Dr. Charles J. Sophy
Medical Director of the LA County Department of Children & Family Services
The massacre that killed 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech last April may have put this university on the map, but Daniel's Kim suicide 8 months later (see here) is every bit as tragic. And in my opinion, more significant. Once again, at the same university, a profound failure of this school's mental health checks and balances system. But it's not just Virginia Tech's failure alone. This university's protocol for mental health issues is more similar than different than many other universities around the United States, and the protocol is simply not good enough.
We MUST make it good enough. And by the way, making it good enough, will still not save every person that is experiencing mental illness or issues, but it most certainly gives these individuals a fighting chance to survive. It is unbearable to me knowing that in Daniel Kim's case, only the police were called on his behalf for a wellness or welfare check. As a psychiatrist, the thought of someone in emotional turmoil being checked on by the police only, with all due respect, is tragic.
So, how do we begin to make it better? For starters, by putting into place a standardized "check and balance system" where we co-locate mental health with child welfare welfare with law enforcement. What this means is that schools needs to have a team of experts in place to respond to referrals or in the case of Virginia Tech, an emergency e-mail. And these teams must all be called into play during both routine assessments and in emergencies, regardless if the individual lives on or off campus. These multi-disciplinary teams should be reaching to each other, looking at the crisis from all angles: mental health, child welfare, safety risk, and law enforcement. These angles are connected and intertwined. And once the appropriate people are looking at the right pieces, maybe these kids can be saved.
Filed under: Campus Rage
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