As the pain and agony begin to subside over Monday's ghastly student massacre at Virginia Tech., U.S., details of the sullen 'loner' killer Cho Seung-Hui began to take form.
The odds for forcible detention of mentally unsound persons, could not be any stronger than this point of time. At the same time, psychiatrics ponder-where and when does one draw the fine line?
The fact that Cho was a 'disturbed' student was not unknown. He was a loner, had started a fire in a dormitory, disrupted classes, stalked two women and was once referred to a campus counselor when he wrote an obscene and violence-filled screenplay, as part of a creativity class.
In fact, in December 2005 a Montgomery County, Va., court magistrate pronounced him "mentally ill" and dangerous and ordered him treated briefly at a nearby psychiatric hospital.
Yet, Cho remained enrolled at Virginia Tech, all the while his mental state deteriorating. The line had not being crossed yet; he had committed no crime and apparently threatened no violence to others.
Now, in the light of this gruesome incident, there is no escape from confronting this gossamer-thin issue- what policies should be created to do the balancing act between individual human rights and the rights of the community-for a safe environment?
According to the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors conducted last year, it is a deep issue. Ninety-two percent of those quizzed said the number of students with severe psychological issues had increased in recent years. They said 40 percent of students seen at counseling centers had severe problems, including 8 percent of whose impairments were so serious that they could not remain in school or could do so only with extensive treatment.
Paradoxically, college counselors attribute increased improvements in psychiatric drugs making it possible for persons with mental illnesses, to make it to college in the first place.
So as this controversial issue is raised one more time, it is indeed sad that it has to be hoisted on the shoulders of 32 dead innocents.