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"Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type"

The occasion of the Virginia Tech Shooting led me to look up the Wikipedia bio of the Texas Tower Shooter, Charles Whitman, whose rampage happened on the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas 41 years ago:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Whitman#Leadup_to_the_shootings
What Whitman wrote after he had just killed his wife and mother, and was about to take to the the Tower and shoot 46 people, is interesting:
"I imagine it appears that I brutally killed both of my loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick thorough job...If my life insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts...donate the rest anonymously to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type."

Maybe not.

I had to laugh when I first came across that sentence in Whitman's suicide note, given that Whitman's last act in life was nearly 41 years ago. Of course, it wouldn't come across as amusing at all if such a line were to appear in VT shooter Cho Seung-Hui. Cho's pathetic rant appears to contain the usual blaming of the the victims a mass murderer has grudges with. "You caused me to do this", Cho unfairly blames his victims before, or during, his shooting rampage on Monday. The two shootings happened more than two hours apart, so he might have composed his rambling letter between the time he shot up the dorm and the class rooms he shot up later. At least he isn't expressing a wish for a donation to mental health "research", from what I've read about it so far.

I can't think of a better example of the moral hazard inherent with the idea that criminal behavior must be the symptoms of a "disease" the individual has no control over. I can't think of a more profound example of the complete intellectual surrender of an individual to the psychiatric ideology, than Whitman's suicide note. Here he has just killed his wife and mother, and is about shoot a few dozen people, and he expresses his wish for a donation to "research". It's just an obscene thing to write before carrying out a mass murder. And people are encouraged to believe this kind of nonsense now more than ever.

Maybe not choosing to engage in such behavior can prevent future tragedies like this, rather than flushing billions of dollars down the toilet on "research".

homepage: homepage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Whitman#Leadup_to_the_shootings

Research can and does prevent tragedies like these 18.Apr.2007 12:21


Sorry, Chief, but you know not whereof you speak.

As a psychiatric social worker, I rely every day on research-validated risk assessment tools that assist me in formulating treatment to folks with mental illness who present a threat to themselves or others. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, I can refer someone to a medication prescriber who can offer research-validated medications that reduce risk, and/or I can provide research-validated therapies to improve insight and coping - thereby reducing risk, or I can mandate someone go to the emergency room for involuntary evaluation, where research-validated interventions can reduce risk.

So research does in fact prevent tragedies like this every day all over the country. You don't have to like it, but those are the facts.

It's a sad, sad, sad sad world 18.Apr.2007 22:32

J. Frederick Astor

This article, and the previous comment both make me very sad. They both far overlook the real causes of tragedies like these.

The typical scenario goes like this:

-High-pressure, fast-paced, high-expectation environment causes stress in an individual.
-Prolonged stress causes individual to experience mental, emotional and even chemical imbalances.
-Individual is diagnosed with depression/anxiety/mental disorder.
-Individual is now classified by society as not "normal," and is prescribed medication.
-Medication sedates the individual, reduces chemical imbalances, and may or may not alleviate mental and emotional (and subsequent physical) imbalances.

This says and nothing of and does nothing to the stressful environment which initiates the entire chain reaction.

Every single one of us at some point in our day does something because of some outside influence, some outside authority, and not because we wanted to. You didn't decide that the speed limit should be 25 mph over there, and you don't necessarily agree that going 31 mph is dangerous, but you pay the ticket. There's enough food to feed everyone for free, so much that hundreds and thousands of pounds of it are thrown in dumpsters every day, but we're forced to pay for it or watch it rot.

People are forced to live in a system, constantly coerced into abiding by rules and regulations, held to standards, demanded great expectations. "Do this, do it more, do it faster!" "Don't walk there!" "Get better grades... you're not studying enough." "You only make $30,000 a year? How will you put your kids through college?" "You owe us $462, which we're going to spend on a war you don't believe in."

In the insane world in which we live, where forces of competition constantly pit each against the other instead of cooperating toward a common good, its no wonder that people flip their lid and take out their anger against innocent individuals, rather than directing their energy where it belongs--against the system that dominates and exploits all of us, or better yet toward a better world in which those systems are obsolete.

When people pay for war every day at the gas pump, where human beings are corralled like animals for walking across imaginary lines, where people are mocked, injured or killed because their skin is a little darker, or they wear funny clothing, or are completely comfortable with their sexuality, where people are locked in cells for acting on their own convictions, where humans are reduced from spiritual beings to electronic digits in banks, universities, credit card databases, government files, forced to wait around in long lines shuffling paperwork to live a HUMAN LIFE... what else would you expect than to occasionally have someone freak the fuck out?

Why doesn't this happen more often? Most people just get worn down, tow the line, become sheep. It's easier to just give in than to fight it.

Mental illness is real. It is caused by the very society in which we live. If we want to do research to eliminate mental disorder, we need to start breaking down the forces of domination, coercion, control and exploitation that run this country and increasingly the planet.

Until we start solving issues of racism, sexism, ageism, nationalism, "patriotism," capitalism and most other "-isms" we will not see an end to mental disorder and needless violence--however heavily medicated the sheeple are.

those wacky schizophrenics 18.Apr.2007 23:29

they just need to be more responsible

"The psychiatric ideology" at least attempts to base its methods and techniques on science, rather than on primitive mammalian dominance games. The alternative to behavioral science is the "judicial system," where the institutional roots in aristocratic privilege and medieval torture chambers are barely papered over. Any rhetorical device that includes a phrase like "the individual" is immediately suspicious: There is no such thing as "the individual"; there are billions of different individuals doing different things, making different choices in different circumstances.

If "psychiatric ideology" has "encouraged" you to "believe" the wrong things and behave badly, that's too bad. If not, maybe it's not the problem in anybody else's life either. Certainly it seems that people have been traumatizing each other in the name of somebody's "morality" a lot longer than there's been any such thing as psychiatry.