Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hiding from warnings at VA Tech

Still in denial, major mental health organizations are rushing in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings to deny the increased risk of violence that can accompany the symptoms of untreated mental illness. If caregivers, law enforcement and university officials do not recognize - or are unwilling to acknowledge - the risks, how can we hold them accountable when tragedy strikes? Mental health advocates and officials who engage in this concerted effort to hide the truth about violence are actually contributing to the violence.

A more responsible and credible approach is to acknowledge the risks of violence. A recently published study offers an eerie prediction that might have helped prevent this and future tragedies had the mental health community sounded the alarm rather than hide their heads in the sand:

We found that the greatest risk of homicide being committed by people during psychotic illness was during the early phase of the illness, particularly the first episode. Many subjects had had contact with mental health services in the weeks before the offence, and many of the deaths might have been prevented if the dangerous symptoms had been identified and there had been assertive intervention. In addition to the devastating effect on the families of the victims, who were often also relatives of the perpetrators, the deaths resulted in great cost to the community in legal proceedings and secure hospitalisation.
Homicide during psychotic illness in New South Wales between 1993 and 2002

Labels: , , ,