The school suspended him for two weeks and would only let him return when they had documentation from his psychiatrist that he was not a threat. His psychologist wanted him committed to a residential treatment program but our insurance company refused to pay for this.

He didn't hurt anyone, either then or later, but I never regretted notifiying the school of this threat and would do so again in a heartbeat if I ever had concerns about violence. You always take these things seriously because how awful would you feel if what you thought was a joke wasn't?

We found out about a year after that incident that he hadn't been taking his medication. My husband would hand it to him with a glass of water and would stay with him while he swallowed the pill, but it turns out he was just shifting it to the back of his mouth under his tongue and then spitting it out in his room and hiding it under a corner of the carpet under his bed. Why??? I still want to know that. Why was being rebellious and angry better to him than just swallowing the pill? I know he wasn't entirely rational and that depression eats you up to the point where you think nothing can help, but this still makes no sense to me.

And that's the quesion I have about Cho as well. It sounds like lots of people tried to help him. According to the media briefing I just watched he had even been committed for evaluation and treatment for a short time in 2005. Why didn't *he* want to get help for himself by following up with this treatment?

Posted by: Sarah | April 18, 2007 11:00 AM

If we followed your advice, there wouldn't be very many college students left.

Posted by: To John L | April 18, 2007 11:01 AM

Did anybody notice he got a speeding ticket 2 weeks ago? Strained relationship with his parents, no friends, nobody to borrow money from, no social skils to get a temp job, no way to even go to day labor site and earn a hundred dollars.
And now he has to go to court. And to jail, with his inability to make a judge sympatetic. Better death. And if one has to die, one can at least make a statement...

This is a system with positive feedback which accelerates itself into a red zone and blows up.

What!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:01 AM

isn't there some student sueing harvard because she was expelled due to being bi-polar? i don't have the story straight, i'm sure.

Posted by: quark | April 18, 2007 11:02 AM

Fed Worker, what you witnessed was not epilepsy, but demonic posession. THAT is why you were so uncomfortable. Your friend's roommate was obviously a witch opening portals to non-elite dimensions.

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 11:02 AM

workingmomx: when i was in college at a semester abroad, there were some british students there as well - they didn't understand the classes (in french) so they would go every once in a while, but mostly not go at all and they said it didn't matter at all. our teachers were very surprised to find out that our grades *did* matter to future employers, etc.

And we rarely had requirements for attendign class when i was in school - but when i taught undergrads, they would sometimes have their PARENTS call the head of the dept!!! So i would not be surprised at all if things are changing slightly on college campuses re: requirements...

altho - with 500 kids in a lecture, it's difficult to have an attendance requirement...

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 11:04 AM

"what does your son do that concerns you about the school system's actions?"

Let's see...

I was asked to pick him up on field day last year because he got wet during an activity and rolled in the dirt.

Then there was the bathroom incident that though he wasn't the culprit, there was some involvement. He was made to help the custodian out cleaning up the mess, which to him was a priveledge, not a punishment.

In fact, he is somewhat immune to punishment. For instance there is this reward system where the students get a green stick for being good, unfortunatly, his favorite color is red...

He's active, which means to some teachers - disruptive.

Then there was this time when he broke off the prongs of the plastic fork, put it between his fingers and showed the vice principal that this could be used as a weapon. That got him a lunch date the next day with her. She's pretty too.

The list goes on and on... Nothing violent though, so far so good.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 18, 2007 11:05 AM

Chris

"Fed Worker, what you witnessed was not epilepsy, but demonic posession"

Who You Gonna Call?
The Exorcist!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:05 AM

Why didn't *he* want to get help for himself by following up with this treatment?

Posted by: Sarah | April 18, 2007 11:00 AM


That can be one of the symptoms of mental illnesses. At best a circle, sometimes a never ending downward spiral.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:06 AM

Mdmother, I feel for you. Have you ever thought of divorcing him?

Posted by: MV | April 18, 2007 11:07 AM

altho - with 500 kids in a lecture, it's difficult to have an attendance requirement...

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 11:04 AM
Now, the kids are asked to electronically sign in. The signatures that don't match are sent to the department head. Obviously matching signatures are also flagged. When I went, they had to swipe their card. Of course you could have your friend swipe your card for you and sign your name on paper. But I was still surprised how many did not do that. In the lab class, I could count the missing desks and check the sign in sheet by row. It was pretty cleared if someone signed you in.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 11:09 AM

Fo4, he should get a job with TSA. That fork thing is perceptive. Most people don't think outside the box like that. Encourage it. He could make lots of money in security. ;-)

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 11:09 AM

MD Mother, be careful if you do want to divorce him. A friend is in a similar situation (bipolar husband) and is faced with sharing custody of her children with someone she feels is unhinged OR paying spousal support for a very, very long time which would bring her to the brink financially. My thoughts are with you. I hope you find the strength you need to deal with this situation.

Posted by: Anon for this post | April 18, 2007 11:10 AM

Father of 4, I think that if you are already worried that one of your children may be flagged by such a program, that this is an indication of a problem. Get your child tested and decide what to do once you get the results.

Posted by: MV | April 18, 2007 11:12 AM

MDMother-You know your one of my blog favorites. I hope they find the right meds for your husband. I would listend to 11:10. Divorce seems more scary then living with your husband.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 11:12 AM

"Maybe Leslie was sill suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome, which contributed to her fears...."

Is this suppossed to be funny or serious? Because it sure as hell isn't funny. What is wrong with you people?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:24 AM

http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=nation_world&id=5220508

'In the fall of 2005, Lucinda Roy, co-director of Virginia Tech's creative writing program, was alerted by Cho's poetry professor that Cho's poems were disturbingly angry and violent.
Roy reached out to Cho and became alarmed herself. "I've been teaching for 22 years, and there've only been a couple of times when I thought that this is a really, really worrying thing," Roy says today. "And this was one of them."

Roy removed Cho from class and tutored him, occasionally fearing for her own safety. "I was hoping that by taking him out of the classroom... I'd help maybe to avoid something that could be catastrophic," she says. "I kept saying to him, 'Please go to counseling. I will take you over to counseling myself,' because he was so depressed... but apparently I was told you can't force someone to go to counseling. Even though I called counseling trying to get everyone to force him to go over, their hands were tied."

Eventually his behavior and disturbing writings prompted her to contact authorities.

"The threats seemed to be underneath the surface. They were not explicit," she recalled. "And that was the difficulty that the police had. I would go to the police and to the counselors and to student affairs and everywhere else, and they would say, 'There's nothing explicit here. He's not actually saying he's going to kill someone.' And my argument was he seemed so disturbed anyway that we needed to do something about this." '

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 11:25 AM

A free society cannot afford financially or morally to lock up or expel from school every person who only implicitly seems like a threat.

Posted by: To John L | April 18, 2007 11:29 AM

"Maybe Leslie was sill suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome, which contributed to her fears...."

Is this suppossed to be funny or serious? Because it sure as hell isn't funny. What is wrong with you people?"

It is a fact that Leslie's first husband beat her.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:30 AM

It is a fact that Leslie's first husband beat her.


Posted by: | April 18, 2007 11:30 AM

How do you know this? If this is true, then Leslie's reaction is completely understood.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 11:31 AM

It is a fact that Leslie's first husband beat her.

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 11:30 AM


No one deserves to be abused. I'm glad she got away from him

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:31 AM

Why have so many focused on epilepsy? All the blog entry says is "medical condition." It also sounds like what one of my friends, who is diabetic, describes as "going hypo." She has seizures and is verbally aggressive--but she's also blacked out at the time, so she's not aware of it while it's happening.

There are lots of things that many of us don't know at 27 or 37 or any age at all. Should we be beaten up for that? Awareness is much greater on many subjects today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and no doubt that will continue to be true as time passes. It would be nice to see a little more compassion all around.

At any rate, I've intervened by calling the authorities several times in the past few years--apparent drunk drivers (certainly they were erratic and hazardous), people fighting, etc. One time I called the police because I found a small girl (she turned out to be 6, but looked 4) walking up and down the street by herself. It turned out that her mother and stepfather had gone out and left her at home alone, and she decided to go outside and see if she could find them.

Posted by: Kate | April 18, 2007 11:39 AM

Father of 4, I think that if you are already worried that one of your children may be flagged by such a program, that this is an indication of a problem. Get your child tested and decide what to do once you get the results.

Posted by: MV | April 18, 2007 11:12 AM

Yes. And thank goodness he's in a school where a discussion of weaponry gets him a "lunch date" instead of a suspension. But he also sounds like he has a creative side and is smart.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | April 18, 2007 11:39 AM

Father of 4

Is this the son that hits you a lot first and then you hit back "Cause he started it and I am going to end it"?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:42 AM

*Warning--too long!*

Actually, I stick with him because that way the kids are protected. If I divorce him, the odds are very very "good" that I will have to let my kids be alone with him 50% of the time.

But thanks for asking!

We tried separating, it was a very bad thing for the kids. He was worse when he actually had to be a parent to the kids, rather than saddling me with the responsibilities.

(You see, if I'm responsible, then I'm to blame if things go wrong. Sadly, he doesn't see fit to give me even a little credit when things go well. I tend to give the kids credit, they're the ones doing the learning. See male-pattern baldness, above!)

Unfortunately, it's not simply a matter of finding the right meds, it's his taking them AND doing the hard work to change his behaviour. That's the sticking point (see borderline personality disorder).

It's just been a particularly rough week. I'm going to slink away now.

If anyone here DOES happen to know someone who has a child, or a spouse, with a pernicious disorder, give them a call. We can use it, you know?

Also go donate blood. That also gets you out of spring cleaning!

Here's something particularly long, but it seems that Officer K., maybe Kate, may get a wry chuckle out of it:

The real deal!
The Other Half - Spouses of Bipolar Sufferers
Spouses of bipolar sufferers often are the caretakers and care givers of the relationship. They are expected to hold everything together when emotional hurricanes hit their families. They hang on in spite of everything that is flying around them just waiting for the calm. Many people close to them expect them to be strong and almost heroically brave, when characteristically SELFISHLY they too have weaknesses and fears. So many people in their community are rightly focused on the well-being of the bipolar person that they forget about the family, particularly the spouse. It can be very difficult to be the other half of a partnership in which someone is chronically ill. The spouse feels like all he/she ever does is put up and put out and that they never get anything back in return. It can be emotionally and physically draining when your spouse is continually the one that is the focus of your combined attention. The spouse often is forced not to acknowledge his/her own needs and wants because their attention is so completely funneled to their partner. They may long for someone they can confide in; someone to listen to their concerns--get a therapist, not an affair partner.

