Parents, Talking About Newtown

Firmin Debrabander, in the NYTImes, on “The Freedom of an Armed Society“:

The night of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., I was in the car with my wife and children, working out details for our eldest son’s 12th birthday the following Sunday — convening a group of friends at a showing of the film “The Hobbit.” The memory of the Aurora movie theatre massacre was fresh in his mind, so he was concerned that it not be a late night showing. At that moment, like so many families, my wife and I were weighing whether to turn on the radio and expose our children to coverage of the school shootings in Connecticut. We did. The car was silent in the face of the flood of gory details. When the story was over, there was a long thoughtful pause in the back of the car. Then my eldest son asked if he could be homeschooled…

Via the Washington Post, a mother talks about being on the other side of the nightmare:

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, [13-year-old] 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….

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…

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, on Friday afternoon:

There are things we must do together, in a political context, because these things are too big — and, in this case, too monstrous — for us to handle alone. Self-government and its institutions — public schools, police and fire departments, the ridiculously underfunded mental-health facilities, and all the people to whom we increasingly begrudge their salaries — are the only things keeping us from falling back into barbarism, and the only things keeping us safe and sane when one of us falls back into it on their own.

We are our brother’s keeper. The bell tolls for all of us… We all have an investment in the institutions through which we apply these concepts to each other and to ourselves. We have to nurture those institutions and guard them, because they are so very much more easily destroyed than they are to build. And, yes, dammit, we have to pay for them, and we have to pay the salaries of the people who work for them, because we are their keepers, too, and because the bell tolls for them the same way it tolls for all of us.

Resist, then, the forces who tell you that the creation and maintenance of that commonwealth is too expensive or too complicated, or that it is an appeal to a time now lost to technology and modernity and the glories of free trade. Resist the frauds and mountebanks who seek to prosper from fragmentation and isolation, and who tell you that your “freedom” exists in a place outside of that creative process of self-government, and that, in fact, the institutions produced by that process are the enemies of that “freedom.” Resist, as strongly as you can, the people who seek to profit by isolating you in your homes, and in your anger, and in your wounded sense of aggrieved entitlement, and with all your guns…

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113 replies
  1. 1
    Robin G. says:

    I’m so sorry for that mother. And I don’t have the slightest idea what to do to help her.

  2. 2
    General Stuck says:

    I read that ladies article a couple of days ago, and it was painful to read. You could almost hear her silent screams at being torn between the dedication of motherhood and being scared for her life all the time.

  3. 3
    TooManyJens says:

    We didn’t tell our kindergartener anything. We don’t have any live TV service (we use Netflix & Amazon for TV) and my in-laws hid their newspaper when she was over there, so it’s been very easy for us to avoid. I don’t think there’s any reason she needs to know.

    That said, I don’t know whether she’ll hear anything from other kids at school. Her school goes up to 5th grade, and there’s no way the 10-year-olds won’t have heard, but I don’t know how much information gets passed from the older kids to the younger ones. I also don’t know what, if anything, the teacher will say. I did tell her when we dropped her off at school this morning that if she had questions or wanted to talk about anything that they talked about in school, that she should know she could always ask us. I’ll try to feel her out tonight whether she heard anything.

    I’m not really sure if this is the right approach, but … well, WTF is the right approach? I don’t want to scare her for no useful reason, but I also want to be able to explain and reassure her if she does hear anything.

  4. 4
    J. Michael Neal says:

    The article about Michael is heartbreaking, but it also highlights why I’m a bit queasy about using a mass murder to push a mental health agenda. I don’t think that anything connected to this can or will destigmatize mental illness. It’s going to have the opposite effect. It’s going to link those of us with mental health problems with people you need to be really scared of.

    I don’t know that there’s any way around this. I just don’t think that there’s any way to turn this into something that encourages people to think rationally about mental illness. And I’m really lacking in enthusiasm for turning this into a time to talk about Asperger’s.

  5. 5
    Hal says:

    My mental break from all this horror is this video of a toddler with Down Syndrome and a very insistent Lab. I find it great relief in the middle of all this tragedy. I’m guessing this is some kind of therapy for the child, and while he seems irritated by the dog, the dogs insistent attempts at engaging the kid are super sweet.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....HDKvuJFSA#!

  6. 6
    👽 Martin says:

    @TooManyJens: We talked about it with our kids. My daughter is 6th grade. She understands that this isn’t likely to happen around her, but also to remind her that if she’s uncomfortable with something she sees going on around her to talk to one of the teachers about it.

    For a kindergardener, I wouldn’t say anything. They’re too young to put something like this in context.

  7. 7
    mclaren says:

    That kid who pulled a knife on his parent?

    Future police officer.

    Wait and see. He’ll make lieutenant in no time. He’s another James Pike in the making. That kid is gonna have quite a career in law enforcement.

