Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yet Another School Shooting

I know you've all heard, and you've probably figured out that NIU is my home turf. My son is a grad student there. Because my long-lost-husband is technically a faculty member there, we have many friends there. Heck, I have many friends there who have nothing to do with him.

Everyone I know and love is physically and psychically fine. But it's still been a hard few days. I NEVER EVER want to relive the hour when I couldn't locate my son.

I said, a jillion years ago with the first school shooting, that one thing I wanted to explore in an academic sense was how -or if- a community healed after such an event. What works? What doesn't? What is understandable but misguided? How long does it take? I never got out to Colorado or Arkansas or Virginia or anywhere else to do the research. How tragic that it will be easy now.

At this point I have nothing wise or insightful to say. I do have this beginning of a thought. The solution is about gun control rather than mental illness, I think. In idle chatter, some wonder whether people with diagnosed mental illnesses should be on college campuses. Should we require medication monitoring, perhaps? Should we, metaphorically speaking, put a big fence around the university and keep crazy people off?

Along with the fact that it's a state school and I'm not sure how you could justify keeping citizens off the property, there's the reality that it isn't necessarily a student or a staff memeber who would commit a crime like this. Anyone with a gun could walk onto a campus and get to work. It's the guns that are the problem. Not the access.

Anyway... we're healing. We're procesing our reactions. We're mostly doing okay. Please think comforting thoughts for the families of the dead. They're cleaning out dorm rooms and claiming personal possessions in the next few days. Funerals will start tomorrow. I can't begin to imagine their suffering, but we should do what little we can to ease it.


Michael said...

Rumors are floating around that the nutjobs in the Phelps clan, God rot those miserable bastards in hell, are planning to picket the funerals. That's the thing I really don't get: how is it that they figure their actions are helpful, much less doing anything to attract people to their "cause"?

Andrea Rusin said...

They're already here. last night they were picketing on the sidewalk outside VCB.

Michael said...

Oh, bloody hell. Just as well I didn't walk down that way, or I'd most likely be in jail on assault charges.

Lisa :-] said...

When I saw that story, I thought of you immediately. I didn't know what to say, though, so I waited for you to post. You don't exactly rush to contact someone in a community that has experienced such a horror and say, "I hope no one you know died..."

We lived in Springfield, OR, when the Kip Kinkel shooting happened at the high school. Though it's not a small town, and we didn't know any of the folks involved, it was an awful time for the community at large. There was plenty of vicious dialogue about gun control and mental illness and parents' denial of their childrens' problems (both his parents were teachers...) In the end, the community had to heal from both the event and the aftermath.

You and your community are in my thoughts...

Lexy said...

I agree that it's all about the guns.

I've listened to the chatter about people with mental illness being registered, even on college campuses, and my heart sank. If it was hard for the guy to get a gun, this wouldn't have happened.

Michael said...

Incredibly, considering my lifelong aversion to guns and anything having to do with them, I'm going to argue that the solution is rather about mental health care and not gun control. The only way to have kept Stephen Kazmierczak from buying those four guns would have been for his doctors to divulge that he was being treated for some kind of mental health issue. That is normally the kind of thing that we expect doctors and health care professionals to play close to the vest and not talk about--with pretty stiff penalties if they do.

What seems to me a better place to start preventing any further tragedies like what happened here is to move our mental health care system away from the current profit-driven model that restricts inpatient care, pushes patients toward the cheapest pharmaceuticals, and limits actual psychotherapy toward something that focuses more on the needs of the patient. One of the reasons I opted out of pursuing a counseling degree, years ago, was my inability to accept handing over decisions about how to care for patients to some nameless, faceless clerk sitting in front of a computer God knows where and telling me, based on which diagnostic codes I quoted her from the DSM, exactly how much treatment in what time period I was going to be allowed to give that patient.

I have friends who are bipolar, and others who suffer from depression. One of my friends is himself finishing up a program in counseling. Several others, yourself included, are active in the business. We all know that psychotropic medications are notoriously difficult to get right, and that messing around with doses and regimes can often louse up someone's life to a major degree. We also know, especially with patients who are bipolar, that when they're on their medications or in a manic phase, they don't think they need the drugs anymore--and often resist taking them or stop altogether: with frequently disastrous consequences. I don't know that was the case with Kazmierczak or not: but I'd sure like there to be a system in place that would know with regard to the next potential shooter that comes along, and was able to do something to stop him or her before the shooting started, instead of helping with the post-mortem afterward.

Barbara said...

I'm so glad to see you posting again.

On healing: I'm glad you were in situ to help the community out.

On healing: have you seen the move "The Sweet Hereafter?" It bears on this issue.

On school shootings: they've actually gone down in number over the twentieth century, but we pay much more attention to middle-class and suburban locations than we ever did to more "troubled" schools with less white student bodies.

That doesn't make it ok, but some historical perspective is my stock-in-trade and I couldn't resist, however tasteless it may seem.

My heart goes out to the community.