A modest proposal
April 18, 2007 § 10 Comments
Okay, this’ll be the last post I write on this topic for a while.
Obviously, I’ve been following the Virginia Tech story quite closely, in part because of my family’s experience with mental illness, but also because I have taught university classes and, with luck, will do so again. As The Professor keenly observes:
Universities understand physical accessibility very well. We are years behind on mental illness. How one accommodates these diverging interests is beyond me, but if nothing else, the Virginia Tech shootings show once again how crucial this issue really is.
I would like to think that this tragedy will lead to a greater awareness of mental health issues, and, in time, to a greater understanding of them. But I’m not optimistic. While we have made great strides in how we deal with depression, anxiety, and ADHD, we may have lost ground when it comes to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. The inability of so many concerned teachers, psychiatric professionals, and even judicial bodies to ensure that Cho Seung-Hui received adequate treatment for his illness, to say nothing of peers and family members, speaks volumes about how little real progress has been made.
Given that psychotic disorders tend to appear during the ages normally associated with college attendance, I would suggest that universities have a special role to play in changing this state of affairs. Why not establish a network of interdisciplinary research and education centres, the core mandate of which would be to develop new approaches to dealing with mental illness? Not just the psychiatric dimensions of it, I should add, but the ethical, socio-cultural, and pedagogical ones as well. What would happen if we drew upon the vast reserves of knowledge that every campus community contains and directed them toward this issue? What insights might be possible?
Right. Now, I should get back to a very different proposal…