BU acts cautiously with mental illness

Title

BU acts cautiously with mental illness

Description

April 24, 2007

By CLAIRE ST. AMANT
Staff writer
In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, questions of "why" are rivaled only by those of "what if."

What if counseling centers where Cho Seung-Hui was referred could've done more? What if complaints filed by students had been taken more seriously? What if, what if, what if?

Dr. Jim Marsh, director of counseling services, said the situation in Virginia reflects a very small percentage of mental health concerns at the college level.

"Dealing with something like that is not the norm," he said. "These situations are extremely rare and impossible to predict."

Marsh said it's important not to "lump everything together" because most of the students who receive counseling are not threats to the safety of themselves or others.

"What we want to avoid is suddenly tabbing people for being dangerous when they aren't," he said. "If people are worried about being labeled in that way, we could have a backlash where people who need these services wouldn't want to come to counseling."

Students can receive up to 12 counseling sessions a year, with the initial assessment and subsequent six sessions free of charge. Sessions seven through 12 are $10 each.

Marsh said even though students are offered 12 sessions, most attend only five or six.

"Our capacity is to provide short-term counseling," he said. "If the student requires more specialized or long-term care, we will refer the student to a center in the community."

Marsh added that when a "worst-case scenario" occurs and a student is in "serious danger of hurting themselves or others," the staff psychologist is only allowed to alert law enforcement and medical personnel, according to Texas state law.

"I can't tell the administration, the student's parents or professors what a patient has told me," he said.

The policy on threats or harm to self or others in the student handbook states that students who "demonstrate an intent or desire" to inflict harm to oneself or others will be removed from university residential facilities and academic programs.

Bethany McCraw, associate dean for judicial and legal student services, said the student is then evaluated by a mental health professional and must be cleared by McCraw before being allowed to return to campus housing and academics.

"Depending on the situation, the mental health professional would determine whether or not the student might need to be hospitalized," she said in an e-mail to the Lariat.

In addition to questions surrounding the quality of mental health services offered on campuses nationwide, some are pointing to the effects of Cho's childhood and family structure as the cause of his mental health problems.

The Barna Group, a Christian research organization, released a statement calling what happened in Blacksburg, Va., "a wake-up call to parents." George Barna used his previous research on parenting and child development to offer insights related to the Virginia Tech situation in a report released Monday.

Barna pointed to a heightened exposure to violence through the media as factors that "diminish the dignity and value of human life."

Barna said much of the responsibility for "raising healthy and confident children" falls on parents.

Dr. Joyce Nuner, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences, agreed with Barna.

"Parents are very much responsible for guiding a child's behavior, especially in the younger years," Nuner said.

While Nuner said every year is important for development, recent attention has been given to years 0 through 3.

"That's when a lot of learning and brain development occurs," she said.

Another key time period, Nuner said, takes place in years 0 through 8, when a child learns basic skills such as sharing, getting along with friends and general socialization.

According to the Associated Press, Cho's family immigrated to northern Virginia from South Korea when he was 8 years old.

"Up to age 8 is a very important time to learn how to function in a group setting," Nuner said. "Positive interaction between adults and children is an important aspect of that development."

Nuner stressed that the "window is never closed" for an individual to learn social skills, but it does get more difficult in the later years.

Young children can also be affected negatively during the developmental years by "too much structured time" and "too much exposure to television," she said.

"That's not to say increased media is to blame for everything that's wrong with children," she said. "It's just one of the factors."

Nuner added that trying to shield children from every adverse form of media is "impossible," and instead suggested parents focus on trying to "teach children how to filter things out."

"Children are exposed to so much at a young age and that makes parenting very difficult," she said.

"There are a lot of outside influences on children because of the accessibility of technology and media."

Barna found the "issue of media management" as crucial to successful parenting. His studies showed parents who "limited, monitored and mediated the media content to which their children were exposed" also had discussions with their children about the content of media they consumed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend any television for children age 2 and younger, and suggests only limited exposure for ages 3 to 5.

However, Nuner said parents cannot always foresee how a child will mature and develop.

"Sometimes you can do all the right things and they still don't turn out the way you want them to," she said.

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Original Source: Baylor University
<a href="http://www.baylor.edu/Lariat/news.php?action=story&story=45463">http://www.baylor.edu/Lariat/news.php?action=story&story=45463</a>

Creator

CLAIRE ST. AMANT

Date

2007-10-02

Contributor

Haeyong Chung

Language

eng

Citation

CLAIRE ST. AMANT, “BU acts cautiously with mental illness,” The April 16 Archive, accessed August 19, 2019, http://april16archive.org/items/show/1428.