Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Seung-Hui Cho, the unanswered cries for help, the dangerously mentally ill have struck again
Eric LaMont Gregory
to those whose thoughts now lie in a place so deep that tears cannot reach them, we extend the prayers of a mournful nation
First, to all those whose lives have been touched by this tragedy, all those whose thoughts now lie in a place so deep that tears cannot reach them, we extend the prayers of a mournful nation.
We will miss those children, parents and teachers who were looking forward to Christmas, Hanukkah, this season of family and friends, decorations, and the joy of giving. We can but remind the survivors that life is for the living, and time only is the true solace of grief.
The legacy of Newtown, there ought to be a legacy, might propel us as a nation to come to grips with the mental health needs of the American people, especially our young.
Earlier in that same week that brought us the tragedy on our eastern coast, I had spent time with Sheriff Lavender of Ross County, Ohio. Sheriff Lavender had sought assistance for a woman he found in a state of severe mental distress. He could not find assistance for her, and that woman subsequently took her own life. She had been but one of several similiar suicides that had occurred recently in the same area. And, then a few days later, we were confronted with the tradegy in the small close knit community of Newtown, Fairfield County, Connecticut.
I had just begun to write about the need for acute mental health intervention service in Ross County when the news of Newtown awakened us once again to mass shootings, grieving parents, and the inexplicable loss of life.
While, searching through the news and editorials about the Newtown school tragedy, I came across a title that was rather disturbing to say the least, it read 'I am Adam Lanza's Mother'.
The author, Liza Long, is the mother of a child with, in her words - special needs. The kind of needs that in 21st Century America are ill addressed and woefully so. Liza, a loving mother of three, is confronted with the fact that there are no services that are readily available to her or her son, and that if she wants to protect her other children and herself, she must criminalize her own child. And, that criminalizing her son may provide protection for her family from the mental-illness driven harm that her son might inflict, but will not however provide her son the help that he needs actually to live a productive mental illness free life.
This choice is the disturbing reality of mental illness in America today.
Liza Longs article - I am Adam Lanza's Mother - appears below. It is not easy reading, but at the same time it is a important contribution which may propel serious discussion about the mental health needs of the American population, especially the young.
I am Adam Lanza’s Mother
It's time to talk about mental illness
by Liza Long
... the United States is using our prisons as the solution of choice for mentally ill people, the number of mentally ill inmates in US prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise, in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater - 56 percent - than in the non-incarcerated population.
Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.
“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”
“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”
“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, and then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”
“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”
His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”
That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.
“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”
“You know where we are going,” I replied.
“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”
I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”
Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.
The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork - “Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with ... has your child ever experienced... does your child have…”
At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.
For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”
By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.
On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”
And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.
I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And, these boys—and their mothers - need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred in the United States. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the US live in fear, like I do.
When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”
I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.
With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.
No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”
I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.
God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.
Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
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Psychiatric Community Not Stepping Up
By Bernie Reeves
the dangerously mentally ill have struck again
"Not the simplest crime scene" opined the top cop investigating the Newtown, Ct. school massacre. But what happened is simple indeed: the dangerously mentally ill have struck again. Instead of being confined where they can be monitored and treated, advanced state paranoid schizophrenics roam freely, listening to voices that eventually order them to kill.
The price we pay is the regular occurrence of unnecessary mass killings. The media rarely point out each time that the incidents have the same modus operandi. Reporting is laced with outrage at the perpetrator and demands for swift justice. Vengeance is gradually replaced with the crying need for gun control - followed by a flurry of anti-gun rhetoric which goes nowhere: the large majority of Americans support the right to bear arms. Rarely do the first reports state the obvious: another dangerously mentally ill killer is at it again.
Of course it started in the 1960s, the era of zany theories. British psychiatrist RD Laing posited that schizophrenics were more in touch with the forces of life than normal "square" people. After all, they were usually bright, and particularly lucid while experiencing episodes of the illness. Laing was so convinced of their advanced psychic state, he conducted experiments that switched roles between patient and doctor.
Berkeley graduate student Ken Kesey, an early proponent of LSD - developed to treat schizophrenia - was inspired by the Laing lunacy to write One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, the iconic homage to the advanced spiritual state of the disease in which the protagonist is the mentally ill RP McMurphy. The enemy and antagonist is Nurse Ratchid, who represents the world of square people committed to snuffing out the cosmic philosophy and inner revelations of schizophrenics.
This prototypical identity politics doctrine took hold in the public mind, and became a mantra in the mental illness treatment community, which led to the mass release of previously confined mental patients onto the streets of America. Thus the "homeless" problem overtook America - spun by the compliant media as the failure of Ronald Regan's economic theories. Concomitantly, legal activists challenged and expunged loitering and vagrancy statutes, leaving the general public exposed to pugnacious panhandling and unprovoked attacks.
The proponents of this nonsense had a political agenda. But as happens in surreptitious social change, there were unintended consequences of a magnitude never imagined. The treatment of the mentally ill began to center on patient rights as well as care. Confinement came to be regarded as imprisonment and a constitutional violation Since this trend has become institutionalized, the frequency of mass killings has increased, directly correlated to empowering the seriously mentally ill and diminishing the ability for relatives or the public to do anything about it. Families lie sleepless unable to take action to commit a spouse, child or other close relative when they know violence is certain to explode. The patients have all the rights, and the power of the bureaucracy on their side. It is now time to remove guns from the top position in media coverage and implore the psychiatric community to coalesce and present a formula to identify and deal with potentially psychotic patients. As it stands now, the only method to remove dangerous patients is to have them arrested, which requires a process often too difficult and wrenching to contemplate.
The Sandy Hook shootings have affected parents more deeply than any of the dozens of previous massacres since the 1980s. Discussing the event with young children is difficult, and creates anxiety that saying the wrong thing could be permanently damaging. It is indeed a national trauma that requires national therapy. There is a gnawing helplessness that 'there is nothing we can do'.
Yet there is, but the professionals who can construct a solution are the ones who abandoned their duty, leaving 20 little children and six adults dead. You would think they would step up.