Saturday, March 31, 2012

Should you take these things seriously?

After my last gun-related post, you might think I would try for something more light-hearted. But, alas, you would be wrong.

In the news around here lately have been a few somewhat-related subjects, at least to me. I have mentioned one topic before, the Western Psych shooting. Recently, things have come out that suggest the shooter was disturbed enough that something should have been done before the shooting ever occurred. Among other things, he went to UPMC Shadyside with a baseball bat twice in 10 days to threaten employees. But yet no one thought to call the police or refer him for a mental health evaluation. Did the employees just not take it seriously? Did it fall through the cracks?

On the other hand, there are the oft-occurring-as-of-late bomb threats on Pitt's campus, particularly at the Cathedral of Learning. Every time someone calls in or somewhere scrawls a threat, the police take action, which means everyone has to evacuate the building(s) while the building is swept. That is not only inconvenient, but it could also be dangerous. What if someone there had an ailment that becomes worse thanks to the excitement or just could not easily get out of the building because he or she uses a wheelchair or crutches? After awhile, do people just get so jaded or tired that they ignore it?

So my question is this: Should you take every potentially questionable act, threat, statement, rambling, joke, etc., serious enough to get either law enforcement or a mental health expert involved? How do you decide if someone just flew off the handle or is just kidding versus when someone else is posing a serious threat to himself or others?

I just don't know, but I sure wish someone else did.


bluzdude said...

I think it comes down to dollars and cents. As soon as an institution doesn't take one of these threats seriously and then something happens, they get sued out the wazoo for not doing more to prevent it.

Just ask Virginia Tech.

Facie said...

Bluz: You are so right. But it still begs the question, when can you "assume" someone's off-handed remark is just that. How many people have jokingly said that they were going to kill someone? Do you call the police every time that happens, if it is some 10-year-old? Back in the olden days, when I was a kid, people did say and do stuff, most of which was largely ignored, and fortunately nothing bad happened (that I recall). I just don't know.