Va. Tech Shooter Seung-Hui Cho's Mental Health Records Released
Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and then himself during campus massacre in 2007.
Aug. 19, 2009 — -- The missing pieces of the mental health records of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho were made public today by the university, offering the first glimpse at the medical evaluations Cho underwent prior to committing the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
The records chronicle two telephone conversations and one in-person visit between Cho and mental health professionals at the Cook Counseling Center, the university's student mental health services provider, in the winter of 2005, the only instances in which the student ever interacted with the center, according to authorities.
Throughout his visits with mental health professionals, Cho denied having any homicidal or suicidal thoughts, according to documents.
The in-person consultation at the center followed Cho's release from the psych ward at Carilion St. Albans hospital on Dec. 14, 2005. According to the documents, Cho had been admitted overnight to the hospital after his roommate became concerned when Cho threatened to take his own life.
"I met with student for about 30 minutes," wrote triage counselor Sherry Lynch Conrad on a Post-It note stuck to Cho's file dated Dec. 14, 2005, the day after his release. "He denied any suicidal or homicidal ideation. Said the comment he made was a joke. Says he has no reason to harm self and would never do it."
Even so, Conrad drew an "X" through the portion of the medical chart that assesses a patient's mental health, instead writing, "Did not assess -- student has had two previous triages in past two weeks -- last two days ago."
Conrad wrote that she provided Cho with emergency numbers should he begin to have "suicidal or homicidal thoughts" over winter break, but she did not schedule a follow-up appointment because Cho didn't "know his schedule."
Cho first made contact with the center on Nov. 30, 2005, when he was referred by a professor.
In the records from his initial telephone conversation, another triage counselor checked off "Troubled: Further contact within 2 weeks" under the portion of the form that rates the severity of the patient's disposition.
An in-person appointment was scheduled for Cho on Dec. 12, 2005, but when he failed to show up, another telephone consultation took place.
According to the documents, Cho indicated in the second phone conversation that his symptoms of depression and anxiety had persisted. He also said that he was having trouble concentrating.
That counselor's notes indicate that Cho said that "he did not want to come in at this time," despite his symptoms.
This is the first time the public has seen the notes of three separate therapists who counseled Cho.
On April 16, 2007, Cho killed 32 people and then himself on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., making the school the site of the deadliest shooting in U.S. history and the focal point for a renewed debate over gun control and mental health services.
In a written statement released in conjunction with the medical records, Virginia Tech released a statement saying the university believes the center's counselors acted "appropriately in their evaluation of Cho."
"The absence and belated discovery of these missing files have caused pain, further grief, and anxiety for families of the April 16 victims and survivors, as well as for the Cook Counseling Center professionals who interacted with Cho and created and maintained appropriate departmental records," reads the statement.
"With release of these records, Virginia Tech seeks to provide those deeply affected by the horrible events of April 2007 with as much information as is known about Cho's interactions with the mental health system 15-16 months prior to the tragedy."
Just two weeks after the shootings, Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine signed an executive order that required anyone court-ordered to receive mental health treatment be added to a state database of people prohibited from buying guns.
A year after the shooting, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., introduced legislation that would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which determines how much of a student's mental health records can be disclosed by a university. Webb argued that the Virginia Tech massacre may have been prevented had the policy been more clear on when information about a mentally ill student can be shared by a university .
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