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Old 12-16-2012, 09:11 PM  
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I'm Adam Lanza's mother. It’s time for a meaningful conversation about mental illness

This is all over the internet and emailed back and forth. But, maybe you have missed it and its a must read.

Written by Liza Long, republished from The Blue Review

Friday’s horrific national tragedy -- the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, 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.

While every family's story of mental illness is different, and we may never know the whole of the Lanza's story, tales like this one need to be heard -- and families who live them deserve our help.

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 Michael (name changed) 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, 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.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

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 throughout the country. 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 U.S. 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
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:53 AM   #91
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just keep telling yourself criminally insane folks will come out "rehabilitated" and that our system protected those kids last friday.
They shouldn't come out...that's my point. Either lock them up for good or keep living with the threat of stuff like this, at least until a systematic way of identifying and dealing with problem individuals can be developed. That's a tall order though.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:53 AM   #92
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Prisons are big business. Don't kid yourself... private investors get rich off of the intentionally inflated prison population. That's why we have more prisoners than any other country in the world.
I'm on your side of this. Our policies allowed those kids to be executed.
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Old 12-17-2012, 08:58 AM   #93
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They shouldn't come out...
the problem with your ideas is that they do not attempt to solve the problem. how many repeat offender rapes etc do you need to read about before you come to realize this system isn't solving social ills.

There are those who will always be criminally insane & a dangerous threat to society. The point here is, proactivity. We could have saved those children from being mowed down.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:04 AM   #94
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I'm not focusing on that aspect. I'm focusing on what is in front of us. I have a child who has been diagnosed with Oppositional defiance disorder. At times it is rough but I keep moving forward looking for ways to motivate him. The resources that are available are largely nonexistent and if they are they are heavily priced with a less than stellar record. So what are the options available as traditional counseling may or may not be effective (either way delivering a heavy price tag)? I could attempt to medicate, but then there is the problem. What motivation does a company have to create a cure. The money is in the maintenance. (I'm not naive, I know some things can not be cured, however, I do believe an earnest attempt should be made to find one)
I am sorry to hear about the situation. Medication for such a behavioral disorder such as this is not the answer. I am glad to hear you are hesitant about it. However, if other illness is present such as anxiety or learning disabilities, medication shouldn't be completely ruled out.

One of the main issues and concerns with ODD is that it develops into conduct disorder or even worse, anti social personality disorder as they move to early adulthood, so it is important to address it as early as possible. There is no one perfect method of treatment and children respond differently to different methods, however some of the best options are family therapy, social skills training, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT focuses on the behaviors and problem solving by allowing the child to explore their thought processes and speak freely. The short version is changing the behavior changes the cognitions. (This is actually a basic premise of reality therapy/choice theory which is a type of CBT).
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:04 AM   #95
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Originally Posted by Lou_Zare View Post
the problem with your ideas is that they do not attempt to solve the problem. how many repeat offender rapes etc do you need to read about before you come to realize this system isn't solving social ills.

There are those who will always be criminally insane & a dangerous threat to society. The point here is, proactivity. We could have saved those children from being mowed down.
? What I'm proposing doesn't allow for repeat offenders.

Actually I'm not proposing anything. I'm saying that right now the only choices are lock em up forever or institute some kind of magical system that cures people. Lock em up forever - super costly, wasted lives, etc. Magical rehabilitation system - sounds all nice and rosy, but how the hell do you institute that? Do you just drug everyone that ever had an angry moment? Identification of who to treat will be hard enough, then actually being sure that the treatment worked is another story.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:05 AM   #96
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Originally Posted by Lou_Zare View Post
the problem with your ideas is that they do not attempt to solve the problem. how many repeat offender rapes etc do you need to read about before you come to realize this system isn't solving social ills.

There are those who will always be criminally insane & a dangerous threat to society. The point here is, proactivity. We could have saved those children from being mowed down.
The problem is you fail at reading comprehension.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:06 AM   #97
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? What I'm proposing doesn't allow for repeat offenders.