  8. 8
    Rafer Janders says:

    @TooManyJens:

    Her school goes up to 5th grade, and there’s no way the 10-year-olds won’t have heard, but I don’t know how much information gets passed from the older kids to the younger ones.

    All of it.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Violet says:

    @Rafer Janders: Depends how the school is structured. When I was in elementary school we had no interactions with kids from other grades. Our classes were grade-level-only, so was recess/gym and lunch. The only opportunity to interact with someone outside my grade would have been on the bus.

    Many kids in the grade level will know because parents will tell them or older brothers and sisters will tell them, or they will hear it from the news or elsewhere. But they may not get it from someone at school.

  11. 11
    kc says:

    Then my eldest son asked if he could be homeschooled

    I’ve seen some comments from wingnuts saying that the shooting is a vindication for homeschoolers.

  12. 12
    Todd says:

    @Robin G.:

    I’ve seen this before. The only answer – and she won’t accept it – is lock down forever institutionalization, commencing immediately.

    She cannot fix that through any amount of good will, and is ruining the lives of the younger children in the process. She can save his life and possibly others by acting proactively in the here and now, or she can twist and turn over the next decade, reeling from failure to rage to destruction, all while impoverishing herself and endangering the siblings.

    Some people simply have to be warehoused.

  13. 13
    punkdavid says:

    About the mother with the mentally ill son, there has been some talk on tubes that she may not be all she claims. I don’t know anything more than what I’ve read, but I just wanted to pass this on to our reality-based community.

    http://sarahkendzior.com/2012/.....-her-blog/

  14. 14
    Violet says:

    @kc: That makes so much sense since Adam Lanza was homeschooled.

  15. 15
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @mclaren: I’m thinking he’ll become a future blog troller.

  16. 16
    ShadeTail says:

    @Robin G.: Primarily, we need to have mental health hospitals. *REAL* hospitals that help them, rather than the inhumane warehouses we used to keep them in 50 and 60 years ago. As that mother’s article points out, the only option right now is to jail the mentally ill along with common criminals, and that simply doesn’t help anybody, least of all the poor mentally ill person. And it would certainly be tricky to balance their rights not to be confined against their will with society’s right to be safe, but it has to be done. We need a real system that can help the people who need it without abusing them in the process.

  17. 17
    gogol's wife says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    Yes, I’m bothered by how many people have sent me that link. I think it’s just changing the subject. The problem is the guns. Mental health is a different subject. We have to focus on the guns.

  18. 18
    mouse tolliver says:

    I’m losing IQ points from listening to the conversation that’s happening on Hardball right now. Armed security in every school! Arm every citizen to protect us from the gubmint! When elections are stolen git yer gun, says gun nut Larry Pratt.

  19. 19
    PeakVT says:

    @J. Michael Neal: If this was a sane country, we would could talk about both. As it stands, I think we should focus on gun control/safety, because even if American provided very good mental health care, that wouldn’t stop all of mass-murder incidents. Plus, the austerity bomb is still set to go off any day now.

  20. 20
    gogol's wife says:

    @punkdavid:

    Interesting. That thing has been making me queasy, so I’m glad to see it looks as if I was right.

  21. 21
    Violet says:

    @gogol’s wife: Yep. Mentally ill people without access to guns may hurt themselves or a small number of people, but they will not be able to mow down a classroom full of first graders.

  22. 22
    gogol's wife says:

    @mouse tolliver:

    Is Chris Matthews saying that?

  23. 23
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @kc:

    I’ve seen some comments from wingnuts saying that the shooting is a vindication for homeschoolers.

    Yeah, that’ll do it.

  24. 24

    I love the Charles Pierce snippet. I gave this same argument the other day to a Libertarian…seems about every few weeks I have to repeat it for somebody….It’s “WE, the People”. We make a choice to live here and participate. If you don’t want to participate, more power to you. Go live out in the wilderness on your lonesome but you damn sure better not try to live off of government services and then bitch to me about how government is evil. And you don’t get to live in society and then plot it’s destruction because if you take any action in furtherance this gun owning liberal will shoot your traitorous ass. I’m so sick of the libertarian hypocrites…they’re like fleas on a dog in AZ.

  25. 25
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Can we not give this Anarchist Soccer Mom woman anymore publicity. How do we know that she has no agenda? Putting her son’s photo with that post is beyond irresponsible.

  26. 26
    beltane says:

    @punkdavid: As the mother of an Aspie, I found the whole premise of “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” offensive on its face so the contents of her usual blog postings don’t particularly surprise me. Thank’s for confirming my suspicions about this woman.

    Nancy Lanza apparently did not have Aspergers and she is the one who procured assault rifles and trained her son in their use. Focusing attention and fear on mental illness, autism, and people who are quiet and don’t have a lot of friends may be the safe thing to do because it lets us avoid the real issue here, but it is also the lazy and useless thing to do.

