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School Shooting Prompts Increase in Student Counseling

May 3, 2007

Now two weeks after the Virginia Tech shooting, school counselors all over the state say there has been an increase in the number of students being referred for counseling. Robin Wheeler of the New York Counseling Association says even with stretched staffing, it's better to be safe than sorry.

“You know, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, people are just that much more sensitive to looking and watching, being very watchful of our young people.”

Wheeler notes that counselors are also spending more time with each student.

Glenn Liebman, CEO of New York's Mental Health Association, is worried that the shooting gives people the false impression that people with mental illness are more prone to violence. In fact, he notes, 20 percent of the country suffers from a mental illness.

“You know, 20 percent of the population is not violent and not going to go out there and do something like this, and I think it's important in situations like this to step back and to say 'I don't see them acting out and doing anything violent.' People with mental illness are no more likely than the general population to be violent. I think that's an important message to get out to the community.”

Liebman would like schools to devote more resources to counseling, including having mental health services available on evenings and weekends, and not just during school hours.

He adds that successful people throughout history suffered from mental illness including Mike Wallace and Abraham Lincoln.

Charles Lane/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY