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Lessons from Virginia Tech?

An interesting take on the mental health treatment approach used in response to the actions of Seung-Hui Cho on the Virginia Tech campus.

"The answer to vengeful, violent people is not more mental health screening or more potent mental health interventions. Reliance on the whole range of this system from counseling to involuntary treatment failed. There is not a shred of scientific evidence that locking people up against their will or otherwise 'treating' them reduces violence. As we'll see, quite the opposite is true.

So what was needed? Police intervention. Almost certainly, the police were hampered in taking appropriate actions by being encouraged to view Cho as a potential psychiatric patient rather than as a perpetrator. It's not politically correct to bring criminal charges against someone who is 'mentally ill' and it's not politically correct to prosecute him or to remove him from the campus. Yet that's what was needed to protect the students. Two known episodes of stalking, setting a fire, and his threatening behavior in class should have been more than enough for the university administration to bring charges against him and to send him off campus.

Police need to be encouraged and empowered to treat potentially dangerous people more as criminals than as patients. In particular, men stalking women should be handled as definitively as any perpetrator of hate crimes. Regardless of whether the victims want to press charges, the police should. Cho shouldn't have been allowed to get away with it a second time.

How would a police action have affected Cho? Would it have humiliated him and made him more violent? There's no way to have certainty about this, but anyone with experience dealing with threatening people knows that a good dose of 'reality,' a confrontation with the law, is much more of a wake up call and a deterrent than therapeutic coddling. Furthermore, involuntary psychiatric treatment is one of the more humiliating experiences in American society, and tends to make people more angry, not less."

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