  27. 27
    mouse tolliver says:

    @gogol’s wife: He seemed to be leaning towards putting armed security in schools, but the gun nut lost him when he started talking about using guns against a popularly elected government. Hopefully the point wasn’t lost him that the right has been screaming about a stolen election for the past four years, and if we followed Pratt’s advice we’d have armed conflicts all over the country right now.

  28. 28
    gogol's wife says:

    @beltane:

    Right.

  29. 29
    beltane says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: This Anarchist Soccer Mom sounds like a prime example of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy. Let’s not feed into her agenda.

  30. 30

    Wonkette has been great on this topic. Rebecca and crew are taking things very seriously and earnestly, with very little snark. Like everybody else, their guiding principle seems to be “I just can’t.”

  31. 31
    👽 Martin says:

    @mouse tolliver:

    He seemed to be leaning towards putting armed security in schools

    Fine by me, but not one penny from the existing tax base. Every dime of that comes from a tax on guns and ammo.

  32. 32
    The Moar You Know says:

    It’s going to link those of us with mental health problems with people you need to be really scared of.

    @J. Michael Neal: There are some people with mental health issues who are people you really need to be scared of, as I related a few threads ago.

    I’ve seen this before. The only answer – and she won’t accept it – is lock down forever institutionalization, commencing immediately.
    __
    She cannot fix that through any amount of good will, and is ruining the lives of the younger children in the process. She can save his life and possibly others by acting proactively in the here and now, or she can twist and turn over the next decade, reeling from failure to rage to destruction, all while impoverishing herself and endangering the siblings.
    __
    Some people simply have to be warehoused.

    @Todd: As I said a few posts back, I had an extended encounter with just such a young man a few years back. I could not agree more. Nothing is going to “turn this kid around”. At best, he’ll end up ruining many lives before putting a bullet into his own head.

    What’s probably going to happen is he’s going to injure and maim quite a few people before he kills one or more in his late twenties/early thirties, and then a few more in prison before his inevitable early death. We need a better system than the “criminal justice”/prison warehouse system for dealing with people this ill, but we don’t have it and damn sure don’t want to pay for what it will take to put these people safely away for life – with access to help and comfort.

  33. 33
    Ken J. says:

    20 children were killed at the Sandy Hook school.

    I wonder how many days of news reports I’d have to paw through to find 20 similar-aged children shot dead, in onesies and twosies, in the urban areas America has written off? I haven’t checked, but it seems to me the death of a child as collateral damage in a shooting is not a rare event in Detroit. (A Google search on “Detroit Child Shot” turns up about five distinct child killings in 2012, on the first page of the search results.)

    Detroit’t just one dysfunctional city, we got a bunch more.

    Is the shooting of children acceptable? I think America answered that question years ago, at least for some children.

  34. 34
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Todd:

    I wouldn’t necessarily say “lock down forever,” but it seems pretty clear that residential treatment is going to be required, preferably before he’s an adult and the only option really is jail.

    My nephew (severely ADHD, probably bipolar) spent a couple of years at the Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch and was able to graduate high school on time despite being very low on credits when he arrived. I was, frankly, pretty skeptical (especially since it requires weekly church attendance at the church of the student or parent’s choice) but he really did come back a changed kid. When his grandfather died this summer, it was clear that he had learned a lot of skills that helped him cope with it and with the family. Still not perfect, but he has at least managed to unlearn hitting and/or threatening people to try and get his way.

  35. 35
    PurpleGirl says:

    @kc: Ah, do they need reminding of Andrea Yates, who was homeschooling her children when she killed them.

  36. 36

    @ShadeTail:

    We need a real system that can help the people who need it without abusing them in the process.

    Seconding your point….Jailing them or putting them on Probation only makes their situation worse. I had quite a few schizophrenics on my caseload back in the day and they would simply cycle through the system periodically, mostly for stupid stuff. The saddest thing about it was that the savvier and crueler criminals would glom onto them, often hook them on drugs, take advantage of their confusion and use them (e.g., take their social security money). The CJ System victimizes and allows them be victimized over and over again. And they victimize others, all for the want of consistent medication and a safe place to live. Many of them didn’t have family or family capable of dealing with them any more. Family’s with the seriously mentally ill are so incredibly isolated, again, another exacerbating point. The more they are isolated the less capable they are of caring for the sick loved one. The more likely they are to cut ties with them and just let the system handle them.

    And don’t get me started on the kids. There is very, very little out there for mentally ill kids unless you have a lot of money. I know this first hand from a family experience in the last year. It’s heartbreaking and terrifying to know that a young child has a serious problem and no one knows where to send you to even begin to get help except an ER and a hospital behavioral unit that only helps adults. We can do better than this, surely.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    There are some people with mental health issues who are people you really need to be scared of, as I related a few threads ago.