As the spouse of a bipolar sufferer you will be called upon to do things you never thought you would ever have to do. You feel the ups and downs almost as painfully as they do. But never forget, you are not nearly as special as they are, you are going to be held responsible for everything, they are not. You are the one expected to be strong, take care of matters at hand, and then desperately try to steer your household back from the brink. You are someone to be admired; you deserve admiration. Don't expect to get it. Don't expect respect either, it won't be forthcoming.
Some Coping Techniques for Spouses of Bipolar Sufferers
• Find your own therapist; you may need a professional to help guide you through the hard times; someone trustworthy to confide in.
• Find time for yourself with such things as hobbies, walks, jogging, sports and writing. Sometimes it helps to vent a bit of frustrated energy; you can go for a vigorous walk and clear your head.
• If you have family spend time with them, if you are permitted to do so.
• Have a good cry once in a while; you don't always have to be the strong one, but never do it in front of your spouse. This will upset them and that will lead to unpleasantness, and it will be your fault.
• Try not to take unpleasantness personally. It is not your fault that your spouse is depressed. They may be emotional powder kegs ready to blow at any moment; irritable beyond belief, cruel; even spiteful. You must remember that most of the time it is the illness talking, not them. But always take them seriously. Their words always matter, they count, it IS your fault if you feel badly after they say cruel things to you. Your feelings are your responsibility!
• Learn to relax if you don't have to be on guard, but always be on your guard.
• Don't argue with your spouse when they are in a deep depression or manic. It is of no use. They will not be able to see your point of view and it will just cause more tension for everyone.
• Don't have expectations of someone in poor mental health. You are setting yourself up for disappointment.
• Do not turn to drugs or alcohol to take away your pain and frustrations. You need to be strong for you and PARTICULARLY FOR your spouse's welfare.
• Don't blame everything on yourself; that is not fair and they will do it for you anyway.
• Tell them you love them. Ignore the contradiction that what they say is to never affect you negatively, only positively, but your words and behaviors are to always be focused upon their welfare. Get used to it. This is the rest of your life.
• They are permitted to say anything they wish to you, but you are to NEVER take unpleasantness personally. It is not your fault that your spouse is depressed or suicidal for that matter. They may be emotional powder kegs ready to blow at any moment; irritable beyond belief, vindictive; even spiteful. YOU must remember that it MAY be the illness talking, not them. Learn the difference. They can't or won't.

The following too:

Tips for Helping People who have Schizophrenia (a LOT of this applies to Bipolar Disorder too!)

By Rex Dickens or the NAMI Sibling and Adult Children Network.


1. You cannot cure a mental disorder for a family member.

2. Despite your efforts, symptoms may get worse, or may improve.

3. If you feel much resentment, you are giving too much.


4. It is as hard for the individual to accept the disorder as it is for other family members.

5. Acceptance of the disorder by all concerned may be helpful, but not necessary.

6. A delusion will not go away by reasoning and therefore needs no discussion.

7. You may learn something about yourself as you learn about a family member's mental disorder.

8. Separate the person from the disorder. Love the person, even if you hate the disorder.

9. Separate medication side effects from the disorder/person.

10. It is not OK for you to be neglected. You have needs & wants too.

11. Your chances of getting mental illness as a sibling or adult child of someone with NBD are 10-14%. If you are older than 30, they are negligible for schizophrenia.

12. Your children's chances are approximately 2-4%, compared to the general population of 1%.

13. The illness of a family member is nothing to be ashamed of. Reality is that you may encounter discrimination from an apprehensive public.

14. No one is to blame.

15. Don't forget your sense of humor.

16. It may be necessary to renegotiate your emotional relationship.

17. It may be necessary to revise your expectations.

18. Success for each individual may be different.

19. Acknowledge the remarkable courage your family member may show dealing with a mental disorder.

20.Your family member is entitled to his own life journey, as you are.

21. Survival-oriented response is often to shut down your emotional life. Resist this.

22. Inability to talk about feelings may leave you stuck or frozen.

23. The family relationships may be in disarray in the confusion around the mental disorder.

24. Generally, those closest in sibling order and gender become emotionally enmeshed, while those further out become estranged.

25. Grief issues for siblings are about what you had and lost. For adult children the issues are about what you never had.

26. After denial, sadness, and anger comes acceptance. The addition of understanding yields compassion.

27. The mental illnesses, like other diseases, are a part of the varied fabric of life.

28. Shed neurotic suffering and embrace real suffering.

29. The mental illnesses are not on a continuum with mental health. Mental illness is a biological brain disease.

30. It is absurd to believe you may correct a physical illness such as diabetes, the schizophrenias, or manic-depression with talk, although addressing social complications may be helpful.

31. Symptoms may change over time while the underlying disorder remains.

32. The disorder may be periodic, with times of improvement and deterioration, independent of your hopes or actions.

33. You should request the diagnosis and its explanation from professionals.

34. Schizophrenia may be a class of disorders rather than a single disorder.

35. Identical diagnoses does not mean identical causes, courses, or symptoms.

36. Strange behavior is symptom of the disorder. Don't take it personally.

37. You have a right to assure your personal safety.

38. Don't shoulder the whole responsibility for your mentally disordered relative.

39. You are not a paid professional case worker. Work with them about your concerns.

Maintain your role as the sibling, child, or parent of the individual. Don't change your role.

40. Mental health professionals, family members, & the disordered all have ups and downs when dealing with a mental disorder.

41. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes made.

42. Mental health professionals have varied degrees of competence.

43. If you can't care for yourself, you can't care for another.

44. You may eventually forgive your member for having MI.

45. The needs of the ill person do not necessarily always come first.

46. It is important to have boundaries and set clear limits.

47. Most modern researchers favor a genetic, biochemical (perhaps interuteral), or viral basis. Each individual case may be one, a combination, or none of the above.

Genetic predisposition may result from a varied single gene or a combination.

48. Learn more about mental disorders. Read some of our recommended books like Surviving Schizophrenia: A Family Manual by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey and Overcoming Depression by Dr. Demitris Papolos and J. Papolos.

49. From Surviving Schizophrenia: "Schizophrenia randomly selects personality types, and families should remember that persons who were lazy, manipulative, or narcisstic before they got sick are likely to remain so as schizophrenic." And, "As a general rule, I believe that most persons with schizophrenia do better living somewhere other than home. If a person does live at home, two things are essential--solitude and structure." And, "In general, treat the ill family member with dignity as a person, albeit with a brain disease." And, "Make communication brief, concise, clear and unambiguous."

50. It may be therapeutic to you to help others if you cannot help your family member.

51. Recognizing that a person has limited capabilities should not mean that you expect nothing of them.

52. Don't be afraid to ask your family member if he is thinking about hurting himself.

A suicide rate of 10% is based on it happening to real people. Your own relative could be one. Discuss it to avoid it.

53. Mental disorders affect more than the afflicted.

54. Your conflicted relationship may spill over into your relationships with others. You may unconsciously reenact the conflicted relationship.

55. It is natural to experience a cauldron of emotions such as grief, guilt, fear, anger, sadness, hurt, confusion, etc. You, not the ill member, are responsible for your own feelings.

56. Eventually you may see the silver lining in the storm clouds: increased awareness, sensitivity, receptivity, compassion, maturity and become less judgmental, self-centered.

57. Allow family members to maintain denial of the illness if they need it. Seek out others whom you can talk to.

58. You are not alone. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others in a support group is helpful and enlightening for many.

59. The mental disorder of a family member is an emotional trauma for you. You pay a price if you do not receive support and help.

60. Support AMI/FAMI and the search for a cure!


Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 11:44 AM

To MDMother, Yes it was long but excellent. One thing frustrating is that family members of the ill person can be blamed by others for his/her illness and even ostracized by the "well" community. It's a tough row to hoe.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:53 AM

I'm curious if there is a difference between the sexes regarding being scared of someone who has been violent. Even with a medical explanation, hopefully resumed treatment, and education about whatever the problem really was, I would be wary of a potentially violent co-worker. I'm a woman and have had the college dorm rape prevention lecture, know most of the signs of a potential abuser, am aware of my surroundings when alone and try to listen to my gut. All the things that women are told to stay safe. Do men get told these too? I wonder about the people who are dismissive of Leslie's fears for herself and others. Are there any sex differences on this issue?

Posted by: Mostly Lurker | April 18, 2007 11:54 AM

That should be, One thing frustrating is that family members of the ill person can be UNJUSTLY blamed by others

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:54 AM

Leslie might have had a little PTSD following an absuive marriage, which might have made her more sensitive than the average person to disruptive behavior like she described.

Posted by: To Mostly Lurker | April 18, 2007 11:57 AM

O"ne thing frustrating is that family members of the ill person can be blamed by others for his/her illness and even ostracized by the "well" community. It's a tough row to hoe."

Good point about the "well" community.
You might even lose your security clearance at work.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 11:57 AM

I think that Leslie had a proper concern for her safety.

Posted by: Fred | April 18, 2007 09:50 AM

"I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future."-Leslie

Fred - I have to disagree, being worried about being hurt from someone missing their medicine is a little irrational. I don't know where it was mentioned that the gentleman was an epileptic, but diabetics are very irrational and physically disruptive when their blood sugar gets low. My husband deals with irrational and out of control people everyday, some turn out to have medical (not mental) conditions. Who knows what was wrong with this man, but I think being scared of working late because of this chance incident is strange. She sounded unsympathetic to the man's condition - whatever it was.

When I work late I am more worried about walking into the parking lot alone. I think the chance of being jumped in a dark parking lot out weighs the chance of being hurt by a co-worker, working late, without his meds who is having a violent fit.

Posted by: cmac | April 18, 2007 11:58 AM

Check out the series on ABC called Basic Insticts:

http://www.abcnews.go.com/Primetime/

Very interesting stuff. The show ran experiments to see if and when people would intervene in different situations. Says a lot about how willing we are as a society to help others.

Posted by: SF | April 18, 2007 11:59 AM

Another book recommendation, "Predators" by Anna Salter, Ph.D.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 18, 2007 12:01 PM

"Regardless, if you continually hate what Leslie has to say and how she says it, why do you keep reading?"


It's better than most of the other dreck on the Net.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:03 PM

You know, I'm surprised Leslie posts at all anymore, with everyone bashing her so much. Yes, I've done my share, but I don't think she deserves it today. I think she's raising an interesting question: was there ever anything anyone could have done?

Other posters have pointed out, eloquently, that A) all of the warning flags only make sense after the fact, and B) many people exhibit these signs, but only a rare few actually harm themselves or others. For example, I've had issues with SAD, OCD, anorexia, and very low self-esteem, and while I'm not an introvert, sometimes I can be anti-social (I have to force myself to say hello to my roommate, who I like very much, because I don't like to talk as soon as I get in the door; I don't like being hugged or touched except by BF or my mom), but I'd never hurt another soul on the planet. I can't even imagine doing so. I think the majority of people with mental issues are like me: they keep them subdued with diet, exercise, hobbies, and whatever else they like that keeps them sane.

