KevinShane wrote:
I live and work in a suburb about 25mins north of Pittsburgh PA…. I work the ICU unit of a community hospital, and the other night on the midnight shift we had a young girl come in after an attempted suicide (17) I was her nurse for the remaining 10hrs of my shift… When she awoke she started talking while I was changing her IV… She began to tell me stories from her child hood about her father (hes a preacher w/in the community a few towns over, I knew a little of him before this) She was hinting to the fact she didn’t want him to be able to visit… Anyway, throughout the night I would go in and check her vitals and speak with her, after each interaction with her she seemed to open up more and more… Well, the last thing she said to me while I was doing my end of shift rounds about knocked me on my ass… She said to me out of the blue, “my father is not a man of god, that’s what they want people to believe, He and my mother are actually high priest and priestess of the dark arts, and I was forced to watch my mother behead an infant… Then she started to cry… I was at a loss for words because of what I’ve learned w/in the past years… The only thing I could do was grab her hand, and tell her that I believed her, she cried even harder. My heart broke for her… The next night I went into work I was told in report that her parents had her transferred out of the hospital and taken to a major hospital in Pittsburgh…. Parts of me want to think she was just a poor, lost girl with mental issues, but more than half of my heart KNOWS what she said was true…. I’ve prayed for her everyday since I’ve met her…

ScienceDaily (Nov. 20, 2005) — How we respond to stressful situations and difficult times could be due in part to dominance of one cell-surface marker over another in a region of the brain involved in regulating emotional responses and behaviors, suggests results of a University of Pittsburgh study presented today at Neuroscience 2005, the 35th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. These two markers — both receptors that determine what effect the neurotransmitter serotonin has on a neuron — appear to be key intermediaries influencing emotional state and behavior during stress.

Gage Stevens, University of Pittsburgh: Kids as guinea pigs. Dawn MacKeen. Salon. 2000-05-31. Accessed on 2009-03-11 at:

A Heartburn Drug, Now Linked to Children’s Deaths. David Willman. The Los Angeles Times. 2000-12-20. Accessed on 2009-03-11 at:

FDA Criticized For Delay Pulling Drug. CBS Evening News. 2000-04-26. Accessed on 2009-03-11 at:

Janssen Pharmaceutica Stops Marketing Cisapride in the U.S. FDA Talk Paper. 2000-03-23. Accessed on 2009-03-11 at:

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man armed with two semiautomatic handguns entered the lobby of a psychiatric clinic at the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday and opened fire, killing one person and wounding several others before he was shot dead, apparently by campus police, the mayor said.

Six people were wounded by the man’s gunfire, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. A seventh suffered unspecified injuries but wasn’t shot, officials said.

The mayor stopped short of confirming the gunman was fatally shot by at least one University of Pittsburgh police officer who responded. But he confirmed “police acted admirably and did engage in gunfire.”

“There’s no doubt that their swift response saved lives today,” Ravenstahl said.

Shooting witness Gregory Brant said he was in a waiting room on the first floor of the clinic building when pandemonium broke out Thursday afternoon.

“We heard a bunch of yelling, some shooting, people yelling, ‘Hide! Hide!” he said. “Everyone’s yelling, ‘Stay down!’”

Brant, 53, and six other people, including a young girl and her parents, barricaded themselves inside the waiting room. But he said they did not feel safe because there were doors with windows along adjacent walls.

“The way the room was arranged, if he (the gunman) had gone to either window and would have seen us in there, he could have done whatever he wanted,” Brant said.

The group crouched in a corner, hoping the gunman wouldn’t see them as he went past, Brant said. The men in the group decided on the spot that if the gunman entered the room, they would rush him.

“We were kind of sitting ducks,” Brant said. “Luckily, he didn’t see us in there, and we didn’t make eye contact with him.”

Brant estimated the ordeal lasted 15 or 20 minutes.

One of the injured was a police officer who the mayor said was grazed by a bullet. Officials didn’t say if that officer shot the gunman, whose identity and relationship to the clinic, if any, weren’t disclosed. The injured people included employees and a visitor, said Dr. Donald Yealy, chair of emergency medicine at the university’s medical school.

A SWAT team was on the scene shortly after the shooting. A street was blocked off, and the area thronged with police. Most students are on spring break, though offices and buildings have been open.

Neighboring buildings were placed on lockdown for hours after the shooting, police said.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center spokesman Paul Wood said initial reports about a possible second gunman and a hostage situation at the clinic or at nearby UPMC Presbyterian hospital were unfounded.

