Campus Shooter Was Off His Meds

Illustration for article titled Campus Shooter Was Off His Meds

"There were no red flags. He was an outstanding student. He was someone who was revered by the faculty and students alike," the Northern Illinois University police chief is saying of the 27-year-old grad student Stephen Kazmierczak, who yesterday walked into a packed geology class, swung open a guitar case full of guns and began shooting them at students before turning one of them on himself. The only motive thus far? He'd been on some meds, but he'd recently gone off them. What no one seems to be pointing out is that Kazmierczak wasn't a current student at the school, and so even if Northern Illinois hadn't responded to last year's Virginia Tech massacre by vigilantly following up on every scrawling of iffy graffiti, rooting out every aggressively antisocial kid, re=examining its "protocol" for handling armed suicidal maniacs, no one could very well get canned for this. Which is the sad thing about random, flourish-heavy never-saw-it-coming acts of violence: the resultant meaningless panicked scurrying around to make sure no one sues the school always manages to eclipse the glaringly obvious violence you could like totally see coming.

For every classroom full of kids stunned by their first sounds of real gunfire — "It was like little explosions," one student said — there's a classroom way fuller of kids in a neighborhood that looks like something straight out of The Wire, and a support group full of soldiers' wives who can't get the Army to keep their husbands from beating them, folks for whom those "little explosions" are just like your buzzing refrigerator or whatever the soundtrack to everynight life. I know, I know, boring, but why oh why doesn't anyone ever bother the connection, even rhetorically? That when you can't make sense of an act of violence, let it remind you of those you can make sense of?

"No Red Flags" Before Campus Shooting [Washington Post]
Steve Kazmierczak Profile
When Strains On Military Families Turn Deadly [NY Times]

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Alright, one thing that I absolutely hate about having bipolar disorder (which I've been taking medication for, following the usual process that's involved with figuring out what and how much of it is going to be the right combination DOES seem pretty similar to Alice in Wonderland's whole experience, since 2000) is how the media presents anyone diagnosed with any condition that falls into the category of mental illness. Now, I understand that it's pretty unlikely for any news reports that describe a person who has been able to succeed in life despite having to deal with being mentally ill — it's only important when one of us has gone off of our medication and decided to get over to a mall or school so that we can start shooting people with the guns that we're all issued when we first get diagnosed with a mental illness. Yeah, along with a bunch of medications, they hand out pamphlets about all the things you will be excluded from doing in life, how to adjust your goals in life to accomodate your condition, social effects that will come along whether it's family friends or romantic relationships, the government sends each of us "crazy people" a couple of options to choose from as far as what kind of firearm we'd like to have — once you return the form after filling it out completely, they send you your own gun, which normally arrives in 6-8 weeks, for shooting rampages or just offing yourself with!

Most of the sucess stories aren't all that interesting when compared to the occasional shooting at a local college or community facility that involves someone with a mental illness whose history of noncompliance with taking their medication - usually will come up during the initial contact with someone's psychiatrist if they actually see one on a regular basis. But what would it hurt, or how much would it cost, if once in a while there was a story in the news telling the world what a few of us did with our lives instead of going on a shooting spree? I can't be the only one that managed to get into law school and will be graduating like the rest of my classmates — there are doctors like Kay Redfield Jamison who are able to practice medicine despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder themselves! With how many people there has been estimated to be living with bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, etc, maybe it would help to bring up positive things that can be achieved so that it's a lot less miserable-looking for those considering doing what'll get them in the news.