We're all a little crazy. Trying to figure out who will go on a rampage is just a crapshoot.

There are a few red flags, though, that should never be ignored: torture of small animals or children, domestic abuse (if it happens once, it WILL happen again), and recurring substance abuse (e.g., you can't be a social drinker if you're in AA).

The only times I've had to blow a whistle were when I saw a dog in a parked car and when I saw a woman violently spanking her child.

Posted by: Mona | April 18, 2007 12:04 PM

Why kids don't take their medication? Why Tow Sawyer did not take the medicine his aunt gave him and feed it to the cat instaed? Based on the cat's reaction it was a stimulant, smth like today's Ritalin. Why I did not take the pils my grandmother tried to give me when I was eight, more than 30 years ago? No, I did not kill anybody, and never have been in therapy. Grandma's lame attempt to fix my behaviour taught me to stay away from mental health professionals. They take drugging the kids so lightly. A friend of mine, a psychologist, was amazed that I was prescribed such a powerful medication (Trioxazine, still remember that!) back then.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:05 PM

I've read the first one, just found the second one.

Anyone else read it yet?

The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling (Paperback)
by Jeanne Safer (Author)

I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help! Helping the Seriously Mentally Ill Accept Treatment - Xavier Amador with Anna-Lisa Johanson

Posted by: MdMother--more books! | April 18, 2007 12:06 PM

"Regardless, if you continually hate what Leslie has to say and how she says it, why do you keep reading?"

Because most of the chatters are interesting.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:07 PM

I think people are being mean to Leslie today!

Her post highlights the gray area we all deal with when identifying the mentally ill. Whether someone is sensitive to the difficulties of being mentally ill (or having a loved one who is) or not, the truth is that SOME (some, not all) are dangerous to themselves and others.

Posted by: Seattle | April 18, 2007 12:07 PM

the truth is that SOME (some, not all) are dangerous to themselves and others.

Posted by: Seattle | April 18, 2007 12:07 PM


No, only a very tiny fraction of a fraction are dangerous.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:08 PM

To Mona - Hear Hear!

Having dealt with my own shyness, I hear you and approve :)

The only time I've had to raise a red flag was with a college roomate's boyfriend. He was extremely volatile and controlling - turned out he was taking steroids.

Drug abuse, not mental illness.

Posted by: Seattle | April 18, 2007 12:13 PM

It is completely true that only a fraction are dangerous.

My question is how can we protect ourselves from dangerous situations without stigmatizing an entire group of people.

Borderline personality disorder can be dangerous and it is considered a personality disorder which psychiatrists don't treat with meds. Which further highlights that there is a gray area here.

Posted by: Seattle | April 18, 2007 12:16 PM

My question is how can we protect ourselves from dangerous situations without stigmatizing an entire group of people.

You have framed the questioned perfectly.

Posted by: To Seattle. | April 18, 2007 12:21 PM

If your older brother graduated from Princeton, and you are only accepted to VT, and you think your parents threat you like dirt, how would you feel? Don't forget, it's a different culture, none of this PC stuff.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:27 PM

"My question is how can we protect ourselves from dangerous situations without stigmatizing an entire group of people."

My question is how do I get out of this loveless, sexless, soul-sucking marriage that I am trapped in by my religion because I took vows that said in "sickness and in health"?

It's been ALL worse and worse, sicker and sicker, and poorer and poorer for years and years.

Posted by: TC | April 18, 2007 12:28 PM

Of course you can get a divorce. You just can't remarry in your church. Or you could change religion.

Posted by: To TC | April 18, 2007 12:31 PM

If your older brother graduated from Princeton, and you are only accepted to VT, and you think your parents threat you like dirt, how would you feel? Don't forget, it's a different culture, none of this PC stuff.

Are you saying it is the parent's fault or society? Who?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 12:32 PM

If your older brother graduated from Princeton, and you are only accepted to VT

I knew this was an elitist blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:34 PM

Oh dear, TC, now I'm worried. "TC" are my husband's initials....

Posted by: Seattle | April 18, 2007 12:34 PM

12:27, good point. We're forgetting that his parents were dirt-poor immigrants, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap types who made a good living for themselves. Sister graduated from Princeton, and he probably just felt like an f'd up kid next to them all. Korean (and other Asian) immigrants are very hardcore and demanding of their children. They don't accept excuses, even when the excuses are very valid. In the face of a mental illness, they'd probably tell you to suck it up and get your work done. I don't mean to talk trash about Asian communities, especially because this attitude is generally one I admire, but I think in this case the tough love did more harm than good. And I know not every Asian family is like this, but I've seen it in every one I've known, and I've known a lot. BF is 100% Japanese, but 4th generation, and his family is pretty Americanized (he calls himself a Twinkie, even). But I still see the attitude in his family. There's a fine line between being too harsh and being too soft on your children. In general, I believe the strictness of many Asian households lends to their great success and work ethic, but in some cases, it can be very damaging.

That said, I hope I don't come off as blaming the parents. I don't think any of us could have seen this coming. In light of all we know now, all of us are thinking, "someone should have done something." But the information was scattered between roommates, teachers, neighbors, classmates, and mild acquaintances. It's not like they collaborated before the fact to compare notes like they are doing now.

Posted by: Mona | April 18, 2007 12:36 PM

His mother was giving him a hard time for not embracing her strict religion.

Posted by: To KLB | April 18, 2007 12:36 PM

If your older brother graduated from Princeton, and you are only accepted to VT, and you think your parents threat you like dirt, how would you feel? Don't forget, it's a different culture, none of this PC stuff.

Who gives a Sh**. None of those reasons is an excuse.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:37 PM

Some sources say that the anti-depressants were found on his body. Recent findings about certain antidepressants are that people taking them, especially teenagers and young males are more prone to violence and more likely to commit suicide. The way it works is that without treatment if a person is depressed, he usually doesn't have enough will to act on his thoughts, so he is brooding and suffering passively. When he takes antidepressant drugs, that barrier to action is removed, but the dark thoughts are still there, so some kids get up and hurt themselves or others. That's why antidepressant should be never prescribed w/o therapy, because we want synchronicity between the progress in reshaping the patient's picture of the world and his ability to act on his thoughts. Unfortunately, your GP or family doctor is perfectly capable of prescribing antidepressants.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:37 PM

"Unfortunately, your GP or family doctor is perfectly capable of prescribing antidepressants."

Don't you mean they are legally able to prescribe but should not? Sayint they are capable may give the erronious impression that it is appropriate (which it should not be).

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 12:39 PM

MdMother, thanks for your long post - I agree that it is excellent. Mental illness is a tough issue for me - I, like so many others, have family members with some pretty serious issues. What I struggle with, and what was brought up briefly earlier, is what to teach my son about dealing w/ "off" people. Our natural instinct is always to protect our kids from a billion what-ifs, but I don't want to tell my son to just "stay away from" people he might think are weird - I am thinking more in terms of his peers at the moment, since I wouldn't hesitate to tell him (or order him) to stay away from strange adults. But if we want to talk about how to prevent these things, am I foolish to hope/believe that compassion and friendship DO help? To wonder if kids' kindness and tolerance of eachother NOW while they are young impacts their self-worth later?

Posted by: TakomaMom | April 18, 2007 12:42 PM

Speaking from personal experience - Yes, kindness now will be remembered and appreciated in the future.

I was pretty sick in HS and college with an unseen medical condition that wasn't diagnosed until much later. Doctors went back and forth on whether or not it was mental or physical....

Long story made short, I've never forgotten who was kind to me and who wasn't during that time. The kindness, thankfully, overshadowed the few bad experiences I had.

Posted by: Seattle | April 18, 2007 12:48 PM

Well...one of my kids is in MS, and there is a child in the chorus who is a little off-kilter and possibly over-faced. At the same time, he sings out loudly in chorus--not always on-key, but it's a BRAVE person who is willing to sing in public! I'm proud and happy to say that this child of mine has made a point of talking with this child (despite the fact that he's in a lower grade), and has intervened when others were picking on the boy at lunch time. Fortunately that only happened once or twice.

More recently though, a classmate has gone online, posting as my kid and writing the most awful, vile, horrible things. I told my kid to go to the school counselor with that information. You see, the kid can't be doing it at the hours posted, as we do not have internet access at home (yet). And this stuff was disturbing.

I don't know where it will end up. I've basically advised the kid to trust to instinct. It's one thing to be social and civil, it never hurts to be polite to others and respectful; but if you get a bad vibe, pay heed.

I don't know of anyone who goes to the ER saying, "I'm SO glad I didn't listen to the little voice in my head that was indicating all was not well..!"

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 12:51 PM

"We're all a little crazy. Trying to figure out who will go on a rampage is just a crapshoot."

Mona,

I think you're absolutely right.

The one thing about Cho that might have been followed up on -- and, tragically, wasn't -- was his strange inclination to photograph other students in class.

While this isn't the oddest behavior he exhibited, it was the one thing for which he could have been suspended from attending classes: disruptiveness.

Stalking (which he allegedly did) can be hard to prove, and his bizarre writings were -- at the time -- not predictive enough of planned action to warrant intervention. However, disrupting the business of a classroom -- even by just silently taking photographs -- is actual behavior for which someone could reasonably be dismissed.

As far as I can see, though, that's the only thing the authorities could have acted on before the horrible events.

Posted by: pittypat | April 18, 2007 12:52 PM

"The human condition: insidious prejudice, stultifying fear of the unknown, contagious avoidance, beguiling distortion of reality, awesomely selective perception, stupefying self-deception, profane rationalization, massive avoidance of truth -all marvles of evolution's selection of the fittest." Halcolm

Posted by: hmm | April 18, 2007 12:54 PM

"If your older brother graduated from Princeton, and you are only accepted to VT, and you think your parents threat you like dirt, how would you feel? Don't forget, it's a different culture, none of this PC stuff."

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 12:27 PM

It was his older SISTER.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 12:58 PM

It's not an excuse, it's an attempt of an explanation. Trying to model what other people feel and think is sometimes like a cat modeling a dog. One person will say "who gives a sh*t", another one will hang himself over a D on a test. There was one professor who cared. If more people cared, things might have turned out differently. Look how in the book "Overachievers" one kid, AP Frank, thought that the only way to set himself free was to work real hard (and got his thumb broken by his mother when she caught him distracted from his book), get to Harvard, and eventually recover, while his younger brother rebelled, went to CPS and moved into a foster family.
I don't even blame the parents. They just used the parenting methods out of context. Maybe in more traditional culture a kid would have had support of the extended family and lived in more regimented environment, so the dangerous tendencies would never be realized. However, a clash of cultures happened. Seems like he was in his own way reaching out to this culture (he did not go into engineering after all, he was an English major), but had no skills. A high school probably had high percentage of Asians, so he had some connections, and his problems were not so visible. Again, it was more stuctured environment, living at home.

