Was It Obvious That Cho Seung-Hui Was Disturbed And Dangerous? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/20/07

Was It Obvious That Cho Seung-Hui Was Disturbed And Dangerous?

Cho Seung Hui was no stranger to mental health professionals. In fact, about a year and a half ago, he was evaluated at a mental health facility.

So why didn't his doctors figure out that he was capable of such horrific carnage? 

Studies have shown for a long time that psychiatrists and psychologists are not very good at predicting violence in the future. They are better than chance but they are not much better than chance.  

Dr. John Monahan studies mental illness and violence.  

He says several things can help a doctor figure out if someone's going to turn violent -- have they been violent before, were they abused as children -- but really, doctors don't have a whole lot to go on.

In some ways predicting harmful behavior is like predicting harmful weather. If an inaccurate prediction is made that doesn't necessarily mean that anybody has missed anything.

Which may explain why Cho Seung Hui was released into the general population after his treatment at the clinic.   

Melanie Adkins knows first-hand how difficult predicting behavior can be.

A mental health counselor, police often ask her to evaluate whether someone's a threat to themselves or others... Her office is across the street from Virginia Tech, and she's often called upon to evaluate students.. Tho she wouldn't say whether she ever evaluated cho.

Adkins says "So there's no real test that you can do to see if someone's going to be violent
in the future? absolutely not. There's absolutely not a test that will give us a yes or no answer.

When evaluating students, adkins asks about past history, whether someone has support from friends and family, if they abuse drugs or alcohol...but in the end:

Adkins says "sometimes seems like folks think we have a crystal ball, and that we can really
look into the future and see what will happen with a particular individual, but it's not an exact science and we are just not that good at predicting long term risk of violence.

Mental health isn't like heart health, she says. Cardiologists can look at your heart and see if it's sick.

The human brain, it turns out, is much more complex.

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