    Yes, there are. The vast majority of us, though, aren’t any more dangerous than most people. And the way this is getting played is going to conflate the majority with the minority in the popular mind.

  39. 39

    A few years back, a colleague of mine asked if being a parent had changed the way I react to this kind of news. At the time, when my first son was still a toddler and my second wasn’t yet born, the answer was “not really.” I mean, who says that you have to be a parent to be horrified by the death of a child?

    But this weekend, it finally happened. Reading the news stories, I cast my imagination into the place of the parents of the Newtown victims. And I realized that I have never loved anything or anyone as intensely, as irrationally, as I do my boys. If someone were to take away my child — my little pianist, my little nerd-in-training, my tormentor, my student, my playmate — I don’t know how I could face the next hour, the next minute.

    Parenthood does change you, in some ways for the better and in some ways not. It changes the nature of the love you can feel, and the nature of the pain you can feel. For some of us, having children is what it takes to wake us up to the meaning of compassion.

  40. 40

    @J. Michael Neal: Agreed, mental illness is a very wide spectrum from the fully functional and no one would guess to those so bad they aren’t safe to be unsupervised and hospitalized. Unfortunately, it’s always the strait jacketed version that most people think of when they think of mental illness. In truth mental illness permeates our society. 9% suffer from Depression occasionally and 3.4% suffer from Major Depression. The only thing in danger from many highly functional individuals, like myself, is a pint of ice cream once in a while.

  41. 41
    Maude says:

    @beltane:
    I hadn’t thought about that. It makes sense.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    I don’t want to knock homeschooling too much, because sometimes it is the best solution depending on the kid and how dedicated and educated the parent is but, yeah, holding it up as some kind of cure-all as people have been doing is freakin’ insane.

  43. 43
    PeakVT says:

    Daniel Inouye has passed away.

  44. 44
    Roger Moore says:

    @kc:

    I’ve seen some comments from wingnuts saying that the shooting is a vindication for homeschoolers.

    “Be the perpetrator, not the victim: Homeschool!”

  45. 45
    gogol's wife says:

    To Ken J #37 (the reply doesn’t work): What is your point? If something is done about guns because of this massacre, won’t that also help the children in Chicago? Is there something wrong with that?

  46. 46
    dr. bloor says:

    @Todd: I’ve seen this before too, and you’re out of your mind. Your last name isn’t Frist, is it?

  47. 47
    Mark S. says:

    @punkdavid:

    Jesus, after reading some of that lady’s blog posts, I think it would be a little more accurate if she said:

    I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother.

    She and her ex-husband sound like fucking psychos.

  48. 48
    rumpole says:

    I feel for this mother. I really do. She has other kids, and you need knives to be able to do things like cook. And open amazon boxes. And strip wire (in a pinch). Et cetera. So any time that her mentally ill child acts up, there’s risk to everyone in the house.

    You don’t need an assault rifle. Or a 16 round clip. Or bullets that explode in the body or that are designed to pierce kevlar. Or a shell designed to pierce tanks.

    Case in point: all her kids are still alive. I’m not suggesting she has it easy by any means. But her son didn’t come after them with a .50 caliber either.

  49. 49
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @Ms. D. Ranged in AZ:

    And don’t get me started on the kids. There is very, very little out there for mentally ill kids unless you have a lot of money.

    For some things, yes. For Asperger’s, it’s the exact opposite. There are exactly three psychiatrists or therapists in the Twin Cities who work with adults with Asperger’s. I’ve worked with one of them and it just wasn’t a good fit. Getting in to the others is impossible.

    The same thing is true about research. No one is looking at adult Asperger’s. *All* of the focus is on kids. If you’re diagnosed in your 40s, as I was, the basic answer is, “You’re on your own.” The Autism Society has a couple of programs but they were all geared to working with people who really can’t function in society at all. For someone like myself, who really needs help networking and finding a job, it was a waste of time.

  50. 50
    sharl says:

    @Cris (without an H): Thanks for linking to Wonkette, especially Rebecca’s post (your first link). Her experience with a mentally ill brother (who ultimately killed himself), and the experiences related by some of the commenters along the same lines, made for some tough reading.

    She can clearly relate to the mother who authored that piece linked by Anne Laurie, and she was clearly more than a bit perturbed by the ‘Twitter Mean Girls’ who called it into question, often (apparently*) with little rebuttal evidence.

    *I haven’t jumped down into the rabbit hole to read all that (not certain I will), but it seems like an issue that – unless you’ve experienced it personally, or deal with a lot of cases as a professional (Kay might know something about this) – you might be forming overly broad conclusions based on anecdotes or very limited data.

  51. 51
    rob! says:

    Last time I checked, there were about 700 comments on that woman’s blog post, almost all of them showing support for the idea that her son needs more medical help.