Posted by: 12:27 | April 18, 2007 12:59 PM

"The human condition: insidious prejudice, stultifying fear of the unknown, contagious avoidance, beguiling distortion of reality, awesomely selective perception, stupefying self-deception, profane rationalization, massive avoidance of truth -all marvles of"... God's creation?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 1:00 PM

Since someone wondered about where they were giving out medical licenses, I thought I would say that I happen to have one. And even with one, I'm with Leslie on the side of being aware of threats to your safety. I have taken care of any number of patients who become unintentionally violent--hypoglycemic diabetics, older patients with severe delirium--and although I understand that it is not their fault, I'm not shy about calling for security or the appropriate medication when one starts taking swings at me or the staff. Being alone at night with someone behaving irrationally could be terrifying for anyone.
Compassionately understanding that someone's erratic and irrational behavior is due to a medical problem is little consolation after you've been injured by them.

Also BTW, the argument against requiring students to get 'mandatory' counseling is that the school may decide someone needs counseling when they (and other people!) feel they really don't. Yes, denial is a classic symptom of mental illness, but not everything that alarms a school official is in fact a symptom of mental illness. Imagine what would happen if your elementary school passed a rule that if your child's teacher had concerns, your child would be required to go to therapy and take meds or be expelled--regardless of what you thought about it, and before your child had actually misbehaved!

Now try that with a legal adult.

Posted by: Baltimore | April 18, 2007 1:00 PM

I was very quiet and didn't make many friends in college. I was learning how to be a person (having really had no help from my family in learning that) and be social, etc. (I think my dad has a borderline personality disorder - but it's hard to prove, and anyway, he doesn't 'believe' in therapy/mental illness - and he says: hey, that's who I am -digression: hey, if you're a serial murderer, we have to learn to deal with it? We can't try to get help...?)
Anyway, I rarely had friends to hang out with, to go out with, etc, but I eventually found my way around life. I guess one could have called me a loner (doubtful one would say that about me now) and I suppose one could have thought that I was depressed (probably was). But I certainly was in no danger of hurting anyone else or myself (at that time). You just never know.

Posted by: anon for this | April 18, 2007 1:00 PM

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/17/eveningnews/main2696236.shtml

"The emerging portrait of Cho Seung-Hui -- the quiet loner whose writing sent out alarms -- is one that fits a Secret Service profile of the typical school shooter.

In a study done after the Columbine massacre, the Secret Service studied 37 school shootings to learn the patterns of the school-aged assassins, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports.

Most school attacks, the report said, come from loners with some kind of grievance. "Many attackers felt bullied" or persecuted by others, the study concluded. "More than half had revenge as a motive." "

...

"Cho's sense of persecution -- "you made me do this," he wrote -- fits the pattern. So does his methodical planning: the way he chained the doors of Norris Hall.

The authors of the Secret Service report told Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes some attackers plan for more than two weeks and then look forward to the assault. "

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 1:05 PM

aren't we making a lot of assumptions about the shooter's family with little foundation in fact? all we know right now is that his family is korean and emigrated here. also, I think NPR said his mom wanted him to go to church more often (or something similar).
otherwise, speculation about the pressure his parents allegedly put on him is just that - speculation.

Posted by: pd | April 18, 2007 1:06 PM

It's not an excuse, it's an attempt of an explanation.

There isn't one and trying to make him a victim is an insult to the real victims.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 1:09 PM

not everything that alarms a school official is in fact a symptom of mental illness. Imagine what would happen if your elementary school passed a rule that if your child's teacher had concerns, your child would be required to go to therapy and take meds or be expelled--regardless of what you thought about it, and before your child had actually misbehaved!

Now try that with a legal adult.

Posted by: Baltimore | April 18, 2007 01:00 PM


It bears repeating.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 1:11 PM

Actually, that was me that asked where they were passing out the medical licenses. I don't know why it said "to" in the box. I thought I had posted my moniker.

As I don't have any cookies to offer (except to my agility dog), who is going to take me up on my offer of a free-pass on spring cleaning in exchange for donating blood?

That, at least, is tangible help for many people. Particularly today--does anyone know if that wiped out the supply of available blood in our area? I know that some days, it's not a day's worth of blood that is banked, it's a few hour's worth.

THAT is scary too.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 18, 2007 1:13 PM

How many people fit the profile but never go on a shooting spree? You would have us lock up tens of millions of odd but harmless people to create a safe state.

Posted by: To John L | April 18, 2007 1:16 PM

I think my dad has a borderline personality disorder - but it's hard to prove, and anyway, he doesn't 'believe' in therapy/mental illness - and he says: hey, that's who I am -digression: hey, if you're a serial murderer, we have to learn to deal with it? We can't try to get help...?)

Anon for Today: try this site. www.bpd411.org

Posted by: MdM | April 18, 2007 1:16 PM

The authors of the Secret Service report told Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes some attackers plan for more than two weeks and then look forward to the assault. "

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 01:05 PM


Obviously we need a Stasi here, to report on everyone.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 1:17 PM

Can someone post a link that talks about his religious parents? I don't see that in the article that I am reading. Just because his sister went to Princeton, doesn't mean that the parents were hard on him for going to a non ivy leagues school. I knew plenty of friends who had siblings at better or worse schools. Parents treated them the same. I am also Asian and I don't think all Asians are that hard on their kids academically. Most second generation Asians that I know understand that some kids do not have the potential that other children may have.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 18, 2007 1:18 PM

SF, that show sounds interesting. This experiment is applicable to the question someone raised about the two sexes reacting differently to danger.

I have offered help to people numerous times. In about half of the situations, I was rebuffed in one way or another. One time, I stopped for a priest on the side of the road. Another time, I gave a drunk guy a ride home from a bar. Both times my husband and brother chastised me for weeks on end, telling me that I could've been killed. It never crossed my mind.

So now I think twice about helping people, especially men and especially men who are bigger than me.

Posted by: Meesh | April 18, 2007 1:19 PM

MdM, your comment makes me glad I donated a couple of weeks ago. I have had many problems donating blood over the past several years (I was 25 before I weighed enough to do it, and had anemia as well), but a few weeks ago I was healthy enough to do it. Bet your a** I'm going to do it again at the end of May, when I'm eligible, body willing.

If you can donate, DO IT!

Posted by: Mona | April 18, 2007 1:20 PM

"I think my dad has a borderline personality disorder - but it's hard to prove, and anyway, he doesn't 'believe' in therapy/mental illness - and he says: hey, that's who I am"

Posted by: Suri Cruise | April 18, 2007 1:21 PM

"So now I think twice about helping people"

Reminds me of the time I held the door for a guy I thought was a guest of my neighbor, after which he promptly mugged me at gunpoint. Had I not held the door for him, he'd still have mugged me, but I felt like such a jacka** for months afterward.

Posted by: Mona | April 18, 2007 1:22 PM

I'm ashamed to say I never reported the guy that attacked me in a bar. He violently grabbed me, slammed me against a wall, tried to kiss me etc, and would have dragged me outside into an alley if I had not fought back. I did fight him off, and then a friend arrived and the attacker backed down. The bouncer in the bar did nothing--I still don't know why because I never complained to authorities about it.

Why didn't I report him? Because the attacker was a friend of friends. He was older than me and well liked by most of the people I knew. I told one person and he did not believe me, and I was terrified that if I told others, I would lose all my friends.

Fifteen years later, none of those people are my friends any more anyway, and I am haunted by the thought that this jerk might have hurt other people who weren't as capable of defending themselves. I'm proud I was able to fight him off but that wasn't enough. If this ever happens again I hope I can do better.

Posted by: worker bee | April 18, 2007 1:25 PM

Meesh - What was the priest doing on the side of the road? Hitchhiking? I'd be a little skeptical too.

Posted by: cmac | April 18, 2007 1:27 PM

I have contacted authorities when I see children alone in a car in a parking lot. I have contacted authorities when I see toddlers wandering around the mall without supervision.

I used to stop to help out motorists, until I heard that is a ploy by some criminals to get you to stop and then they beat you up and rob you. I used to help old ladies cross the street until I was reprimanded by old ladies who deemed it impertinent to assume they could not take care of themselves.

Now I just wait for someone to ask for help first. Otherwise, all you should do is contact the authorities and hope they will take care of the matter.

Posted by: Working Dad | April 18, 2007 1:29 PM

What was the priest doing on the side of the road?

He wanted to get to the other side of the road? (Rim-shot)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 1:32 PM

I don't believe I advocated locking up anyone; I am pointing out that Cho needed help, the warning signs were there, and for whatever reason he didn't get it until it was way, way too late.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 1:33 PM

No, what you advocate verges on police-state snooping and correlating. People have a right to privacy under a lot more conditions than you're willing to allow.

Posted by: To John L | April 18, 2007 1:37 PM

What was the priest doing on the side of the road?

He wanted to get to the other side of the road? (Rim-shot)

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 01:32 PM

I was waiting for that!

Posted by: cmac | April 18, 2007 1:44 PM

Meesh, I'm with you! As for what the priest was doing on a side of the road, I'm sure he explained it to Meesh, and it made a great story. A woman blew her tire on my street, and I hang out with her for a while to make sure she was OK, and brought out a cup of hot tea. I guess it so not typical that she returned a couple weeks later and brought a box of cookies. And on Christmas we found a used but cute tricycle just the right size for our son. Neighbors did not admit any of them did it, so maybe the same lady. Or somebody else we helped. In case somebody imagines stalking -- that was 4 years ago, we are still alive.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 1:46 PM

I never felt safe working late again -- and I didn't know what to do to make sure he didn't hurt himself or someone else in the future.
___________

I think this sentence suffers from the use of a dash. I'm not sure Leslie meant to connect these two statements in the way that some interpreted them. Only she can clarify that.

I took them as addressing two issues:
1) Wow--what if the man's apparent violence hadn't been the result of a medical condition? What if someone working in this large office building has a psychotic episode when I'm working late with few others in the building? She described him as an older executive, not a co-worker. She may not have known him beyond a brief introduction, if at all.

2) As she was not privy to the medical details of his seizure condition, she hoped it wouldn't happen again. The security team led her to believe it had happened before. It sounds like HR dropped the ball on this one. They should have worked with the security department to effectively communicate with the staff in an appropriate manner, both to mitigate unfounded staff fears and to educate the staff as to the appropriate response if the man were to have a seizure again.

Posted by: Marian | April 18, 2007 1:49 PM

"Cho needed help, the warning signs were there, and for whatever reason he didn't get it until it was way, way too late."