Actually I'm not proposing anything. I'm saying that right now the only choices are lock em up forever or institute some kind of magical system that cures people. Lock em up forever - super costly, wasted lives, etc. Magical rehabilitation system - sounds all nice and rosy, but how the hell do you institute that?
How do you prove that someone is a danger worthy of life behind bars or in an institution until they've committed a crime with a sentence of that duration? That's a pretty major violation of our constitutional rights, I'd think.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:08 AM   #98
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Originally Posted by Lou_Zare View Post
the problem with your ideas is that they do not attempt to solve the problem. how many repeat offender rapes etc do you need to read about before you come to realize this system isn't solving social ills.

There are those who will always be criminally insane & a dangerous threat to society. The point here is, proactivity. We could have saved those children from being mowed down.
Yes, by realizing this murderer was a bad apple several episodes and visits to the emergency room ago and locked his ass up for study, er, I mean his own good.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:09 AM   #99
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How do you prove that someone is a danger worthy of life behind bars or in an institution until they've committed a crime with a sentence of that duration? That's a pretty major violation of our constitutional rights, I'd think.
I have no clue! My point is that in order to fully prevent things like this is to lock them up forever. I know that isn't practical or realistic. We're going to have to live with the threat of this kind of thing until a working rehab system is in place (can it be done?) or until everyone suspected of anything is gone forever. My real feeling is that this kind of thing will just happen, no matter which way we attack it.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:23 AM   #100
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How do you prove that someone is a danger worthy of life behind bars or in an institution until they've committed a crime with a sentence of that duration? That's a pretty major violation of our constitutional rights, I'd think.
You start by eliminating the concept of insanity/diminished mental capacity as a defense. Pull a knife on someone? Get charged like anyone else would. Threaten to kill someone, again, charged accordingly.

Stop dismissing the actions of these people because they are crazy. You want to use mental health in determining where they are incarcerated? Fine. Use it to dismiss their actions? No.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:24 AM   #101
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This is the hospital in my hood (growing up). It's a famous place because it was founded in 1736 and has been a leader in mental health over centuries. It has been rendered useless by today's legislative genius.



The original Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital building, now
a men's homeless shelter.



Many of you are too young to understand what has happened in this arena. During the late seventies, funding was cut for mental health and treatment which resulted in tens of thousands of mentally ill folks to be pushed out of these facilities. Many were criminally insane, did crimes and were put into prison, only to be released onto the streets again. The cycle began and is intact today.

I am a proponent of removing the criminally insane from society. But, I am not a proponent of waiting until these folks kill somebody before taking action. Trained doctors need to be in charge of this, not cops. We need to study these folks and find the chemical makeup & preordained behavior patterns of these folks. With this info, we can determine a young person's disposition before they kills our kids.

As for whether some should remain in a mental health facility -- I agree there are some folks that cannot be cured. But prison is not the place, for several reasons -- one big reason is the lacking knowledge of those in charge, who, when pressed by budget cuts etc, will randomly release these type folks without batting an eye.

As for the cost of such programs -- could it be possible corporations would help fund? Ya. It's possible.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:36 AM   #102
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BTW- thx for sharing/starting this thread, BRC.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:45 AM   #103
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with the advances in DNA and gene research, it wont be too long before it will become routine to test for genetic anomalies that cause some of the more serious mental issues, just like they test for Down's syndrome now. Granted, that opens another can of worms, but that could possibly lead to gene therapy if, for example, it is found that your unborn child will have one of these disorders.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:50 AM   #104
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with the advances in DNA and gene research, it wont be too long before it will become routine to test for genetic anomalies that cause some of the more serious mental issues, just like they test for Down's syndrome now. Granted, that opens another can of worms, but that could possibly lead to gene therapy if, for example, it is found that your unborn child will have one of these disorders.
Minority Report....
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:55 AM   #105
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with the advances in DNA and gene research, it wont be too long before it will become routine to test for genetic anomalies that cause some of the more serious mental issues, just like they test for Down's syndrome now. Granted, that opens another can of worms, but that could possibly lead to gene therapy if, for example, it is found that your unborn child will have one of these disorders.
My point, as well. But, as a physician, you know political leadership & social trends took the opposing path long ago. We live in a society that sells only predetermined health solutions -- those with health conditions outside of such guidelines are ignored by our systems, both public & private.
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Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.Ace Gunner is too fat/Omaha.
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