In mental health circles, the topic of discussion is the mental health of the Virginia Tech shooter. " It's definitely a significant topic of discussion," said David Cozadd at the 12th annual Mission Possible Conference, a gathering of mental health professionals from across East Texas.
They suspect the gunman was mentally ill. They understand better than others why all the red flags of disturbance didn't lead to an arrest or a mental health commitment. Cozadd explained, " To force an individual to begin to get help, hospitalization in particular, against their will, a person has to be determined to be a danger to themselves or others due to a mental illness. And those kind of things aren't easy to determine."
So judgment calls do come into play. And it happens all the time at universities, so says the director of SFA's University Judicial Affairs, Peggy Scott. " It's certainly not against the rules and it's not against the law to have a mental health issue. What we key off of are the behaviors that we see. Are they disruptive or harmful and that's what we address through our system."
Mental health rights are what these professionals fight for everyday, but public opinion may persuade changes in laws and policies in a different direction. Cozadd said, " Nobody ever wants to see a repeat of this kind of incident, but we also always have to weigh the importance of public protection versus individual rights and that's what our legislature often struggles with."