John L. --

Most of the warning signs were not such that legal intervention could be justified. Attempts were made to persuade him that he needed help, but adults cannot be compelled to enter treatment -- or even get counseling -- unless they've committed a crime. In view of this tragedy, that may seem wrong, but it's the same law that protects all of us from being "mishandled" by the state.

As I mentioned earlier, the one thing Cho could probably have been suspended or dismissed for was the disruption he caused in classes where he photographed students. Unless, of course, he ceased doing it upon the instructor's request.

College campuses -- especially state ones -- are pretty much open to public comings and goings, and they should be. We can't eliminate threats to our society by taking prophylactic measures to prevent the unthinkable occurring anywhere and everywhere.

That is simply impossible.

Posted by: pittypat | April 18, 2007 1:52 PM

Mona, when you wrote that you weren't able to give blood until 25, it made me laugh.

I've given blood since I was 14 and just moved to NC. In NC, they have a procedure where they take twice the amount of blood in a single sitting. They give you fluids intravenously (sp?) and everything. I asked if I could do it and they said I had to weigh 180 pounds.

That is probably the only time I'll ever be told that I don't weigh enough!

Posted by: Meesh | April 18, 2007 1:57 PM

I strongly recommend Gavin deBecker's books, "Protecting the Gift" and "The Gift of Fear." Absolutely essential for keeping yourself and your children safe. In a nutshell, it involves tuning into your inner voice, your inner alarm system. When you sense something is wrong, it is, and don't just rationalize it or suppress the urge to do something about it because it's awkward socially to do so.

Good for you Leslie for taking a stand and making sure this child didn't continue to hurt the children in school. DeBecker actually talks at length about how terrible schools are at protecting the children from bullies etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 1:57 PM

"Cho needed help, the warning signs were there, and for whatever reason he didn't get it until it was way, way too late."

John L. --

Not to be nitpicky (well, yes) - he didn't get help at all. It is now too late.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 1:58 PM

Gun Control Issue

Latest studies show there is a correlation between low IQ, incidence of incest, and gun toters.

Posted by: Sam | April 18, 2007 2:01 PM

Oh, the priest's van was broken down on the side of the road. I stopped to offer my cell phone, but he said he had one and had already called the tow truck. So I left. My brother said that he could have just been a guy wearing a disguise to lure people to him. It's possible. But I would have stopped for anyone.

Posted by: Meesh | April 18, 2007 2:02 PM

I don't know if anyone has commented about this as don't have time to read all the comments, but I have to note that the episode Leslie described in no way shape or form sounds like epilepsy. Typically with a seizure, like an earlier poster mentioned, the person will lose consciousness and fall to the floor if they are not already there. There is then a post-ictal stage following the seizure, which means that for a period of time the person is unconscious, incapable of responding, and may lose control of bladder control. The description makes me wonder more about a hypoglycemic episode, but certainly not a seizure.

Posted by: MOMD | April 18, 2007 2:03 PM

I gave a ride to a man in a blizzard. I figured no self-respecting mugger/rapist would be out in that kind of weather. The guy was truly grateful as he was walking to the store to get medicine for a sick wife. I was even going to the same store and was able to give him a ride home.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 2:05 PM

It does sound as if we may have made it too difficult to force someone with mental illness to get the degree of help he/she may need.

I'm usually an ACLU kind of gal (not on every issue, and I'm not a card-carrying member ;-)). Certainly, there is a serious dark side to our country's history of treating mental illness. The reforms of the late 60s and 70s were very necessary.

It seems to me that there is a better way between Titicut Follies and not being able to do a better job of protecting the public from violent psychotics though. While the vast majority of mentally ill persons do not pose a threat to others, the few who do have the potential to do terrible damage. I haven't checked the stats, but my understanding is that their own family members are most at risk for violence. It seems the rights of the families of the psychotically ill to be safe take a back seat to the rights of the patient.

Posted by: Marian | April 18, 2007 2:06 PM

Meesh - I was thinking a lone priest wandering on the side of the road, and yes, imagined a disguise. Probably paranoia. Standing next to a broken down van sounds a little more approachable.

Posted by: cmac | April 18, 2007 2:13 PM

Perhaps if our society was more open to accepting mental illness as "normal" illness more people would feel comfortable dealing with their illness and not have to hide it. So many people that I know live and work every day with bi-polar disorder, depression, panic disorder and other mental illnesses and they are good parents, workers, spouses and children but because of the stigma, they have to live with their illness in secret for fear of being considered "crazy".

Posted by: Marie | April 18, 2007 2:26 PM

So many people that I know live and work every day with bi-polar disorder, depression, panic disorder and other mental illnesses and they are good parents, workers, spouses and children but because of the stigma, they have to live with their illness in secret for fear of being considered "crazy".

Maybe these people need to buck up and stop being mired down in their own cr*p. Ever think of that?

Posted by: W? | April 18, 2007 2:28 PM

To John L:
It wouldn't do any good to expel him. He could still come back and go on a shooting rampage -- in fact, expulsion might trigger someone to do that.
The only solution is to:
1) HELP people
2) not let us get guns so easily.

Posted by: Diane, Baltimore | April 18, 2007 2:33 PM

I'm pressed for time today, but I wanted to say that a situation arose with a scary student in my daughter's classroom (in 3rd grade), and it was handled with great speed and attentiveness.

In this case it was a boy in my daughter's 6-kid working group in class. Her group was 4 girls, this boy, and his good friend, another boy; all worked at the same table in a gifted-certified classroom (most of the kids involved are in the gifted program). The first I heard was a call from the principal, who said that there would soon be a disciplinary hearing concerning a student who had made threats, and that my daughter had been a witness and given a written statement to be used at the hearing. He said another student had overheard and reported the threats and that he was informing me because my daughter had been peripherally involved and had submitted a statement.

I questioned my daughter about it. Her main concern was that the other student had listened in to their table and told on this boy to the principal, getting their table in trouble (now, really, no one was in trouble but this boy, but my daughter absolutely hates to bring problems to adult attention, hates any attention for any reason that might seem in the least negative, she has a visceral aversion to complaining/ tattletaling/asking for help, we'll probably be working on this til she reaches adulthood). She was quite upset this boy had been eavesdropping, and had told, and caused this big mess, and she felt the threats had been just stupid, unimportant, the kind of stuff this kid always says and everyone knows "oh, that's just Y, that's the way he is, he never really means it, it's not like he'd *do* it". All well and good, but when she told me the threats, they took my breath away. The one the boy overheard and told the principal about was this child telling all the kids in his working group (*my child* included) that he would draw targets on their foreheads with magic marker, and come back with his crossbow to shoot them all. Apparently there were earlier threats involving hammers, etc. And the girls at the table never said anything to any adult, they just rolled their eyes and shrugged it off as just another annoying boy, trying to disrupt things and get attention. I'm not sure of the right response to such threats, but I doubt rolling your eyes, pointedly ignoring and belittling the threat-maker as just a pain, an obnoxious boy, is it!

I called the principal to make sure he had the information my daughter had told me (extracting it from her was not easy, she was extremely reticent about it), and knew how serious the threats were. I made sure the teacher knew my reasons for feeling that if this child (suspended awaiting the hearing) returned, that the working group as it currently was could not be relied on to report or monitor his behavior.

It turns out this child was attending our school as an in-county transfer, not in our elementary district, so his attending the school was a privilege, not a right. And that privilege was revoked at his hearing; he was sent back to his local school.

My biggest feelings were relief, that a threat to my child and her classmates was removed. I must admit, I really felt relieved that this kid was only 9yo and lived far from school, making him very unlikely to be able to transport himself back into the school to take revenge for his expulsion in a violent spree. I certainly felt potential for violence.

However, I was a sad for him --- he was a gifted black student, really exceptionally good at math (he excelled on the Math tournament team I coached) and attending our school was a great opportunity for him to really develop his talents, an opportunity likely lost at his home school. I felt like the school was able to easily cast him off when he was no longer easy or an asset. He certainly needed someone capable to be getting him help. However, I'm also glad that his needs weren't allowed to compromise the safety of my daughter's class.

I don't really know what happened to him since, his situation in his new school.

Posted by: KB | April 18, 2007 2:35 PM

It's not an excuse, it's an attempt of an explanation. Trying to model what other people feel and think is...

Empathy.

And yes, the pendulum has swung where protecting a patient's right to privacy has superseded keeping the safety of their family in mind.

Not that I'm bitter or anything, mind you!

Worker Bee, I know it's a decade+ too late, but Lundy Bancroft's book, "Why Does He DO That?" is an EXCELLENT read. Particularly if you find yourself close to someone who is in an abusive situation. It's usually best to sidle up to the subject rather than berating the person who is sticking with the relationship.

You know how often a pay-off is needed for someone to stick with an unpleasant situation? 30% of the time. And if the rewards get progressively smaller and meaner over time, they generally stay with the same thing anyway. It's the frog in the pot situation. You don't dump it into a pot of boiling water, you raise the temperature (decrease the pay-off; minimize the value of the pay-off) over time. (This is why so many people stay in abusive situations--it's not awful ALL THE TIME, sometimes it is even really pleasant, but if you were to keep track of when/how you get a "reward", you'd see the diminishment happening.)

Keep that in mind the next time you are playing the slots, folks.

I really need to shut up now. I feel as though I've said too much, and I don't know that it is all that helpful.

Except for donating blood. Attagirls Mona & Meesh.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | April 18, 2007 2:37 PM

Perhaps if our society was more open to accepting mental illness

Mental illness IS also real illness. As others have already noted, it afflicts not only the patient but also the family, as well as friends, coworkers and community. Why does our society not recognize, and allow for, treatment of mental illness too? Of course 45 million American workers have no health insurance even for "physical" illness, so what else could we expect?

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 2:38 PM

KB

How long would your post have been if you weren't "pressed for time"?

Posted by: Larry | April 18, 2007 2:39 PM

Why does our society not recognize, and allow for, treatment of mental illness too?

There is parity for mental health along with physical health issues.

But as you note, if you are without health insurance at all, it's moot.

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 2:39 PM

Maybe these people need to buck up and stop being mired down in their own cr*p. Ever think of that?

Posted by: W? | April 18, 2007 02:28 PM


We can only imagine what your cure for cancer must be.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 2:42 PM

Maybe these people need to buck up and stop being mired down in their own cr*p. Ever think of that?

Posted by: W? | April 18, 2007 02:28 PM


We can only imagine what your cure for cancer must be.

Maybe this person is a Scientologist, or a Christian Scientist? In which case it isn't cancer, it's impure thoughts or something?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 2:44 PM

"There is parity for mental health along with physical health issues"

No, there isn't.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 2:44 PM

Gov. Kaine Orders Investigative Review of Response to School Shootings

Alison Kiss, Program Director, Security on Campus Inc.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007; 2:00 PM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2007/04/18/DI2007041801375.html

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 2:45 PM

"How long would your post have been if you weren't "pressed for time"?"

