seung-hui cho's mental health records released

This week, Virginia Tech released the mental health records of Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman responsible for the nation's worst campus killing spree in April 2007: Files Show University Gunman Denied Homicidal Thoughts.

Records show that Cho was interviewed several times by university health officials more than a year before his attack, twice by phone and once in person, after concerns were raised about his behavior.

But in each instance, he wasn't admitted for treatment because he denied being a threat to himself or others:
"He denies suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts," wrote Sherry Lynch Conrad, a counselor at the Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech, after a meeting on Dec. 14, 2005, prompted by a suicidal text message from Mr. Cho to a friend. "Said the comment he made was a joke. Says he has no reason to harm self and would never do it."

In an earlier telephone session, on Nov. 30, 2005, Mr. Cho described a "depressed mood" along with panic episodes "when having to talk to people."

The documents also indicate that the day before the session with Ms. Conrad, Mr. Cho entered St. Albans Behavioral Health Center, an off-campus center where a therapist concluded that he had a "mood disorder" and suggested that he "can be treated on an outpatient basis with counseling."

When Mr. Cho was released from St. Albans on Dec. 14, a judge ordered that he undergo mental health treatment at Virginia Tech. After being briefly assessed at the campus center by Ms. Conrad, he was not seen there again.
On April 16, 2007, Cho killed 32 students and faculty members on campus before taking his own life. A state panel convened by Governor Tim Kaine faulted the campus center for failing to "connect the dots" related to the dangers of Mr. Cho's mental condition.

While it's certainly easy to say all this after the fact, and records indicate that Cho was definitely in need of help, can anyone really say that they saw this coming? Going forward, I just hope better systems are implemented to anticipate and prevent further violence or harm.

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