Karli Stroman Dr. Carson Abnormal Psych. 20, November 2009 Seung-Hui Cho When trying to determine the mind state of a person involved in a catastrophic event such as the Virginia Tech shooting it is difficult. Adding onto that difficulty is that the person that we are interested in, Seung-Hui Cho, committed suicide. Therefore we have to look at everything from that date backwards. We must dig deep into his family past to see if there is any history of depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder.
Not looking far back there are records that show that Seung-Hui Cho received therapy in middle school for Selective Mutism. “More than four months after the attack, the Wall Street Journal reported on August 20, 2007 that Cho had been diagnosed with selective mutism. The Virginia Tech Review Panel report, also released in August 2007, placed this diagnosis in the spring of Cho’s eighth grade year, and his parents sought treatment for him through medication and therapy. In high school, Cho was placed in special education under the ’emotional disturbance’ classification.
He was excused from oral presentations and participation in class conversation and received 50 minutes a month of speech therapy. He continued receiving mental health therapy as well until his junior year, when Cho rejected further therapy (Golden). ” This shows that he had a mental disorder that influenced his social life. There are several accounts of people picking on him for his speech impediment, which was not helping his feeling of anxiousness and loneliness towards others. His mental state at this point can best be pointed out by his suicidal thoughts and actions. On December 13, 2005, Cho was found ‘mentally ill and in need of hospitalization’ by New River Valley Community Services Board. The physician who examined Cho noted that he had a flat affect and depressed mood, even though Cho ‘denied suicidal thoughts and did not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. ’ Based on this mental health examination and because Cho was suspected of being ‘an imminent danger to himself or others’, he was detained temporarily at Carilion St. Albans Behavioral Health Center in Radford, Virginia, pending a commitment hearing before the Montgomery County, Virginia district court (Gun). After being released to outpatient care, Cho still had thoughts of harming himself and others; the hospital stay was just a lull in the storm that was raging inside his head. His family was very concerned for him and the fact that his attendance in school had dropped. His family had done everything possible when Cho was a child. They took him to therapy and encourage him to do well in school, however they were unable to understand fully what was going on with Cho. They turned to every option that they had, from medical to spiritual, but nothing seemed to help. Hyang In Cho was so desperate to find help for her silent, angry son that she sought out some members of One Mind Church in Woodbridge to heal him of what the church’s head pastor called ‘demonic power. ’(Lewis)” It was very evident to everyone that came into contact with Cho, that there was something off. School was not the best idea for Cho at the time. At home he was surrounded by people that loved him and that took care of him; however in a school environment he was shut-out and picked at. “Students who knew him as far back as middle school remember a dramatically uncommunicative boy who never spoke, not even to teachers.
Some remember classmates derisively offering dollar bills to Cho if he would just talk. The band director would urge him to play his trombone more loudly and to hold his head up (Cho & Gardner). ” He was so alone and shy, that he had no social skills and was unable to communicate to others his problems. Being unable to unload the burdens that he held back only built up the idea in his mind that everyone was mean and cruel. It is natural for humans to have a release; unfortunately for Cho he lacked the ability to release stress because every time he turned around he hit a road block with his disorder.
Communication is very important to humans, it’s the way we communicate ideas, feelings, and problems. Cho having selective mutism, was at a disadvantage when it came to communicating. His speech was off and he was a shamed of it, and by not being able to communicate with others to express feelings of anger, loneliness and depression; lead to the tragic events at Virginia Tech. After the shooting the “blame game” began, when it was really not one specific persons fault. Therapy was offered by the judge and family, but Cho declined help for reason unknown to this day and will forever be unknown.
However there are several options of treatment for mental disorders, but none of them work if the patient is not willing to seek help. There are some treatments for selective mutism. It is called social communication anxiety therapy. “Social Communication Anxiety Therapy (SCAT) is the philosophy of treatment developed by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum and implemented at the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center. SCAT is based on the concept that Selective Mutism is a social communication anxiety disorder that is more than just not speaking.
Dr. Shipon-Blum has created the SM-Stages of Social Communication Comfort Scale that describes the various stages of social communication that are possible for a child suffering from Selective Mutism. Children suffering from Selective Mutism (SM) change their level of social communication based on the setting and expectations from others within a setting. Therefore, a child may have difficulty socially engaging, communicating nonverbally and perhaps cannot communicate at all when feeling anxious or uncomfortable. This technique has been proven to be successful in cases; however it is still in its “tryout” period. What SCAT does is to work a patient from nonverbal communication to verbal communication. “SCAT incorporates anxiety lowering techniques, methods to build self-esteem and strategies/interventions to help with social comfort and communication progression, such as ‘Bridging’ from shut down to nonverbal communication and then transitioning into spoken communication via verbal intermediaries, ritual sound shaping and possibly the use of augmentative devices etc. ”
I would strongly suggest to care givers of the mentally ill in the future to work harder and trust their “gut instincts” when it comes to certain patients. I hate to think that with a little more push from his family and doctors that Cho as well as his victim’s fate may have been drastically changed. Perhaps with a little more caution and interference we can provide care and help for socially challenged and disturbed people. With a little more insight and knowledge as we look into the minds of these people and their issues I feel that we can do more in the future to prevent these acts of hate and frustration from happening again.
May we never forget the young people who lost their lives that grim day that Cho finally snapped from the emotional pain and utter frustration of not being able to communicate his feelings to his peers and loved ones. Sources Daniel Golden (August 20, 2007). “From Disturbed High Schooler to College Killer”. Wall Street Journal. http://online. wsj. com/public/article/SB118756463647202374-Ov_1NZv4xxHzWuURpyNEJzRhdYw_20070918. html. Retrieved october 20,2009 . Court found Cho “mentally ill. ” (April 19, 2007). The Smoking Gun. Retrieved on october 20,2009
Lewis, B. (2007, May 1). Isolation defined Cho’s senior year: Beseeched by mother, N. Va. church offered to purge “demonic power. ” The Washington Post Cho, D. & Gardner, A. (2007, April 21). An isolated boy in a world of strangers. The Washington Post. Retrieved on April 22, 2007. http://www. selectivemutismcenter. org/ http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Seung-Hui_Cho#Psychiatric_evaluation http://www. governor. virginia. gov/tempContent/techPanelReport-docs/8%20CHAPTER%20IV%20LIFE%20AND%20MENTAL%20HEALTH%20HISTORY%20OF%20CHOpdf. pdf