Well, Larry, guess you haven't heard the old Mark Twain line: "If I'd had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter."

Story of my life.

Posted by: Laura | April 18, 2007 2:48 PM

Maybe KB copied and pasted, with minor but appropriate modifications, a prior email to a relative or friend about the incident.

Posted by: To Larry | April 18, 2007 2:49 PM

There really is nothing anyone can do IMO. Given the legal protections and the reality of life, these timebombs are unpreventable. A free man with the motive, committment and means is unstoppable. They kill presidents with the best security in the world. Sad but true. 32 people dead by a loner with two handguns?Can anyone imagine what a well trained, heavily armed AL-QAEDA death squad could do to a mall or a school? It takes your breath away.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 2:58 PM

I had a reputation in HS for being a good person to talk to if you were in real trouble.

I helped two girls report sexual abuse -- one by her biological father (who was a cop, for heaven's sake) and the other by her stepdad.

I called an ambulance when a friend called me to say "good-bye" after he OD'd. Met the ambulance at his house and found his mom downstairs smoking pot, oblivious that her son was dying upstairs.

My daughter was recently the victim of a bully at school. This nine-year-old boy actually threatened to bring a gun to school and shoot her. He detailed where he wanted to shoot her. Several students overheard the threat and reported it. The boy was suspended for two days. I felt kind of bad about his punishment, actually. He'd had a crush on DD and was crushed when his affections weren't returned. I was pretty sure it was just tough talk, but schools don't take chances these days.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | April 18, 2007 3:00 PM

"However, I was a sad for him --- he was a gifted black student, really exceptionally good at math (he excelled on the Math tournament team I coached) and attending our school was a great opportunity for him to really develop his talents, an opportunity likely lost at his home school. I felt like the school was able to easily cast him off when he was no longer easy or an asset. He certainly needed someone capable to be getting him help"

This plays out like white liberal guilt to me. He was not an asset, he was a scary kid who happened to be black.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 3:02 PM

Whoops! I reread my post, and I meant that I have been giving blood since I was 17, not 14. I'm pretty sure that's the youngest you can be to donate.

Posted by: Meesh | April 18, 2007 3:02 PM

Gun Control Issue
Latest studies show there is a correlation between low IQ, incidence of incest, and gun toters.

Is there also a correlation between, rich, self absorbed parents and spoiled, lonely children?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:05 PM

Cho is no mo.

Posted by: FinalWord | April 18, 2007 3:05 PM

Flip the bird
At FinalWord

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:07 PM

Boortz (www.boortz.com - neal's nuze) is reporting that a univ professor who has studies this indicates that the *more* gun control there is, the *more* of these shooting spree incidents he has seen.

Just the facts...

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 3:07 PM

KB, your daughter and her friends were more mature than all the adults involved. They could understand how scary it would be for an only minority student in a new school, even if it was supposed to be a privilege. Maybe where he grew up jokes like these were accepted. Maybe he was just trying to be tough when he was scared. Dumping him back where he supposedly fits better will definitely improve his social skills and teach him kindness, right?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:08 PM

Boortz (www.boortz.com - neal's nuze) is reporting that a univ professor who has studies this indicates that the *more* gun control there is, the *more* of these shooting spree incidents he has seen.

Just the facts...

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 03:07 PM


O boy, more guns on campus. In the hands of drunken students, depressed students, immature students.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:11 PM

"Boortz (www.boortz.com - neal's nuze) is reporting that a univ professor who has studies this indicates that the *more* gun control there is, the *more* of these shooting spree incidents he has seen.

Just the facts..."

Ok, so how come we don't see this in Australia, Italy, France, Japan and other countries?


Posted by: MV | April 18, 2007 3:12 PM

"KB, your daughter and her friends were more mature than all the adults involved. They could understand how scary it would be for an only minority student in a new school, even if it was supposed to be a privilege"

Guess Cho could argue this too huh? NEVER give nutcases a chance to harm your children. Want to shoot other students,etc? Get the hell out of here. Safety first and always.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 3:13 PM

The prof wasn't ONLY talking about campuses - he was talking about ALL situations.

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 3:15 PM

Ok, so how come we don't see this in Australia, Italy, France, Japan and other countries?

Maybe they are happy because they are not under the rule of King George. Happy people don't shoot people.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:19 PM

KB, your daughter and her friends were more mature than all the adults involved. They could understand how scary it would be for an only minority student in a new school, even if it was supposed to be a privilege. Maybe where he grew up jokes like these were accepted. Maybe he was just trying to be tough when he was scared. Dumping him back where he supposedly fits better will definitely improve his social skills and teach him kindness, right?

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 03:08 PM
__________________________________

This is preposterous - death threats should be excused because the student involved was feeling uncomfortable about fitting in? You can argue about whether returning him to his local school immediately was appropriate (I think it was), but all threats of physical violence, especially those that are repeated and detailed, need to be taken seriously and addressed. It's absurd to write them off as "Oh, that's just the way he is."

Posted by: Come on! | April 18, 2007 3:23 PM


Just to clarify, my being pressed for time is more an apology in advance for not being able to tend to much back and forth response. As suggested I have shared the story in previous email, and I also tend to edit myself to be concise only with concerted effort, my quickest writing is long, just letting things spew out.

But on the racial issues -- our school is probably more like 25% black, and significantly higher in the fraction of black teachers and administrators. Many of the administrators involved in the hearing were themselves black, so hardly afflicted by 'white liberal guilt' (My county school system itself is majority black). I was only saying that I was sorry he lost what was a rare opportunity (out-of-district parents go to extremes to place their kids in our school), and he was likely returning to a much less privileged school with fewer resources to help him, both academically and with his behavioral issues. Certainly his behavior is in no way typical of the other black students at my kids' school, who are for the most part - just like the white kids - great and well-behaved kids, and high achievers.

Posted by: KB | April 18, 2007 3:23 PM

"The prof wasn't ONLY talking about campuses - he was talking about ALL situations."

Altmom, regardless of the location, the question still stands. Incidentally, the PM of Australia talked about the decrease in gun violence in Australia after he helped enact tougher gun control.

Posted by: MV | April 18, 2007 3:25 PM

MV: It does make sense to me that, if you are a gun wielding criminal, you would be less likely to do something if you weren't sure whether or not others had guns. If you were SURE they didn't - you would be MORE likely to start doing criminal activity.

I don't think it has anything to do with being 'happy.'

I would never carry a gun or have one in my house though. But if there were ever a problem, I could just call my neighbor who has many guns in his house, as he goes hunting often ;)

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 3:29 PM

I lucked out then, because I have great health insurance for my family.

What the Parity Law Says
The federal Mental Health Parity Act is limited in scope. It does not compel employers to offer mental health coverage; it only requires that the dollar limits on such coverage be equal to dollar limits on medical benefits if mental health coverage is offered. In addition, the Parity Act does not impose any conditions on deductibles, copayments, limits on days of hospitalization or office visits, or require coverage for substance abuse. Thus, it gives employers and insurers many options for responding to the law, including dropping mental health benefits completely. In addition, the law exempts a plan if application would increase total medical costs for the plan by 1 percent or more. It also exempts small employers (those with 50 or fewer employees). State parity laws are often much stronger than the federal legislation but do not apply to self-insured employers.

Posted by: MdMother | April 18, 2007 3:29 PM

"this child telling all the kids in his working group (*my child* included) that he would draw targets on their foreheads with magic marker, and come back with his crossbow to shoot them all. Apparently there were earlier threats involving hammers, etc"

Still white liberal guilt to me, threatens your child like this and you worry about his "opportunities".

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 3:29 PM

I hope that the boy in KB's story will be provided with some serious HELP in his local school district. I am guessing that his local district has fewer resources to do that. It's not fair to shuttle him off to possibly harm other students or teachers without addressing the underlying issue.

But make no mistake, though: without commenting on race or economic status, the school where he was attending had no choice but to act to prevent him from potentially harming the other students.

Posted by: daily lurker sometime poster | April 18, 2007 3:31 PM

I work for a university and the biggest problem is that, legally, we can't help people unless they want to be helped. We had a student with an eating disorder and her friends would come to my office, crying, asking why we wouldn't help her. The extent of what we are allowed to do is reach out to the person and ask, (not require), them to talk to someone. In my experience, they say they are fine and we have to let it go. It's incredibly frustrating.

Posted by: anon | April 18, 2007 3:31 PM

"A free society cannot afford financially or morally to lock up or expel from school every person who only implicitly seems like a threat.

Posted by: To John L | April 18, 2007 11:29 AM"

I agree with this. However, it seems that in this case there was a fair amount of concern that this person needed help. Considering that the professor took steps to tutor him one on one and encouraged him to go to counseling. I don't think anyone is recommending that we 'expel from school every person who only implicitly seems like a threat.' I do think it is reasonable to expel from school someone who has been referred to counseling but refuses to go. If the mental health counselors determine that the person is not a danger, then they shouldn't be expelled even if they discontinue counselling.

Posted by: anon | April 18, 2007 3:33 PM

anon is right.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:33 PM

anon was right about the first post. But expelling someone who has been referred to counseling but refuses to go is illegal. Any school that tries that can count on a lawsuit.

Posted by: Regular but anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:37 PM

Your comment regarding an former epileptic co-worker is insensitive at best (deranged, disturbed, tales of dark, unanswered questions. - are you kidding me?!). Your lack of understanding when you were 27 should not be an excuse for perpetuating prejudices today. Good grief - oh wait, fear mongering sells copy, right?

Posted by: Tom | April 18, 2007 3:42 PM

"I could continue with tales of dark, unanswered questions. A neighbor who seemed to get overly frustrated with his child. An angry co-worker who talked too often about target shooting on weekends. A high school friend who mentioned leaving her eight year old at home on Saturday night when she went out. I think we've all had these red flag moments -- and wondered what to do in this strange interpersonal no-man's land. " -LESLIE

Umm, I have decided to decline any invitations to hang out with Leslie, too dangerous apparently.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 3:42 PM

Then the law should be changed to give the schools that option; if after a screening it is determined that someone should get counseling, and does not, in my office that is grounds for dismissal.

It should be the same with universities too, IMO. They aren't obligated to keep students there; attendance is strictly voluntary.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 3:43 PM

But different than a job - the students are the ones with the money - who wants to anger them?

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 3:45 PM

And now for something completely tasteless:

"Roses are red
Violets are blue
I'm schizophrenic...


And so am I!"


Sorry, couldn't resist. ;-P

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 3:46 PM

Your comment regarding an former epileptic co-worker is insensitive at best (deranged, disturbed, tales of dark, unanswered questions. - are you kidding me?!). Your lack of understanding when you were 27 should not be an excuse for perpetuating prejudices today. Good grief - oh wait, fear mongering sells copy, right?'