UPMC and law enforcement officials declined to speculate on a motive for the shooting and said authorities were still sorting out which bullets from which guns inflicted which wounds.

The medical center said it was treating five patients, including two who had undergone surgery. Two others were treated and released. All were expected to survive.

The clinic, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, is located in the city’s Oakland neighborhood, a couple of miles east of downtown, and is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and one of several affiliated hospitals adjacent to the university campus. Other schools are nearby, including Carnegie Mellon, Carlow and Chatham universities.


Some therapists assume that anyone with an eating disorder undoubtedly was abused. This belief is unfounded. The October 1997 Harvard Mental Health Letter notes, for example, that the connection between child sexual abuse as a cause of eating disorders has not been confirmed, and that some recent studies raise serious doubts about it.

Another belief is that aversions to foods (such as bananas, mashed potatoes, or pickles) indicate past sexual mistreatment. The presence of an aversion, however, does not tell how it came about; to infer a cause-and-effect relationship is to dabble in pure speculation. Neither food aversions nor eating disorders prove that abuse occurred.


The recovered memory literature claims that many symptoms, in addition to flashbacks, body memories, and eating disorders, indicate past abuse. Thus, because of this literature, some therapists tell their patients that many behaviors — having headaches, getting tattoos, suffering from irritable bowels, showing high appreciation of small favors by others, or fearing dentists — prove past abuse. Others assert that wearing loose clothes (or wearing tight clothes), being unable to express anger (or being constantly angry), being afraid of sex (or being sexually compulsive), or taking risks (or not taking risks) all reveal past sexual mistreatment.

In fact, psychologist Ray London (1995) compiled a list of over 900 different symptoms that had been claimed as proof of past abuse. When he reviewed the professional literature, he found that not one of the 900 symptoms reliably proved an abuse history. No checklist of signs or symptoms proves the occurrence of past sexual abuse.

| There is no single set of symptoms which automatically indicates |
| that a person was a victim of abuse.” |
| American Psychological Association, Questions and Answers |
| about Memories of Childhood Abuse, 1995 |


Many scientific studies show that events accompanied by strong emotion are likely to be remembered, but no evidence demonstrates that they are any more accurate than any other recollections. Research shows that all memory is subject to the ordinary processes of misperception, distortion, decay, and change. The scientific evidence is clear: memories of events, whether traumatic or not, are reconstructed (that is, continuously reworked over time). As a result, all recollections are subject to change as time passes.

A competing belief exists in the recovered memory literature, however, that people commonly repress memories of horrible events and can accurately recover them years later. This belief, often referred to as a theory of repression (or dissociation or traumatic amnesia), is based on several assumptions that lack scientific support.

| Unfounded Beliefs about Repression: |
| * People commonly repress traumatic memories. |
| * These memories are relegated to a region of the unconscious |
| where they are protected from the kinds of decay affecting |
| other memories. |
| * Therapists can help excavate these memories years or decades |
| later. |
| * Such recollections, once excavated, are accurate. |
| * Recalling and “working through” traumatic memories are essential |
| for healing. |


Pope et al. (1998) reviewed all studies published since 1960 in which investigators had recruited victims of specific traumatic events and had prospectively assessed their psychological symptoms. A prospective study eliminates the problem of recall bias that can happen when people are asked to remember past events. Pope et al. found no evidence for repression. Indeed, for more than sixty years, researchers have been seeking scientific evidence that people repress traumatic memories. To date, they have found none. In summary, “the reality is that most people who are victims of childhood sexual abuse remember all or part of what happened to them.” (American Psychological Association, 1995)

Memory research refutes the other beliefs as well. No special mental mechanism protecting a memory from natural decay has ever been found. And no scientific evidence shows that psychological healing requires unearthing memories.

