Emil Guilliermo writing for Asia Week has the best and most honest explanation, I've read. Being an Asian himself and outside of the United States free of the political correctness that infects everything here, he can say what American journalists can't or won't. Guilliermo writes there were basically two reasons that Cho eventually killed. First, he was mentally ill and the Asian culture treats the condition as a myth, or the work of the devil requiring prayers. Admission of mental illness would bring greater shame to the family than the random murder of 32 innocent human beings. Second, the unwillingness, caused by political correctness, of university, legal, and medical personnel to attribute to anyone with any label even if that label can save the life of the mentally disturbed and the lives of 32 innocent human beings.
Incompetence All Around after VA Tech
Emil Guilliermo, May 11, 2007
In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings at the hands of Seung-Hui Cho, I got an e-mail from a man who knows mental illness.
It’s not like one of those urban myth e-mails your sister sends you. It's real. But Asian Americans treat it like an urban myth.
It's the way many Asian Americans respond to mental illness.
They ignore it.
To protect the innocent, I won’t share names.
But I'm sure you've heard a variation of this story in your micro-communities.
It goes like this:
The man is white. His wife is Asian American, in this case a Korean immigrant. They have several children.
The family has been split apart by the wife's mental illness.
The man has sought help. But as is typical, a psychiatrist or a psychologist is the last person an Asian American family turns to in such matters.
More likely, the first person a family turns to is someone trusted, like a minister.
And then they start blaming loved ones for the situation.
Sure enough, the wife’s family becomes angry at the overall situation and goes into denial about their daughter’s possible mental ailment. They say it's the husband's fault. The stress from his high-powered job is the cause of her erratic behavior and her illogical acts that seem minor, but add up.
And all of it is accented with many doors slammed in anger.
The fact that one of the partners is non-Asian is the reason I heard about this particular story.
You can bet, however, if both partners were Asian American, immigrant or native born, you wouldn't see any willingness to share a shred of detail.
There’d be too much at stake involving not just the couple and their kids, but the entire extended family and its standing in the community.
The shame of mental illness seems to lead Asian American families in particular to a standard answer: silence.
And when it’s impossible to deny, they turn to anything but the right answers.
So it's no surprise to hear how the family of Seung-Hui Cho responded to his mental state years before the April 16 massacre at Virginia Tech.
The family did nothing useful.
They contacted a minister.
The real surprise is the state did practically nothing as well.
Oh, they did a little bit. After police got a student tip that Cho had claimed he wanted to kill himself, Cho was sent to the New River Valley Community Services Board, the local state-run health clinic in Blacksburg.
There, as reported in the Washington Post, Cho was found to be "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization," as stated in court documents.
But that's not enough to be committed in the state of Virginia.
Cho was passed on to the Carilion St. Albans Behavioral Health Clinic in nearby Christiansburg, but just temporarily until Special Justice Paul M. Barnett determined Cho was an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness and ordered him into what is called "involuntary outpatient treatment."
If the bureaucracy hasn't driven you crazy already, this next piece of the puzzle will drive you insane.
"Involuntary outpatient treatment" means that the state essentially washes its hands of the matter and turns over the responsibility of any care —BACK TO THE DISTURBED PERSON.
The system puts the onus on the helpless person to get help.
"The system doesn't work well," said Tom Diggs, executive director of Virginia’s Commission on Mental Health Law Reform to the Washington Post, which first reported the story this week.
Diggs' classic understatement symbolizes just how inadequately mental illness is dealt with by society.
It's enough to make one forgive the inadequacies of most Asian Americans in these situations.
Put yourself in Cho’s mom’s flip-flops.
Hyang In Cho, distressed over her son's behavior, blamed it, of course, on the devil.
She turned to her church, and not just one. The Rev. Dong Cheol Lee, the pastor of the One Mind Church in Woodbridge, a Washington, D.C. suburb in Virginia, was just the last in a string of churches she contacted to help her son.
"His problem needed to be solved by spiritual power," said Lee, to the Washington Post. "That’s why she came to our church — because we were helping several people like him."
Notice the significant absence of Freud, Adler or Jung. Of drugs. Of a Dr. Laura, even.
Notice the significant absence of treatment. Virginia left it up to Cho, who lived out his Travis Bickle fantasy in black, not camo.
And so now all the facts are out. It's been a month since the massacre. It may be time to understand that Cho wasn't the only incompetent in the story.
Let's also not be lulled into thinking that all is back to normal.
There are still many amongst us, my e-mail acquaintance for one, who live with mental illness every day.
For them, normal is maddening.
Mental illness is not shameful. It is an illness like influenza, pneumonia,or tuberculosis, or the common cold, and it can be treated. People do not need to die because of it, especially when those trained to recognize the symptoms do, in fact, recognize the symptoms, but do nothing of significance the alleviate the problem. Fear of labelling others is not an excuse for allowing an individual to suffer if their own private hell. Family shame should lie not in having a family member who is mentally ill, but in not seeking psychological help. Prayers helps the family; meds help the afflicted.
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.