This man has suffered the greatest pain any person can ever feel, the loss of a child. His testimony is emotional and spot on. Gun laws isn’t the problem, it is the culture.
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It seems that one of the working theories of why Adam Lanza went on a killing spree in the small town of Newtown, CT was that he feared being put into a psychiatric hospital against his wishes. Getting an adult (and even an underaged child) committed for reasons to do with mental health is very difficult thing to do.
What we don’t know is if Adam was deteriorating even further that made it easier that a judge would consider conservatorship to his mother and allowing her to enter him into a hospital. Several friends of mom have said that they believed Adam was becoming harder and harder for her to handle on her own. It is also said that it was possible that she was going to relocate to the state of Washington where she located a school/treatment facility that would be able to help care for him.
As my regular readers know, I suffer from a mental illness; one thing I can be quite certain of, hospitalization is a scary prospect. It is something that I have had to deal with at times in my life. At moments I knew things were totally out of control and I couldn’t continue on the path I was on. If I had stayed on that path I wouldn’t be here right now. I know that with 100% certainty. I also know for 100% certainty that I, like most mentally ill, was not a danger to anyone else. Most behavior from mental illness is self-destructive, not violent. But, how does one tell the difference between the self-destructive and the potentially deadly? I am not even sure a doctor can do that.
I do believe that it is far too difficult to get a severely mentally ill person into treatment without their consent.
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.
The words from a mother of a mentally ill child who is at the end of her wits. She is struggling to find the right school, the right doctor, the cure. She has been unable to find them and her son is ill. She has to make a heart wrenching choice, jail her eldest child or take the chance that he be the next mass murderer when his rage rises to the surface. She has two younger children to consider, and of course her own safety. She has a “plan” that her two younger children follow if they see their big bro acting in a violent fashion. They run to the car and lock themselves in. I don’t think that work as this now 12-year-old boy grows and becomes stronger.
We have to find a balance between the civil liberties of people like me and protecting the severely mentally ill from themselves and protecting society as well. We went way too far back in the 50’s and 60’s. We locked up people who had no real business being locked up. We had parents who were shuffling off children that were difficult to handle, but not mentally ill. Once you were put into this place, it was very hard to get out of. The movie Girl, Interrupted was based on a true story of young woman who spent 18 months in mental institution against her will. These things did happen. These hospitals were sometimes hell holes. Patients were sexually abused, raped, drugged, given severe medical treatments such as labotomies and shock treatments. We cannot go back to those days. But we went too far in the other direction. We have made almost impossible to get any treatment until they hurt themselves or someone else. By then, it usually already too late. The laws are far too restrictive.
There are no easy answers and finding the proper balance between the needs of a civil and moral society and the rights of the individual is not going to be easy. But we must try.
I want to start this out by saying I personally know children that were in that house of horrors today. Luckily they are fine, physically. Emotionally, well that is going to be something that time will only tell about.
I grew up in Fairfield County, Connecticut. I lived in the other side of the county, about 35 minutes away. So this hits home for a number of reasons.
In most instances, we find out days/hours later that the shooter is mentally ill. I have written about this in the past. I have a mental illness. I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. I can clearly remember the symptoms showing up in about my freshman year of high school. I was 13 at the time. It has a major effect on the trajectory of your life and the lives of people around you. There isn’t an aspect of your life that isn’t affected. You may be able to hide it for a while, but sooner or later it comes through. How much the people around understand depends on the education level of mental illness within that person.
Today, a 20-year-old man shot his mother in the face, killing her. Drove to the school she allegedly worked at (this aspect of the story is still cloudy), walked into the office of the school shot and killed the principal and school psychologist, continued into a classroom of kindergarteners and massacred them. 20 dead children in all, and that number could very well change in the next few days.
All every one wants to know right now is why. A question that we never fully have answers to since the shooter killed himself after he did his dirty deeds. His mother, whom he was living with, is also dead. His father and brother lived in a different state and apparently did not have a great deal of contact with him. The brother, who was originally called the shooter in the early hours in the fog of reporting has told police that his brother had a personality disorder (gee, ya think) and was either suffering from autism or asbergers. Neither of which are known for this type of depraved violence. So we will be forced to make assumptions on what his motives were.
But what I can tell you is that this type of act isn’t thought of in one day. He had to have had this planned out in his head. But before we even had a body count, the cries of “GUN CONTROL” were being heard loudly and clearly. Well, as I said I grew up in CT. I can tell you they have strict gun laws. He was not able to buy these guns legally. He was under age. He also committed this horror in a gun free zone. Obviously he didn’t care about the laws. Today, in a much less reported story, there was an incident of 20 children and a teacher being attacked by some knife wielding lunatic. Luckily none of those children were killed as far as I know. But it just goes to show you, if there is a will, there is a way.
