Psych expert: ‘If you build it, they will come’

Dr. Russell Federman, director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Virginia, was somber and respectful in analyzing the April 16 massacre at Virginia Tech, but he seemed to suggest that UVA could serve as a role model.

Federman was one of several experts who testified today at the Darden business school at the fourth and final meeting of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, trying to find ways to preserve peace on college campuses and provide peace of mind for worried parents.

In his testimony to the panel appointed by Governor Tim Kaine, Federman talked about the infrequency of problems at the university. "UVA has had only three suicides in the last seven years," and that's well below the national average, Federman said.

Explaining this success, Federman outlined five things at UVA that might have prevented a disturbed youth from turning to violence:

1. Frequent communication and collaboration among staff.
2. Around-the-clock access to emergency services.
3. Persistent follow-up with students at high-risk for mental breakdowns when they fail to show up for or cancel counseling appointments.
4. Extensive availability of psychological services.
5. Communication and collaboration between school administration and mental health staff.

"If you build it, they will come," Federman said, assuring the panel that when these resources are available to students, they will use them and it will make a difference to the health and safety of college campuses.

"The incident at Virginia Tech was the 9/11 for us," Federman said, "and it has brought this need to light."