Friday, April 20, 2007

Untreated Depression & Mental Illness Hurts Us All

How many times have you seen it?

Once? Twice? Too many to count?

People are watching the video rants of Seung-Hui Cho over and over on the TV and Internet.

It's captivating in the same creepy way it was to see the planes hit the Twin Towers over and over, to see the teens flee Columbine High School again and again on CNN.

It's the latest reality TV horror show.

The media have given Cho a platform from the grave where he can flash guns and compare himself to Moses and Jesus.

There's no sense debating whether the media should have released the video. It would have ended up on the Web regardless.

The choice is now ours: Do we watch?

Do we let Cho point guns at us and rant about rich kids?

Do we let him pass the baton to another killer to make the next death count higher?

The message Cho left raised his status. The sad, lonely, weak 23-year-old went out with a bang -- 33 of them.

I wish there were a video of Cho before the guns to see the troubled college student behind the sunglasses and a low hanging baseball cap, the guy described this way by his teacher:

"He seemed to be crying behind his sunglasses."

Was Cho's mind a jumble because he had no friends? Or did he have no friends because his mind was a jumble?

We routinely use words like mental, crazy, nuts and psycho to describe illnesses of the brain. It's still a stigma to be sick when it's your brain that falls ill.

People who struggle with mental illness tell me it's a conversation stopper. One woman finally told her closest circle of girlfriends that she struggled with depression. No one spoke. If she had announced she had cancer, they would have hugged her and baked casseroles.

Another woman shared that her son attempted suicide but the hospital wouldn't keep him long, even though everyone feared for his safety. Insurance doesn't like to cover the mind, doesn't like to shell out for inpatient psychiatric care or long-term outpatient counseling.

People routinely have their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood checked. Ever hear of anyone going in for an annual mental health check-up? I haven't.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech isn't about gun control, rich kids or violent video games.

It's not about the need for metal detectors, armed guards or siren systems on every campus in America.

It's about untreated mental illness, about the strange chemistry and wiring of a brain.

But we're intrigued by the macabre details; Cho chained the doors, stopped to reload and now speaks from the grave.

Instead of examining his video rant for clues, we should examine the schools he attended, the doctors he saw, the insurance coverage he had (or most likely didn't), his family system, the support network that failed him, and ultimately, us.

A court magistrate once pronounced Cho mentally ill. Cho got sicker as time went on.

He couldn't stop the rants, the hate, the rage in his mind that now spew from his video.

His brain was broken.

Ours isn't.

We can, and should, turn it off.

Written By Regina Brett
Cleveland Plain Dealer Columnist
Friday April 20


Blogger Rachel's Tavern said...

Are you back? Missed ya!

6:38 PM  
Blogger Piscean Princess said...

I've been so busy with theater & work & life in general, but I couldn't resist posting this article.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hello, you have a wonderful blog, can you please contact me at I have something to discuss with you
Regards, Chris
(Please can you delete this comment after your decision?)

6:04 AM  
Blogger Changeseeker said...

This is the first thing I've seen on this nightmare that I have felt made any sense. Thanks.

It's good to know we're both still around.


1:36 PM  

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