Tom, as someone who has family members (and strangely enough a dog) with epilepsy, I understand your feelings but frankly, it CAN be unsettling for those not around them regularly.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 3:46 PM

"I do think it is reasonable to expel from school someone who has been referred to counseling but refuses to go."

Compelling someone to enter treatment as a condition for continued employment or attendance at college is a violation of the person's civil and privacy rights. You can't do that any more than you can force someone to treat their diabetes -- and deny them rights unless they do.

Many people have philosophical or religious opposition to mental health treatment. That's unfortunate, because it contributes to the whole stigma over mental health issues, but that's the way it is.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:46 PM

This has devolved into a wierd illogical reasoning match for some reason....why can't we just agree that there are certain actions that should get a student expelled from school (with a note on their permanent record explaining the expulsion so you can't transfer without informing the new school) - such actions could include: 1) bringing a weapon to school (as the loony kid in massachusetts did before stabbing a classmate, but no one removed him because he was special needs), 2) proven (not alleged) stalking of a classmate, 3)threats generally or specifically to carry out violent actions in an educational setting. Each of these would withstand legal action by the parents of a perpetrator because schools have considerable leeway to provide safe environments for their students and the rights of those students to a safe education outweigh those of someone to show up with a weapon and expect to be able to return to school, stalk someone and expect to be able to return to school, or explicitly verbally or through writing, threaten violence against someone and expect to be able to return to school. That isn't to say you expel kids with mental illness FOR their mental illness per say, but that ALL students, with or without disabilities are held to the same standard of contributing to a safe environment for learning and certain actions will make you leave that environment...

Posted by: The original just a thought | April 18, 2007 3:47 PM

Are you borrowing from the song "Twisted," which Annie Ross (among others) sang?

Posted by: To Chris | April 18, 2007 3:53 PM

KB, I think your post was quite thoughtful. It sounds like you took the necessary and reasonable actions to protect your daughter and her classmates; and your questions concerning what will happen to him now address the broader question of how to actually help the kid.

Getting a kid expelled, while it protects other kids in that school, doesn't do anything to keep that kid from threatening or injuring others or themselves in the future, and it seems to me that your questions address this point - how do we actually address the problem and not just shift the danger? Doesn't sound like guilt to me, it sounds like thinking about the broader issue.

Posted by: Megan | April 18, 2007 3:55 PM

Then the law should be changed to give the schools that option; if after a screening it is determined that someone should get counseling, and does not, in my office that is grounds for dismissal.

It should be the same with universities too, IMO. They aren't obligated to keep students there; attendance is strictly voluntary.

Posted by: John L | April 18, 2007 03:43 PM


You are advocating a fascist state.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 3:55 PM

No, he's not - a person willingly attends a university - not the same as a fascist state - has nothing to do with the state, actually, for the university to have certain policies (okay, sure, some universities are public some private, but still).

I'm not sure I agree with it, but it doesn't mean he's calling for the GOVT to do something, just for them to *allow* a private, separate entity to do something.

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 3:59 PM

Any efforts to impose what you advocate would be overturned or denied as unconstitutional.

Posted by: To atlmom and John L | April 18, 2007 4:02 PM

Among the freedoms we have is to mowed down by crazy people. The price for democracy and freedom.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 4:05 PM

That makes no sense - I as an owner of a business can decide to refuse the patronage of anyone who wants to use my services (or buy my goods) for just about any reason.

So I as a university should have certain standards upon which I hold my students. If one of them is a mandatory therapy session if certain criteria are met - how is that unconstitutional? How is that related to the govt at all?

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 4:08 PM

Mussolini made the trains run on time, but at a too high price.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:08 PM

Certainly, the consequences may be that students don't want to come to my school if the criteria don't make sense or something, but I still have the right. No one is forced to come to my (supposed) school.

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 4:09 PM

It has nothing to do with the govt forcing people to do anything.

Just as the Imus thing had NOTHING to do with free speech, because the govt was NOT INVOLVED. No govt entity was saying he couldn't say what he wants (of course, FCC not withstanding). So cries of free speech are naught (same with when citizens boo something they don't like - if it's not the govt squelching it, it's not a free speech issue).

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 4:10 PM

I work for a university and the biggest problem is that, legally, we can't help people unless they want to be helped.

Posted by: anon | April 18, 2007 03:31 PM


Well most college students are legal adults and this still is a free country.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:12 PM

That makes no sense - I as an owner of a business can decide to refuse the patronage of anyone who wants to use my services (or buy my goods) for just about any reason.

Only as long as your reason doesn't violate the Constitution or any law. E.g. you can refuse to serve anyone who's not a Pisces, but not if it's based on race, sex, religion, national origin or ethnicity, older age, disability, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:13 PM

That makes no sense - I as an owner of a business can decide to refuse the patronage of anyone who wants to use my services (or buy my goods) for just about any reason.

So I as a university should have certain standards upon which I hold my students. If one of them is a mandatory therapy session if certain criteria are met - how is that unconstitutional? How is that related to the govt at all?

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 04:08 PM

maybe because almost all colleges/univ accept fed funds (through fed grants and student loan programs)? If the person has mental health issues but has not made a specific threat/took action, I don't think a college/univ that accepted fed funds could do that.

yes? no?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:15 PM

So I as a university should have certain standards upon which I hold my students. If one of them is a mandatory therapy session if certain criteria are met - how is that unconstitutional? How is that related to the govt at all?

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 04:08 PM


Ask your lawyer.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:15 PM

Only as long as your reason doesn't violate the Constitution or any law. E.g. you can refuse to serve anyone who's not a Pisces, but not if it's based on race, sex, religion, national origin or ethnicity, older age, disability, etc.


By this logic, I could refuse to serve someone who's black and just say it's because I don't like the person.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:16 PM

By this logic, I could refuse to serve someone who's black and just say it's because I don't like the person.

No, just the opposite. You can't if it's race-based. If you were discriminating against all Pisces and one happened to be black, that would be different, but you'd have to be discriminating against Pisces of all races.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:18 PM

To anon at 416, you CAN do that as long as they can't prove it's because you don't like him BECAUSE he's black. For example, you can deny renting an apartment to someone of a certain ethnicity because you don't like them, but say that it's because they have bad credit - if they happen to have bad credit, then you're in luck, but if it is obvious that you are lying and just don't like people of a certain sex, race, ethnicity or religion, you're out of luck.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:19 PM

To those of you who want to change the law to allow forced counselling based on some "screening", what would the criteria be to meet this level of imposition into ones personal life?

Can't you see the ways in which this can be abused by those in power?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:23 PM

"Only as long as your reason doesn't violate the Constitution or any law. E.g. you can refuse to serve anyone who's not a Pisces, but not if it's based on race, sex, religion, national origin or ethnicity, older age, disability, etc."

A private business refusing service on those grounds might run afoul of federal or state civil rights laws; they would not run afoul of the federal Constitution because there is no government action. An act of government that is explicitly based on race, religion, or national origin/alienage would almost certainly violate the Constitution. An act of government that is explicitly based on gender might violate the constitution - there is a lower standard. I don't believe that old age or disability are protected classes under the Constitution.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 4:37 PM

the Constitution OR ANY LAW.

Posted by: To 4:37 | April 18, 2007 4:39 PM

----At 03:25, MV posted: "Incidentally, the PM of Australia talked about the decrease in gun violence in Australia after he helped enact tougher gun control."----

Nice spin by the PM.

(1) The violent crime rate in the US is half that in Australia or Canada, and less than a quarter that in England/Wales. Australia, Canada, and England all have very strict gun control laws.

This chart compares violent crime rates in England and Wales, the United States, Canada, and Australia, 1962-2004:

http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/cfi/cfi115.html

(2) This chart shows violent crime trends in Australia from 1993-2005. The rate of assault has increased by almost 50% during that time:

http://www.aic.gov.au/stats/crime/violence.html

(3) In the 2000 International Crime Victims Survey, Australia ranked #1 (out of 17 countries surveyed) for the highest rate of violent crime. England/Wales ranked #2. The US was not in the top 10.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/02/23/ncrim123.xml

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1184515.stm

http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/research_icvs.html

http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/tbp/tbp003.pdf

Yes, gun control makes citizens safer. Either that or it makes criminals bolder.

Posted by: MBA Mom | April 18, 2007 4:46 PM

testy testy. Less information is always better than more, is that what you think?

Posted by: to 4:39 | April 18, 2007 4:59 PM

After 5, and we're all still mostly civil? This must be a first!!

Posted by: Mona | April 18, 2007 5:03 PM

"the Constitution OR ANY LAW"

Ok. That was me at 4:37, I never said the original post was wrong, just adding more detail. Also, for anyone who is interested, the various laws prohibiting discrimination aren't necessarily categorical. So, for instance in the example someone gave about renting an apartment, I'm pretty sure that the federal Fair Housing Act only applies to buildings that have more than a certain number of units in them if they are also the owners' primary residence. So you could make a determination based on race if you were renting out the upstairs of a two-family that you owned and lived in, but not if you were the manager of a large apartment building.

Posted by: Megan | April 18, 2007 5:11 PM

"Sorry, couldn't resist. ;-P"

You should have.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:17 PM

"Among the freedoms we have is to mowed down by crazy people. The price for democracy and freedom.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 04:05 PM"

The price for slavish devotion to the outdated, anachronistic 2nd Amendment.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:21 PM

"If one of them is a mandatory therapy session if certain criteria are met - how is that unconstitutional? How is that related to the govt at all?"

Therapy is medical treatment. You cannot force anyone to undergo medical treatment. Further, the university is not in a position to decide if someone is ill or not.

When you start using therapy requirements in lieu of legal action (because the person hasn't done anything criminal, you just think he might), you start down the slippery slope that landed so many Soviet citizens in the gulag.

Posted by: pittypat | April 18, 2007 5:25 PM

"Among the freedoms we have is to mowed down by crazy people. The price for democracy and freedom.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 18, 2007 04:05 PM"

The price for slavish devotion to the outdated, anachronistic 2nd Amendment.

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 05:21 PM


I thought pATRICK was talking about the freedom not to be involuntarily committed for merely being odd.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:26 PM

The price for slavish devotion to the outdated, anachronistic 2nd Amendment.

Any others you think we should ignore? How about the 1st? Maybe the 4th?

If we as a country want to change it, there is a way you know.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:28 PM

When you start using therapy requirements in lieu of legal action (because the person hasn't done anything criminal, you just think he might), you start down the slippery slope that landed so many Soviet citizens in the gulag.