Evidence does abound, however, about the malleability of human memory. That is, when therapists engage in excavating their patients’ memories, they almost certainly shape what their patients recall. Scientific experiments have shown that it is remarkably easy to influence people so that they come to believe in false memories. Garry and Loftus (1994) reported the “lost in a mall” experiment in which some people were led to describe a time when they were lost in a shopping mall — an event that never happened. And Mazzoni and Loftus (1998) showed that suggestions in a therapy setting made by a clinical psychologist about the content of dreams led some patients to believe in past events that did not happen.

| Memory appears to be stored as distributed ensembles of synaptic |
| change. Neural networks are continuously resculpted as time |
| passes after learning, i.e., there are both gains and losses of |
| synaptic connectivity, and gradual changes in the substrate of |
| memory. In general, what is understood about the biology of memory |
| fits traditional psychological accounts of memory that emphasize |
| its proneness to error and reconstruction, and change over time. |
| Larry Squire, Ph.D. |
| Memory and Reality” Conference, 1994 |


Sometimes people call the Foundation and ask us if their recovered memories are true (historically accurate). We must respond by saying that, unfortunately, we could never know what happened to other people many years ago. Again, without some independent external corroboration, no one can discern true from false memories. When callers ask this question, we generally urge them to consider how these memories came to them. If repeated and suggestive questioning, inappropriate group therapy practices, imagination exercises, or “memory enhancement” techniques such as hypnosis were involved, we caution callers that although they may believe that they are remembering more, no evidence supports using these techniques for uncovering historically reliable memories. Hypnosis and sodium amytal (“truth serum”) are especially unreliable for these purposes.

Although other “memory work” techniques have not been studied as systematically as hypnosis, cognitive psychologists have warned about techniques like guided imagery, relaxation exercises, trance writing and stream-of-consciousness journaling. With these techniques, patients make no effort to apply critical and logical thought processes. In addition, they can induce an hypnotic state, with its well-known risk of increased suggestibility. Scientists have also noted the risks of believing in dream interpretation. Dreams are not videotapes of events; thus interpretations, even if made by experts, are completely subjective, and therefore of dubious reliability.

Memory does not work like a videotape recorder. There just is no button to push or pill to take that can guarantee historically accurate memories. Memory is constructive: that is, people take bits and fragments of recollections from the past and use them to reconstruct a narrative that makes sense to them in the here and now. Memory gaps get filled in with new information mixed with old, and it becomes impossible to separate the two. Again, the truth or falsity of a memory cannot be discerned in the absence of external corroboration.

| We quite literally ‘make up stories’ about our lives, the world, |
| and reality in general. Often it is the story that creates the |
| memory, rather than vice versa. |
| Robyn Dawes, Ph.D. |
| Rational Choice in an Uncertain World, 1990 |


This is a haunting question. Several forces in our cultural climate nurture belief in the relationship between past sexual abuse and present individual pathology. This relationship is endlessly trumpeted in pop psychology books, on television talk shows, in the movies, and in novels. These forces prepare people to accept the possibility that they were victims.

After the belief has been nurtured by these societal forces, it may be activated when a patient encounters a therapist who holds strongly to this belief system. When people enter therapy, they do so to get better. They want to change, they search for some explanation for their problems, they come to trust the person they have chosen to help them. They also tend to rely on the therapist’s opinion. If the person believes that a patient’s problems result from past trauma, and that the patient will not get better without remembering, naturally the patient will work to find what he or she thinks is a trauma memory in order to improve.

Once the belief in past abuse has formed, it can be reinforced in a variety of ways. For example, therapists may do so by reinterpreting other events in patients’ lives in a negative way, or therapists may encourage the patients to read self-help books that tell them how to act and what to think. Patients may be advised to cut off contact with anyone who does not support the new beliefs, thus eliminating any opportunity for alternative explanations. Another powerful reinforcer of such beliefs occurs during hospitalizations where patients may find themselves immersed in an environment in which everyone holds the same belief system. Because support groups offer acceptance of newly formed beliefs, patients may be urged to join them. Finally, some patients may cling to these abuse memories because they provide “an answer” for their psychological pain.


About 18% of the families surveyed by the Foundation tell us they have been accused of being part of an intergenerational cult that dressed up in robes, sacrificed babies, and engaged in cannibalism and bestiality. No evidence supports belief in such an intergenerational cult.

