National Coalition of People with Psychiatric Histories
to Virginia Tech Tragedy
WASHINGTON (4/20/07) – The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (www.ncmhr.org),
an organization of people with psychiatric histories, asks that everyone learn
from the tragic events at Virginia Tech, in which a student was responsible for
33 deaths, including his own.
"We offer sincere sympathy to the families and friends of those killed and
injured, including the family of Cho Seung Hui, as well as the entire Virginia
Tech community," said Lauren Spiro, the Coalition’s director of public policy.
“We urge everyone to think compassionately about how to better engage people who
are isolated, severely distressed, fearful and/or confused.”
“Let’s turn this crisis into an opportunity to understand more about mental
health and create a more healthy and peaceful community,” said Coalition member
Can Truong. The Coalition endorses this approach and the importance of
supporting one another, and promotes peer-run mental health education, awareness
and advocacy organizations such as Active Minds on Campus (www.activemindsoncampus.org).
The Coalition also applauds Mental Health America for urging the public to
avoid diagnosing others or engaging in “profiling” of groups such as those who
appear to be foreign-born or people with psychiatric diagnoses.
“Reacting with judgment and labeling, fueled by the media, perpetuates
misinformation and is a disservice to us all,” said Spiro. According to a study
published in the American Journal of Public Health in September 2002, “Violent
crimes committed by psychiatric patients become big headlines and reinforce the
social stigma and rejection felt by many individuals who suffer from mental
illness. But our findings suggest that serious violence is the rare exception
among all people with psychiatric disorders. The public perception that people
who are mentally ill are typically violent is unfounded.” In fact, research
shows that people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be
victims than perpetrators of violent crime.
Given what has been reported about Cho’s abuse by bullies, the role of trauma
in the tragedy should be understood. “Ninety percent of persons receiving
services in public mental health systems have been exposed to trauma,” said
Coalition member Mary Blake, a trauma survivor and a consultant to the National
Center for Trauma-Informed Care. “Services must be sensitive to the fact of
trauma in people’s lives.”
The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery works to ensure that people
who have experienced severe emotional distress have a major voice in the
development and implementation of health care, mental health, and social
policies at the state and national levels. The Coalition advocates for mental
health policies that promote full participation and integration in the community
and end discrimination.
“This tragedy is a reminder of the fragility of our humanity and the
importance of reaching out with compassion to each other, especially those in
distress,” said Spiro.