On Wednesday, March 7, 2012, one of my mother’s worst nightmares came true.
At Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) in Pittsburgh, Penn. — one of the state’s best psychiatric hospitals — a shooting spree left two dead and seven injured.
WPIC helps educate future psychiatrists, psychologists, and masters-level mental health therapists. Medical doctors of other specialties, including surgeons, anesthesiologists and radiologists, and other health care professionals also receive training there. It is an institution where education, science, and practice merge together.
I remember the day I spoke to my mother about potential danger at mental health hospitals and the possibility of violent occurrences becoming my reality as a therapist providing treatment to various populations. Her eyes said it all; I could see the terror across her face. Many — primarily professors, professional speakers, and coworkers — reassured me that such incidents were rare because most institutions were highly secure and provided their employees with emergency protocols and trainings. WPIC trains their employees on issues relating to mental health policies, emergencies, and “unusual occurrences” — that is, patient violence.
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