We have also received calls from relatives concerned about family members who have come to believe they were abducted and abused by space aliens, or abused in past lives. There is no scientific evidence for these beliefs either.

| Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the public |
| should not be frightened into believing that babies are being bred |
| and eaten, that 50,000 missing children are being murdered in |
| human sacrifices, or that satanists are taking over America’s day |
| care centers or institutions. No one can prove with absolute |
| certainty that such activity has NOT occurred. The burden of |
| proof, however, as it would be in a criminal prosecution, is on |
| those who claim that it has occurred. The explanation that the |
| satanists are too organized and law enforcement is too incompetent |
| only goes so far in explaining the lack of evidence. For at least |
| eight years American law enforcement has been aggressively |
| investigating the allegations of victims of ritual abuse. There is |
| little or no evidence for the portion of their allegations that |
| deals with large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and |
| organized satanic conspiracies. Now it is up to mental health |
| professionals, not law enforcement, to explain why victims are |
| alleging things that don’t seem to have happened. |
| Kenneth V. Lanning, Ph.D., 1992 |
| Investigator’s Guide to Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse |


Some parents, after learning that their children have been diagnosed as having MPD, ask for information about the condition. (The term “multiple personality disorder” was changed to “dissociative identity disorder” in DSM-IV.) The disorder is supposedly characterized by the presence within the patient of two or more “alters” (or “identities” or “personalities”) that periodically assume control of the patient’s behavior. During these times, the main personality (known as the “host”) is unaware of its surroundings and actions; the patient “comes to” when the secondary personality relinquishes control.

The problem with this picture (other than its manifest oddity) becomes clear when one examines how the disorder is diagnosed in real life. Alter personalities are, of course, invisible. Thus, a person’s observable behavior provides the only clue to an alter’s presence. However, no one — not even the experts — agrees on just what should and should not be considered to be alter-induced behaviors. Such a situation results in pure chaos; the experts actually do consider anything — driving a car, raising children, changing clothes, becoming angry, engaging in sex, blinking the eyes, even baking chocolate-chip cookies — to be the work of “personalities.”

Given such loose criteria, no one should be surprised that MPD therapists have “discovered” 300, 600, 1,000 or even 4,500 “alters” in one or another patient.

But matters become even more bizarre. In the recovered-memory/MPD literature, enthusiasts repeatedly state (based not on scientific evidence but rather on belief) that MPD results from childhood sexual mistreatment. Even if a patient denies being sexually maltreated as a child, enthusiasts have a ready explanation: the memory was “repressed.” This literature also repeatedly claims that the MPD patient cannot improve until she unearths and discusses every single one of her supposedly repressed childhood abuse recollections.

And so the cruel chain of illogic is forged. Based on any of literally thousands of behaviors, a therapist “diagnoses” a person as having MPD. The patient must, therefore, unquestionably have been traumatized as a child. Healing requires memories. If no memories bubble to the surface, the therapist stirs the pot ever more vigorously, thus setting in motion the never-ending search for abuse memories.

| It is imperative that all involved in this debate work hard to |
| ensure that the standards of science, not rhetoric or |
| pseudoscience, constitute the framework for future discussion. |
| Daniel L. Schacter, Ph.D., |
| Scientific American, April 1995 |

Pete Finelli, who lives two blocks from the clinic and once worked there as a student nursing assistant, said security guards are always at the part of the building where it the shooting is believed to have occurred, on the ground floor.

Patient rooms are on the upper floors, he said, but anyone on the first floor would have to be someone being either admitted or discharged.

“The only place a person would be on the first floor is the emergency room,” he said.

Pitt sent out email and text alerts shortly after 2 p.m. to warn people of the shooting.

“An active shooter has been identified at Western Psychiatric Institute. Several injured,” the alert said. “Possible second actor in Western Psych. Lockdown recommended until further notice. If safe to do so, tell others of this message.”

Lawton Snyder, executive director of Pitt’s Eye and Ear Foundation, said he and two other staffers were locked down about a block away, in a building that connects to the clinic. He said it was unnerving.

“Obviously I’m terribly sad for those injured. We’re just hoping everybody’s OK and things are resolved quickly and that they can apprehend those who are responsible,” he said.

Patient Kevin Bonner, who was staying on the building’s ninth floor, several floors above the shooting scene, said there was a normal atmosphere there, with patients in the common room listening to music, watching TV, drinking and eating snacks. Bonner said no one at the hospital had told them what was going on.

He said he had been napping and awoke to hear an announcement on the intercom: “Bronze Alert on the first floor.”

“I didn’t think I was hearing my ears right until I looked out the window” and saw police cars and a sniper, he said.

The alert and lockdown ended Thursday evening, but the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center asked that people avoid the clinic while the investigation into the shooting continued. People were free to go when and where they pleased at the two network hospitals nearest the clinic, UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Shadyside, which also had been locked down earlier in the day.

UPMC chief executive Jeffrey Romoff said the health network was “deeply, deeply saddened by today’s events” and expressed “deepest sympathy to the victims and their families.”