    I wonder, out of that 700 how many of them voted for Romney? There’s an awful lot of people bemoaning the fact we don’t have more mental health programs available for troubled people, yet I bet A LOT of those self-same people essentially voted to chuck Obamacare into the trash.

  52. 52
    👽 Martin says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    What is your point?

    I think his point is that it took 20 consecutive white kids to be gunned down for anyone to give a shit.

    Variation on Missing White Woman Syndrome.

  53. 53
    gogol's wife says:

    Okay, I’m really getting to the point that I think any discussion of mental health care right now is stemming from NRA disinformation. It’s the guns.

  54. 54
    The Moar You Know says:

    Yes, there are. The vast majority of us, though, aren’t any more dangerous than most people. And the way this is getting played is going to conflate the majority with the minority in the popular mind.

    @J. Michael Neal: Most of my family has worked in the psychiatric profession, and have done stints in mental hospitals (back when we used to have such things and they were somewhat affordable). The open wards were far larger than the locked. The locked was serious business. I’d agree that the public conflates them, but there’s not a lot that can be done about that.

  55. 55
    gogol's wife says:

    @👽 Martin:

    I’m the close relative of a murder victim, so I’ve been giving a shit for over 30 years. If this is what it takes to make people do something about it, so be it.

    ETA: My wording doesn’t sound right. I just feel that talking about drones right now, or talking about mental illness, or talking about the indisputable fact that the proliferation of guns has been a problem for a very long time, is going to weaken the momentum that may be there to do something, finally, at long last.

  56. 56
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Mnemosyne: Exactly.

  57. 57

    @J. Michael Neal: I see your point. I have met a few adults who I thought might have had Aspergers but they themselves did not know it…..

    I feel your pain in regards to finding a provider with whom you “fit”. At least, for my depression I have lots of options…and when I do need help, go through several until I find one that I feel comfortable with. Just because Aspergers didn’t become a widely used diagnosis until the 90’s doesn’t mean that people haven’t had it all along and therefore there would be adults with it. I wish I had some good advice to give that might help you.

  58. 58
    👽 Martin says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    Okay, I’m really getting to the point that I think any discussion of mental health care right now is stemming from NRA disinformation.

    Newtown: Presumed psychological problems
    Aurora: Psychological problems
    Tuscon: Psychological problems
    Virginia Tech: Psychological problems
    Lancaster: Presumed psychological problems
    Wakefield: Psychological problems

    The list of shootings that appear to not be related to psychological problems is certainly longer, but statistically speaking (particularly related to the scale and random nature of the incidents) psychological problems are overrepresenting here.

    Both need to be addressed.

  59. 59
    👽 Martin says:

    @gogol’s wife: No, I take your point. It’s worth having comments like Ken J’s to illustrate that this isn’t some isolated thing. There are a lot of schoolkids gunned down nationally each year. That shouldn’t diminish what happened in Newtown, but amplify it.

  60. 60
    eemom says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    Okay, I’m really getting to the point that I think any discussion of mental health care right now is stemming from NRA disinformation. It’s the guns.

    I’m sorry, but this is a terribly simplistic and misguided attitude, imo.

    YES, it’s the guns — but we do no one, least of all the mentally ill, any service by pretending that the horrible dysfunction of mental health care in this country has NOTHING to do with these tragedies.

    To recognize this fact and want to do something about it, as well, is not to undermine the gun problem, nor is it to stigmatize the vast majority of mentally ill people who are nonviolent.

  61. 61
    gogol's wife says:

    @eemom:

    I didn’t say it had nothing to do with it. I just notice that it seems to be a way of deflecting action about guns, EVERY SINGLE TIME something happens and we might be able to actually do something about guns. I think that 90% of the people who start talking about mental health every time there’s a mass shooting don’t really give a damn about mental health. They just want to distract attention from the guns.

  62. 62
    General Stuck says:

    @PeakVT:

    RIP. I watched a documentary a while back, may have been the WW2 HD set, of what he and his unit of Japanese Americans went through in Europe. They were given the toughest combat assignments, all the while their relativs back in the US were interned.

  63. 63
    Barbara says:

    Most gun violence is not perpetrated by mentally ill people and most mentally ill people do not commit acts of violence of any kind. The intersection between mass murder and guns is a whole lot clearer than the intersection between mental illness and mass murder (while people who perpetrated these events might have given off signs of instability, rarely did they give signs that they would be violent).

    Indeed, it is not even clear that Adam Lanza had a psychiatric diagnosis — not the official kind. A personality disorder is not the same as a mental illness.