Look, I dont’ know what really happened today, and neither does anyone else. We know that far too many died. We know that the surviving children that were in that school today are going to be traumatized for quite some time, if not forever. There will be children who will be afraid to go back to school. First responders are having a hard time with the scene they witnessed today as well. The town of Newtown have already started pulling resources together to get counseling for those who will need it.
What I do know is that we have many issues that could have contributed to why this happened today.
- violence in our culture is glorified. Look at almost any movie that is out today. I loved The Dark Knight movie. But it was horribly violent. It is far from the only that is. Jaime Foxx was just making jokes last week that he killed all the white guys in his latest film due out on Christmas Day of all days.
- We live in a 24/7 news cycle in this country. Where these incidents are plastered all over the news for days on end. We have You Tube where any idiot can post things to make themselves look “cool”. We have an obsession with becoming rich and famous; in this case becoming infamous.
- Mental Health issues are so stigmatized in this country that many people are unwilling to admit that they, or a loved one, has a problem that needs to be addressed. I happen to live in a state that has a law that insurance companies must cover certain illnesses at a medical problem instead of a mental health problem. Which many of them are. Many other states do not have these laws. They should. Mental health care should not be something to be ashamed of.
- People in the U.S. are largely uneducated about mental illness. We make these assumptions that if you are not in need of straight jacket sitting in a rubber room that you some how are not really mentally ill. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am a living example. I have journals that I was writing in during one of my really downward spirals. I was able to plan. My plan was to kill myself and make it look like an accident. I wanted to make my loved ones wonder. It was some sick sense of revenge that I was going through at the time.
- Yes, we have lost our moral compass in this country. We have a culture that says if it feels good, do it. We have become rude and that seems to increase almost daily. We have lost respect for ourselves, for our communities, and for worst of all for each other.
- Parenting, and I mean real parenting, is very lacking in this country. Go to any mall in America and watch how children behave. They run wild and parents do little to stop it.
- We assign labels to virtually every childhood ill these days. Autism, ADHD, and Aspbergers. I don’t deny this things exist, nor do I say that there are not children who honestly need to be medicated. But many that are being medicated can very likely be more in need of a firm hand at home. By that I don’t mean spanking, I just mean a parent that is truly parenting. Setting limits for your children is loving them and being the best parent you can be. All children need boundaries.
I have said this before and sadly, I will have to say this again. We fail people with mental illness in this country and we fail them in a big way. Mental illness is not a something that you choose to have. The same way you do not choose to have a heart problem. It isn’t something that you do to yourself. It isn’t an illness that is brought on by lifestyle choices. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain. That imbalance can make you hear voices. It can make you so paranoid that you do quite literally put on a tin foil hat. That saying came from something that is real. Many believe that the televisions are sending signals to them. It can make you barely be able to get out of bed, to cry incessantly. You will over/under eat. You will lose friends. You will lose jobs. You will have a difficult time holding relationships. Another thing I have heard people say is that it is so selfish. Why yes, yes it is. That is another part of the illness. You can’t see beyond your own pain. The rest of the world be damned.
Until we start having the difficult conversations in this country and talk about the underlying reasons that these shooting keep happening, all the gun control in the world won’t change it. I am all for common sense restrictions on guns. We should have a permitting system. We should have background checks for mental illness and criminal activity. But what we can’t do is take guns away from law-abiding citizens that allow them to protect themselves. Do I want to see every school in this country full of armed people. Heck no. The idea of that repulses me. But maybe we are getting to the point that at very least every school entrance must be locked on the outside and metal detectors are installed. As sad as that makes me, it just may be necessary. As I said, I grew up near Newtown, CT. It is a sleepy little town that has virtually no crime. It is a very family friendly environment. It has one of the largest American flags in the town square that I have ever seen in my life. The people in that town take pride in that flag. On summer weekends people are watching their kids compete in sports and having neighborhood BBQ’s. It is the kind of town where most people know your business. This is one of the places that hear about these things in a far away place. The people who live there say to themselves how terrible, but go to bed feeling safe it will never happen to them. But today it did.
So thanks heavens that Leslie, her children, and Graham all made it out ok today. I am thankful for that. But the time has well past that they have the difficult conversations and deal with the real problems instead of political talking points.