Wednesday, April 18, 2007

depression should not lead to dismissal


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I had no intention of writing about the tragedy at Virginia Tech, but when I saw this article on About.com last night, I felt compelled to respond.

Virginia Tech Shooter May Have Been on Antidepressant
This is not the first time that the issue of suicidal students has come up in the news. In December 2006, I reported about how several colleges were kicking suicidal students out of the dorms. Rather ironically, Virginia just recently passed legislation that barred suspending students or otherwise punishing them for being suicidal. The events at Virginia Tech, however, add a new twist to the debate about how schools should deal with mentally ill students.

While it might seem harsh for schools to remove troubled students, I think yesterday's events show that schools should take aggressive action when they see signs of a problem--for the sake of the student and his peers. Perhaps if firmer steps had been taken to get psychiatric help for this young man, this tragedy could have been averted.

I totally disagree. This was a senseless, needless tragedy. No question about that. But further stigmatizing those with depression and lumping them all together under the umbrella of “danger” isn’t going to do a darned thing to keep anyone safe or get people the help they need. It will do nothing more than discourage people from seeking out help and getting the treatment they so desperately need.

It is so easy to look back in hindsight and say that this whole thing could have been avoided if the killer had been kicked out of school, but I just don't think this kind of situation is ever that simple. Instituting policies that require students to be expelled when they experience problems will hurt vastly more people than could conceivably be helped. I wish we could avoid all tragedies with good planning and preparation, but that just isn't possible.

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