TORONTO, April 24 /CNW/ - Tyndale University College psychology professor
Paul T. P. Wong says he has identified several culturally-based risk factors
which may have contributed to the Virginia Tech shooting.
Dr. Wong, an internationally recognized expert on cross-cultural
psychology, comments, "Cho Seung-Hui had experienced difficulties common to
many new immigrants. These included acculturation stresses, language barrier,
poverty and discrimination. The cumulative stress of these risk factors
coupled with problems of mental illness, autism and personal grievances might
have pushed Cho over the edge."
According to Wong, every society has its underclass - often the poor,
mentally ill, "sweat shop" foreign workers, and new immigrants who are unable
to express themselves adequately in the English language, and carry a sense of
being talked down to and neglected. Our society often lets powerless and
voiceless people fall through the cracks in our systems.
Wong says, "The Virginia Tech killing might have been averted if Cho's
parents had been able to provide him with proper medical care and protection
from the harsh realities which he had long endured."
"There can be no justification for the evil of mass killing," Wong
emphasizes, "but most new Asian immigrants can relate to what Cho went through
and why he may have snapped."
Wong suggests that a system should be devised in order to assist those
transplanted into a totally new environment and separated from the usual
support systems. Special support is also needed for those diagnosed as
autistic children. There is already a societal focus on bullying, but there
needs to be a better understanding of the impact that the mocking and
humiliation from bullying has on immigrant children who have an English
language deficiency, or who are deprived of a normal social life at a time
when peer relationships are so important.
Evidence indicates that Cho was insulted by rude customers at his
parents' laundry shop; overshadowed by an academically superior sister;
expelled from his creative writing class; rejected by objects of his romantic
interests, and detained and diagnosed as mentally ill.
"This relentless litany of rejection, failure and humiliation is
sufficient to crush any person," notes Wong. "These negative life experiences
mixed with Cho's mental condition, coupled with the fact that he came from a
shame-based Korean culture, where parents tend to keep quiet about family
problems, and avoid getting help from social and mental health agencies,
resulted in him becoming an active volcano ready to explode at anytime. He had
given out many warning signals of his condition, but no one had entered into
his innermost dark places of pain and rage to provide culturally-sensitive
Wong adds that, "His murderous act was one of anger turned outward, while
his suicide was anger turned inward. It was also a final act of defiance; one
he believed would restore his manhood and honour after years of feeling
helpless and humiliated. From the writings and videos he left behind, it is
clear that, in his twisted logic, he saw himself as taking a last stand and
dying as a hero."
When asked what we can do to prevent similar tragic incidents, Dr. Wong
suggests, "On the individual level, caring individuals and professional
counsellors can often make a dramatic difference. On the institutional level,
we need more ethnic counsellors in schools and communities to serve the mental
health needs of immigrants and ethnic minorities who tend to avoid mainstream
counselling services." He points out that Tyndale University College prepares
counsellors with multicultural competencies.
"On the societal level, we need to make medical and psychological
services available to all who cannot afford them," Dr. Wong appends. "We need
to address social issues of poverty, injustice and discrimination. Racism will
always be with us, but if we are able to recognize it, we can combat it
whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head."
Dr. Wong says a caring society will ensure no child is left behind, and
no one is denied a fair chance to succeed. If we extend justice and compassion
to all, regardless of ethnicity, disability and other minority status, we will
reduce the likelihood of another Virginia Tech incident.
Paul T.P. Wong, Ph.D., C.Psy., is Professor of Psychology at Tyndale
University College, and a Registered Clinical Psychologist in Ontario. He has
more than three decades of experience working with international students and
Asian immigrants. He is available for interviews and comment regarding Cho's
mental condition and the Virginia Tech massacre. For more information on
Wong's psychological profile of Cho, please visit his website:
For further information:
For further information: Rachel Collins, Marketing Assistant, Tyndale
University College & Seminary, 25 Ballyconnor Court, Toronto ON, M2M 4B3,
(416) 226-6620 ex. 2175