    I emphatically endorse what was said above: do not fall into the trap by which guns are deflected in favor of mental illness as what has to be “fixed.” Even if addressing mental health issues would help people (and addressing violence is, like, the least of the benefits that might flow from that effort), I am unwilling to accept that the only civil rights that matter are those associated with gun ownership. There is no way we could or should “lock up” every mentally ill person on the basis that they *might* hurt someone when they have never given evidence that such is the case.

  64. 64
    kindness says:

    It is kind of annoying that the ads I’m getting are from Concealed Carry Magazine.

  65. 65
    Maude says:

    @gogol’s wife:
    If he couldn’t get those weapons…
    That’s what I keep thinking.

  66. 66
    beltane says:

    @👽 Martin: Mental illness isn’t curable, and people seem to have way too much faith in the ability of the medical profession to adequately treat it. Mental illness is a problem, but it is not the real problem behind gun violence or else every other country on the planet would have the same rates of gun violence.

    Short of locking up everyone who is remotely weird, sad, or under stress into gulags so the not-at-all-crazy gun enthusiasts can enjoy their hobby without being inconvenienced, I’m not sure what the people harping on mental health seek to accomplish.

  67. 67
    Humble Lurker says:

    @eemom:
    That’s absolutely correct, but there’s no question there’s disingenuous people who want the subject changed and changed quickly from gun safety. Namely people whose paycheck depends on it.

    I guess the main thing is not to be thrown off track of the gun issue, even when we talk about the genuinely needed reform of mental healthcare in this country.

  68. 68
    beltane says:

    @Barbara: Thank you. It is unconscionable that there are those who want to eliminate the mentally ill from society so that assault rifles can roam free. And guess what? Doing this would still result in large numbers of gun deaths because GUNS ARE MADE TO KILL.

  69. 69
    mclaren says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    @mclaren: I’m thinking he’ll become a future blog troller.

    Unlikely. He’s much too smart to turn into you.

  70. 70
    eemom says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    I think that 90% of the people who start talking about mental health every time there’s a mass shooting don’t really give a damn about mental health. They just want to distract attention from the guns.

    I don’t know who your 90% is, but it’s not me, and plenty of other people I know of whom the LAST thing we want is to distract attention from the guns.

    The point needs to be made that mental illness is just that, an illness — and that sick people need help and not guns.

  71. 71
    👽 Martin says:

    @beltane:

    Mental illness isn’t curable

    But it is treatable. And we do a shit-poor job of it.

    I get the point that right now, all of our energy should be directed to the issue of guns. That doesn’t mean we need to wave away the mental illness topic to get there. I’m not advocating prioritizing the latter over the former, just saying that we should deny the latter.

  72. 72
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Hal: I wanted to swope down and hug that Lab and let him drown me in doggie kisses. He seems really gentle and sweet.

  73. 73
    MattR says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    Okay, I’m really getting to the point that I think any discussion of mental health care right now is stemming from NRA disinformation. It’s the guns.

    I didn’t get that feeling about this woman’s blog post. She seemed to be a mother at wits end trying to figure out how to deal with a child prone to violent flare ups.

    But that supposed Morgan Freeman piece that was going around yesterday jumped out as an obvious attempt by the right wing to redirect the outrage away from guns (even if it did make some reasonable points about media glorification of violence).

  74. 74

    @👽 Martin: Indeed focusing on only the mentally ill will lose sight of those sane but narcissistic individuals (John Allen Muhammed) or the “cause followers” (Wade Michael Page) for whom easy availability of weapons made their crimes possible.

  75. 75
    mclaren says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I don’t want to knock homeschooling too much, because sometimes it is the best solution depending on the kid and how dedicated and educated the parent is but, yeah, holding it up as some kind of cure-all as people have been doing is freakin’ insane.

    Any evidence to back up that vacuous claim?

    Perhaps you’d care to explain how chronic savage bullying can go on in a home schooling environment. Or possibly you’ll show us how even the most mentally-ill homeschooled kid can murder a cafeteria full of other kids when he’s sitting at home in his parent’s kitchen.

    As usual, your claim is laughable and foolishly false. And, as usual, to cover up that glaringly obvious fact you spew wild hyperbole sans facts or logic.

  76. 76
    eemom says:

    I mean there are also people who talk despicable and disgusting bullshit about God and gay marriage when something like this occurs. It’s happening right now.

    Are we going to allow them to control the dialogue with THEIR bullshit? No. Why then would we allow people scapegoating the mentally ill to effectively stifle any discussion of that issue?

  77. 77
    General Stuck says:

    @eemom:

    What the biggest problem may be, are the thousands and thousands of mostly men who should be ineligible to buy firearms as having certain kinds of a criminal history, not being compiled in a national data base, per the law with an unfunded mandate.

    As far as mental illness as a factor, it is, but not as much a factor as domestic violence convicts killing their estranged wives or girlfriends, and often anyone else that happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

    I think it is safe to say that most everyone that kills out of emotion, is not exactly on top of the world at the time, and far more killings happen from those without organic mental illness. So it doesn’t surprise me that gun nuts are trying to put too much of the onus on mental illness.

