Arizona Shooter Jared Lee Loughner's Mental Health Points to Greater Need in Colleges
Brooke Randolph, LMHC is a private practice counselor and mental health expert for DietsInReview.com.
Much has been speculated about the mental health of Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old man accused of shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several others over the weekend in Arizona. It has been interesting to me to read the journalists’ attempts at gathering symptoms and making an assessment. It is true that late teens and early twenties can be the time when more severe mental illnesses reveal themselves. I am not ready to diagnosis him. I have not, like Dr. Jeff Victroff, read Loughner’s writings or viewed the videos attributed to him on YouTube.
One thing discussed in several articles is the fact that his behavior in class made several other students at Pima Community College uncomfortable, to the point that he was required to have a mental health evaluation prior to returning to class. It appears that Mr. Loughner was not evaluated and did not return to class. I would guess that Pima does not have a counseling center that could have completed the evaluation for Mr. Loughner; although, this was probably only one of many reasons why he did not follow through with this recommendation.
Not only is the traditional college age a key moment in an individual’s mental health, there are many other stressors involved in and unique to academia. Many students are testing out independence, legal responsibility, and moving from Erikson’s identity stage to his intimacy stage. In addition, even if physical puberty has concluded, neurologically we are still maturing and developing. It is imperative that we teach our students how to care for their own mental health and provide the resources to connect them to other services if they are needed.
Small colleges may not be able to have a counselor on staff, but such evaluations could possibly be done by a qualified psychology professor. A better solution would be to connect with a local therapist who is willing to make time for students in need. Counseling could be funded or underwritten by the University, but many therapists in private practice, I believe, would be willing to provide a discounted rate to university students in exchange for the referrals from the school, if students do not have insurance. Indianapolis area schools can certainly contact me.
If a school does not have an onsite counseling center, it is imperative to provide information and referrals to local resources before they are needed so that students know where they can turn. I believe many school have been taking the mental health of their students more seriously, especially since the shooting at Virginia Tech, but there is room for more growth. While not all schools can offer services onsite, all can bring in speakers, provide information, and connect to local resources on behalf of their students. Ultimately, it is up to the student to ask for help and care for their own mental health, but I believe we could make it easier and help to eliminate the stigma on counseling as a part of self-care.
Sources: WSJ, Newsweek, Miami Herald