Friday, April 20, 2007

Lessons from Virginia Tech

Mental illness can strike anyone at anytime, though onset tends to occur in early adulthood or late adolescence. Often, a person's problems with mental illness come to light when they leave home for the first time, as Mr. Cho's did while he was a student at Virginia Tech. His teachers and fellow students were right to reach out to him with concerns about his writing and other behaviors. And while some who experience suicidal or homocidal thoughts do act on them, many do not. No one is omniscient; it is impossible to sort out who will harm themselves and others, and who won't. The best we can do is to continue to reach out to those who are suffering, to continue to invite them to get help, and to alert authorities if there's evidence that someone is in imminent danger of hurting himself or others. For the survivors at Virginia Tech, the best advice I've heard about coping with this tragedy was relayed by a Columbine survivor on the radio: "No one has ever gone through this before, so however you handle it is probably right."

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