    This particular case, in Conn, seems to have come about from something like a perfect storm of mental impairment and unusual exposure to guns from a gun nut mom. But there is a lot we do not know yet about this case, and won’t for a while. Same with the Aurora Co, shootings.

  78. 78
    Mandalay says:

    @mclaren:

    That kid who pulled a knife on his parent?

    Future police officer.

    You completely lost me there. Can you elaborate?

  79. 79
    PurpleGirl says:

    @mclaren: Reading comprehension of the thread fail. Some one upthread mentioned that right-wingers were saying that this case vindicated homeschooling for safety of the children. I then brought up the fact that Andrea Yates was homeschooling her children and she went on the kill her 5 children. Mnemosyne was responding to my comment about Yates.

    ETA: I’ve been watching a lot of the shows on Investigation Discovery and there have been a number of shows about mothers homeschooling their kids and killing them. The mothers are under extreme pressure and depression.

  80. 80
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @Mandalay:

    You completely lost me there. Can you elaborate?

    Please don’t.

  81. 81
    beltane says:

    @👽 Martin: There is no real consensus on HOW many mental illnesses should be treated. It is a field where it is very hard to tell where the woo ends and the science begins. Schizophrenia is partially treatable in certain situations, but with many other disorders “treatment” is no more than an exercise in throwing poorly researched drugs and therapies at a problem in the hope that maybe something will work. Unfortunately, we have barely advanced beyond the days of routine lobotomies and shock therapy.

  82. 82
    Roger Moore says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    Reading comprehension fail.

    In Mclaren’s case, I’m guessing it’s as much honest debate fail as reading comprehension fail.

  83. 83
    MattR says:

    @mclaren:

    That kid who pulled a knife on his parent?

    Future police officer.

    @mclaren:

    And, as usual, to cover up that glaringly obvious fact you spew wild hyperbole sans facts or logic.

    Physician, heal thyself.

    EDIT: Whoa. The WP blockquote bug is fixed so I don’t need underscores between paragraphs. Cool. Guess that last upgrade was worth it after all (though the site has been slow as molasses for me all week)

  84. 84
    ruemara says:

    @punkdavid: I would take those criticisms with a huge grain of salt. You can say she was careless about privacy, but the claims that she wants publicity and taking her writing out of context for that author’s own publicity-it’s pretty outrageous.

  85. 85
    gogol's wife says:

    @ruemara:

    Didn’t you think there was anything the tiniest bit suspicious about how everybody was sending around that same link right away after the massacre? Aren’t there any other mothers of mentally disturbed children with blog posts? I found it a little strange that I kept getting that same thing sent to me.

  86. 86
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    I think that anyone who has ever lived with a person with mental illness has somewhat of an idea how this could have happened to this family. People who are mentally unstable aren’t fine one day and running around with their hair on fire the next. No, it is a slow, almost unperceptible downhill slide. And it’s not even the type of decline that happens in a straight line. People with serious mental problems may seem better for a time, then start getting worse again. Those who live with them aren’t mental health professionals and are deeply embedded in the process.

    The only question I have in this particular case is how much mental health assistance he was getting. For many families there’s not much help because help is expensive. This family seemed to have the means and the insurance, so there should have been some interaction with psychiatic workers. It will be interesting to see what was being done for this man that no one was able to determine that he was in such dire circumstances.

    All those little children. It’s hard to even think about the pain and loss of those families.

  87. 87
    👽 Martin says:

    @beltane:

    There is no real consensus on HOW many mental illnesses should be treated.

    You’re a few steps past me.

    Our rugged-individualist society has no commitment to helping them. Period. Regardless of where we are in terms of treatment, there is insufficient infrastructure for doing so. As J Michael Neal noted above, there’s insufficient insurance and then practitioners. Even here in well-to-do, high-population-density OC finding a physician on our cadillac insurance plan for my wife’s simple depression to get a prescription was remarkably challenging. It would have been far easier to throw up our arms and give up.

    Let’s at least try to treat them, and then get on to what works and doesn’t.

  88. 88
    Mark S. says:

    @Mandalay:

    Forget it, Jake. It’s Mclarentown.

  89. 89
    Svensker says:

    @punkdavid:

    About the mother with the mentally ill son, there has been some talk on tubes that she may not be all she claims. I don’t know anything more than what I’ve read, but I just wanted to pass this on to our reality-based community.

    It’s possible SHE’S not real, but I know two of those moms and they are very real. Both have sons who have severe autism along with other disorders. Both sons got very violet toward the mom at puberty. One of my friends wore a football helmet in the house at all times and basically stopped having any outside life whatsoever. That friend lives in Texas and basically she and her husband have ruined their entire lives trying to care for this child on their own. God knows what will happen when they die.

