The V.T. Tragedy and the Mental Health System
To the Editor:
I have been an expert witness many times, and therefore know that we commit a lot of people using the "incapacitated clause" provided in our legal system. We therefore commit a lot of people who probably were not going to be harmful to anyone. It is no wonder that a few people who are going to harm people get away because of the pendulum of guilt.
The problem is that in our system if you are poor you are forced to get treatment through state hospitals. Therefore many people who would not harm anyone are made second class citizens because of the present laws.
From a multi-axial viewpoint, Cho Sheng-Hui had a wide differential diagnoses. He could possibly have suffered from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disease , bipolar disease, a major depressive disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder disease. Who knows, as we did not interview him. I would guess that his Axis II is Asperger Syndrome. I have a different take on the tragedy at VT and how it relates to gun laws, as I expressed on my blog site:
Rethinking the Brady bill in light of the tragedy at VT
The question is who really is to blame? Why did this young man become so violent? I see a very troubled young man with very poor social skills. Reading his plays I would suspect some childhood abuse in his past. This young man had a very fragile ego to start with. I agree with a commentator on CNN that something busted his bubble. What was that?
This young man with a fragile ego suffered one upset after another. The first was the rejection by the two females. It was natural for him to follow up on the urging of his fellow classmates to become more social, which means girls in our society. He, however, had an extreme lack of social skills. Cho also had a lot of pride and pressure from his culture to "be someone." He therefore felt suicidal after the rejections and an encounter with the police. As a patient, he was then taken in for observation by the police and introduced to our mental health system with the entire stigma involved. This was too much.
I proposed that what caused the tragedy is our present trend towards a non-caring and greed-based society. The laws passed by congress over the last few administrations have been disastrous to freedom-loving people. Our kids see it and are acting out, hence the shootings in schools.
I ask, when did Cho's violent behavior start? When did he buy a gun? It started after he was introduced to the mental health system. This is because of the taboo that our society has for people diagnosed with a mental illness. A taboo created by the neo-caste system of our present system. I propose that the crisis was created by own callous system, which has strayed far away from the best intentions of our founding fathers.
Few see that what happened in Virginia is due to a general trend of hardheartedness pervasive in this country. Hardheartedness based on greed of those that run the press, big business and the government. Hardheartedness manifested in the Brady bill which gives no second chances. That assumes that a judicial system designed and run by men is so perfect that rights given by the constitution and the wisdom of our forefathers can be taken away permanently without even the seven-year forgiveness that past writers of the law tried to include — a forgiveness based on the bible.
As for the mental health system, psychiatry is a science which even many practitioners, which I am one, realize lacks validity. We may have consistent results in that you can get two psychiatrists to agree, but we lack validity in that there is usually no objective test that really determines whether a person is mentally ill. As is well documented, psychiatry is also known for its abuses.
In addition, what is the wisdom in using the civil case level of proof, as committing someone for mental reasons requires, counteracting the highest law, which the second amendment of the Constitution is part of. Civil court does not require that you prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. On this basis I think most of the gun control laws involving mentally ill should be unconstitutional.
It all comes to the definition of freedom. Freedom is being defined by those who have wealth and power as their freedom to do and take as they please. How dare we interfere with this? We must be punished for our insolence. The new wave of punishment will come from there exploitation of this present situation. Many will feel okay to remain acquiescent because they do not feel threatened. But injustice is like a cancer. Although it is growing quietly, only a fool does not fear that it will not latter metastasize to affect the whole organism.
My problem is not that there should be no gun control just that the existing laws are not a good balance between protecting the civil liberties of individuals and projecting the public. It is a fact that mentally ill people are not more prone to violence then those not mentally ill. The biggest predictor of violence is previous violence. I think thought controls action, so the actually the best predictor of violence is the level of malevolence. Cho's poetry teacher documented that he was "just mean," so Cho met this criteria.
The problem is you cannot judge the whole population by a few individuals. Anyway, to me there should be a special court procedure, that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt for judging people unable to bare arms. This should be separate from normal civil commitment. And there should always be a way out if the person regains their sanity. In addition, I also believe there should always be a statute of limitations where if the person has been released form prison or out of the hospital for seven years they would have their rights back. Or at the very least the seven year rule should apply to those who have been judged mentally unable to bare weapons without an appropriate level of proof, and prisoners as before.
I would like to expand on that thought. I will give you an analogy: in medicine there are several different kinds of shock. It could be cardiac, septic or hypo-volemic shock. In latter stages of all three the blood pressure falls drastically. In septic and cardiac shock the patient is actual has a fluid overload; only in hypo-volemic shock does the patient have a deficit in fluids. For cardiac shock you treat the cardiac problem and give diuretics to eliminate fluids, in septic shock you give antibiotics, only in hypo-volemic shock do you give fluids.
So you have three situations with the same symptoms each requiring different treatments. Let's consider the tragedy at VT as a body in shock. There would be three treatments based on what is the origin of the shock was. Given the present propensity of this society to make more punitive or punishing laws to fight crime, let's consider that solution an analogy to giving fluids. Treating the heart would be analagous to growing in empathy and understanding to treat the shock. Antibiotics would be used to fight parasites infecting the body. If you give fluids when the problem is in cardiac or septic shock you kill the patient. In analogy, making harsher laws when empathy, compassion or neutralizing parasites are needed, will kill the society.
Now the question becomes who are the parasites? Could the parasites be defined as those groups in society who take a lot more then they give? This is almost the definition of greedy. Who are the greedy in our society? Is it the poor welfare worker who has very little, the street person who has nothing, or maybe the convict who makes $2 a day pressing license plates? God forbid considering the super rich as the most deserving of that epitaph.
Michael Franklin, M.D.