Posted by: pittypat | April 18, 2007 05:25 PM


It bears repeating.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:28 PM

Just wanted to post this again, because it is the best post of the day:

I think that part of the deep unease we have with situations like these is the unwanted realization that we can't stop it from happening again. As has been said already, 1000 people might meet the "spooky loner" description, and 999 of them will go on to not shoot up the school. We can try to head off these problems at the pass, but there is nothing we can do to fully prevent them. It's the natural rejection of the idea that awful things can happen at any time, and we are powerless to prevent them.

We're very, very uncomfortable with that concept. So, we search for someone, anyone to blame. It was the school--they should've recognized that Cho was a mass murderer. It was the administrators--they should've notified the students earlier of the first shootings. It was the victims--they should've rushed Cho. I think part of balance, part of living life, is the realization that there are things that will happen--awful, terrible things--and the only thing we have control over is how we respond to them.

Posted by: JS | April 18, 2007 09:24 AM

Sometimes freedom has a very steep price.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:32 PM

As has been said already, 1000 people might meet the "spooky loner" description, and 999 of them will go on to not shoot up the school.

John L. and atlmom would have them all forced into treatment against their will, and penalize them if they refuse, e.g by expelling them from school.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:36 PM

MSNBC: Sometime after he killed two people in a Virginia university dormitory but before he slaughtered 30 more in a classroom building Monday morning, Cho Seung-Hui mailed NBC News a rambling communication and videos about his grievances, the network said Wednesday.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 5:47 PM

To expand on the JS quotation:

Americans hate having to accept uncertainty and vulnerability. We don't have the capacity to accept that we're not in control of absolutely everything.

And, quite simply, we're not.

This time around, the perpetrator was someone found to have been clearly and unambiguously unstable. Someone from whom signals emanated like an aura.

But what about the guy who shot and killed all the Amish kids in the school? Wasn't he a milkman or something? Someone people had liked and appreciated?

How many atrocities have we heard about where, after the fact, people are saying, "He seemed like such a great guy!" or "She was a wonderful mother!"?

A stark and painful fact of adult life is that we cannot defend preemptively against horrors such as these. People are complex entities and can't just be screened for some kind of warning profile.

In criminology settings, it's a bit different. When you have violent felons who have already been convicted of crimes against persons, psychologists can predict with some certainty whether they're likely to offend again.

But with regular citizens -- folks who haven't broken the law and, hence, become subject to close legal and medical scrutiny -- it's just not reasonable to think that you can identify potential killers just because you "really don't want this to happen again."

We all have to learn to live with the uncertainty of a modern, technologically sophisticated world that, sadly, has given a few miserable beings the means to wreak the worst kind of havoc.

Posted by: pittypat | April 18, 2007 5:54 PM

Responding to Disruptive or Threatening Student Behavior: A Guide for Faculty

http://www.dos.vt.edu/images/FacultyGuide%20fall%2006.pdf
_____________________


It certainly seems that VA Tech did not take matters of distressed students lightly. I didn't read through the entire 20-page document, but it sounds as though the administration recognized the need to have as much of a system in place as possible to help mentally ill students within the laws regulating the recommendation of mental health treatment.

From what I've read so far, there were individual faculty members who cared a lot both about their students having a safe environment and about the welfare of Cho. The poet Nikki Giovanni asked Cho to either modify the content of his poetry or consider withdrawing from her class. Asking a student to withdraw is discussed in the faculty guide.

It's hard to say if the administration could have brought about an expulsion through the disciplinary measures outlined in the student conduct code. I wonder if universities will find a way to tighten those codes.

Maybe this is the most we can do within a free society. I don't know how we could formulate mandatory mental health treatment without opening the doors to great abuse. This certainly isn't my area of expertise. What sometimes can make it extremely difficult is that the onset of many types of mental illness comes in late adolescence into the 20s. It seems that for some parents of mentally ill young people, they are losing legal voice just when the problems are intensifying.

Posted by: Marian | April 18, 2007 6:26 PM

Does anyone know whether Cho had to be interviewed in person during the application process at VT?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 6:31 PM

I doubt a personal interview was required. Such a requirement is not readily apparent on the VT Admission Dept. website.

When I applied to another public university in Virginia 20-some (yikes!) years ago, a personal interview was not required. A student could request one if they felt it might make a difference to the admissions committee. I didn't see this option available to current VT applicants.

Posted by: Marian | April 18, 2007 6:38 PM

Does anyone know whether Cho had to be interviewed in person during the application process at VT?

Posted by: | April 18, 2007 06:31 PM

you are kidding, right? Tech received more than 17,500 applications for undergraduate admission in the fall, and offered admission to 12,500 students. No school that large requires admissions interviews, and few offer them on a voluntary basis either.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 7:30 PM

If you read the post I wrote above, I wrote:

I'm not sure I agree with it, but it doesn't mean he's calling for the GOVT to do something, just for them to *allow* a private, separate entity to do something.

I was just speculating that a requirement - not necessarily for everyone, would not be contrary to the constitution since it would be a POLICY not a LAW - since a university is not a government entity and CANNOT PASS A LAW.

If I owned a store or company or whatever, there are definitely certain times when I can discriminate and it would be illegal. It would also be unpopular, most probably, and my business would suffer if not enough people agreed with me (which would probably be the case). But I would certainly have the ability to have certain policies in my own business if i so chose.

All I'm saying is that the university could have a policy that would mandate therapy (one session?) for students that have been referred by a teacher. That would not be against the law.

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 8:32 PM

atlmom,
Why should college professors doing a referral be any different than a pre-college teacher? If they call CPS or the police it has to be investigated, I think by law (correct me if I am wrong).

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 8:34 PM

atlmom,
I agree with you if I didn't make myself clear (duh on me).

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 18, 2007 8:35 PM

Thanks, KLB. I was just trying to have a discussion - I didn't think that first amendment rights or second or whatever had much to do with it. I guess I sometimes let people who just don't read or care to get to me too much.
I'm not even sure I agree with this - but you hope that a university, that has been entrusted with our youth, could do something more than say: well, we tried and we're not allowed to do anything else.
It's been a tough couple of days, and I barely know anyone at VT (my coworker's brother is there and he is going to graduate in a few weeks - he knew at least one of the victims who died).
Definitely puts things into perspective being a parent. I could never imagine how a parent would deal with this. In the end, I suppose, it's not much much different with losing a child any other way - but somehow, maybe it is? Obviously, losing a child is horrible. I look at my innocent children and wonder if I'll ever be able to let them out of my sight - but I know that all of those parents were so hopeful of their children going to college, getting a fine education, etc. And then something senseless happens.

This is where my faith would come in, if I could get out of bed after something like this would happen.

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 9:20 PM

and, KLB - ya know, you might have more important things to do than to remember to put your thoughts in support of someone you don't know on a blog. Just sayin'

:)

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 9:21 PM

"It turns out this child was attending our school as an in-county transfer, not in our elementary district, so his attending the school was a privilege, not a right. And that privilege was revoked at his hearing; he was sent back to his local school."

Typical idiot response in the schools. Sure YOU may be happy, but what about some other kid? The schools play a shell game with problem kids all the time. It's pathetic.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:35 PM

All I'm saying is that the university could have a policy that would mandate therapy (one session?) for students that have been referred by a teacher. That would not be against the law.

Posted by: atlmom | April 18, 2007 08:32 PM


Oh yes it would be against the law. And a huge old lawsuit would be facing the school, you can count on it going all the way up to the Supreme Court, which would hold the the school, probably unanimously. You obviously don't know much about colleges from the faculty and administration side of running things. The students are almost all legal adults (18+), so have the same legal rights you do except for drinking if they're under 21.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:57 PM

Would hold FOR the school probably unanimously.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 9:59 PM

I'm working late at the lab! And I'm 28! Oh no!

Heh, just kidding...the lab door locks. :-) Sorry for the stupid comment...it's late and I think I'm funny, but I'm not.

Posted by: Mona | April 18, 2007 10:04 PM

Easy Mona. Step away from the keyboard...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2007 10:12 PM

"I was just speculating that a requirement - not necessarily for everyone, would not be contrary to the constitution since it would be a POLICY not a LAW - since a university is not a government entity and CANNOT PASS A LAW."

Hey Atlmom, in case you come back - probably you have better things to do though ;) - the definition of a government act is broader than passing a law, for the purposes of violating the constitution. And if the university is a public university, its actions may be considered "government actions." I'm not really a con law geek, so I can't be much more specific, but policies of state agencies and state actors (like public universities, police departments, etc) can definitely trigger constitutional concerns.

Posted by: Megan | April 18, 2007 10:51 PM

MdMom--

You need to be carefull with your generalizations about those with Bipolar Disorder. There is a range within the illness--some people are severely impaired and others are hardly, with meds. You are adding to the stigma of the illness. Your spouse may be severe, but not everyone with Bipolar is and your generalizations make it harder for them and their spouses to function without dealing with horrible stereotypes re mental illness.

Posted by: anon too | April 19, 2007 12:29 AM

Maybe Cho read this blog a week or so ago about the extravagant birthday parties you people throw for your kids. Renting a moonbounce! 40 kids invited! Hiring clowns and pony rides! Honestly! It digusts me and I'm a native-born American. No wonder the rest of the world hates us.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2007 8:59 AM

8:59: If we make you sick, why the he** are you reading this blog?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2007 10:50 AM

"We fear what we choose not to understand.

Posted by: Chris | April 18, 2007 10:02 AM"

What pseudo-intellectual garbage. Why has being afraid of something gotten such a bad rap in our society? I don't understand why someone would drink a case of beer and get behind the wheel of a car, nor am I interested in UNDERSTANDING that person's motivations for doing so...but I'm pretty sure I'd be just as afraid for myself and others whether I *understood* them or not. Sometimes we fear things BECAUSE we understand them, not because we don't.

Posted by: dcgirl1899 | April 19, 2007 3:18 PM

The divorce rate for couples where at least one spouse is bipolar is 90%. For comparison purposes, the general divorce rate is commonly held to be about half as much (around 50%), implying that this illness causes substantial additional burdens on married life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2007 12:57 PM

"As much as it's a biomedical condition, people with mental illnesses can't be let completely off the hook," says Dr. Karp, who himself has major depression. "Of course, we can't expect them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they're acutely ill, but during periods of wellness they owe it to their spouses to do whatever is in their power to help themselves."

This can be as simple as taking medications, working out regularly, or eating healthy. Without such actions, spouses can feel burned out if there's "no reciprocation of their efforts," Dr. Karp says.

Julie says it's easy for her to become "very selfish" when she's either manic or depressed. At one point, Daniel sat her down and told her, "I need you to pay attention to what's going on here." "It was a real wake-up call," she says. "It hurt at first to know I was hurting him, but it made me realize that I had a responsibility to him and our marriage, not just to myself."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2007 1:13 PM

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