    The other friend was hospitalized 4 times with battering, broken collar bone, etc. Fortunately, she lives in New York where there is some help — she had her son institutionalized when he was 18. He’s improved tremendously in his anger control and is now able to come home for weekends. That friend’s life — and that of her son — is hugely improved and she no longer has to worry about danger to herself or anyone else, for that matter.

  90. 90
    👽 Martin says:

    @Kathy in St. Louis:

    This family seemed to have the means and the insurance, so there should have been some interaction with psychiatic workers.

    I’m suspicious that between the doomsday prepping and homeschooling, that mom had disconnected them from the grid, as it were.

  91. 91
    Pete says:

    @ruemara: Yeah, she doesn’t want publicity that’s why she titled her post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”.

  92. 92
    Studly Pantload, the emotionally unavailable unicorn says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): *snap*!

  93. 93
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    @👽 Martin: I suspect you may have something there. I had read one source that said she had taken him out of school when he was about 16, which would coincide with the time of the divorce. Could be the son’s mental issues, and her divorce and the home schooling are all intertwined.

  94. 94
    Yutsano says:

    @MattR: Mobile site is still borked though.

  95. 95
    Mnemosyne says:

    @mclaren:

    Any evidence to back up that vacuous claim?

    Uh, the multiple “homeschooled” kids from ultra-religious families who say they received virtually no education because their parents kept them isolated?

    Does the name “Andrea Yates” ring a bell?

    Sorry, homeschooling doesn’t protect kids from abuse or bullying. It just means they’re abused by their family instead and have no escape from it anywhere.

  96. 96
    sharl says:

    @Pete: I don’t know the woman, but someone who is in fact as desperate as she claims to be might do just about anything to ‘get publicity’ for her situation, in the hope that someone – anyone – might respond with some help. So yeah, she saw an opportunity in the massacre, and took it. On the one hand , definitely not “classy”, to say the least. On the other hand, I’ve read enough accounts of a parent’s intense love for a child (some of those at this very site) to know that loving and desperate parents might very well say “SCREW ‘classiness’ and social propriety. I have run out of options, and am willing to do ANYTHING to help my child.”

    So yeah, it could be that she is both telling the truth, and taking [(obscenely?) selfish?] advantage of a horrible tragedy to try to get attention and help for her desperate plight.

    Again I don’t know all the facts. Unless she’s running a scam, though – could be, I guess – and speaking only for myself, I find myself unqualified to pass judgment on her. I can only say that the situation totally sucks, and to hope that her son gets whatever help he needs.

  97. 97
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    @punkdavid: And as the All State ad says, “You can’t put anything that isn’t true on the internet”. Sure.
    I tend to believe this woman. You get pretty desperate dealing with a mentally ill person day in and day out. She sounds pretty authentic to me, and I have a brother with serious issues such as she describes.

  98. 98
    Mnemosyne says:

    @beltane:

    We do know what works in most cases — talk therapy with a professional that the patient trusts. It can even help severe schizophrenia that isn’t drug-responsive.

    But talk therapy is expensive and time-consuming and we live in America, land of the quick fix. If a pill doesn’t immediately fix all of the problems in the patient’s life, insurance stops paying.

  99. 99
    WereBear says:

    Science seems to suggest our “alarm system” is geared to avoid being eaten by tigers. It is now clumsy because it is only partially adapted to the crises we deal with in the 21st Century.

    Violence does not spring from a vacuum. Stress and frustration is usually the engine that drives even the most kind and loving person into outbursts designed to show how desperate their situation is.

    @J. Michael Neal: You are right, it is not a springboard for mental health discussions, though I feel that it is inevitable because most people, thankfully, are apparently unaware of just how much desperation lurks out there. Or, they are in a state of denial about it.

    I cried when I read about the contrast between Texas and New York, because just recently I had read a book about a troubled teen in Florida who wound up bouncing from one medication to another, one bad placement to another, until she finally committed suicide by self-immolation.

    In New York, I know someone who is getting the help she needs with her troubled teen, and I am frankly in awe of the team that is at her disposal, actually getting things done, and in the improvement that has resulted. One nation, two states; two very different outcomes.

    As in J. Michael Neal’s situation, it shouldn’t take all that much to figure out and implement a network/network for people who have trouble navigating what is, let’s face it, designed for the highly social, salespeople type of person. If you are anyone else, tough. So why don’t we do that? That’s the conversation I’d like to have.

    And, it just occurred to me: J. Michael Neal, do you like process and functions? Can you draw up something that this thing would look like or act like that would help people? It could be a vital step in getting that ball rolling.

  100. 100
    WereBear says:

    @Mnemosyne: I agree that talk therapy was undercut by insurance companies who didn’t want to pay for it.

    And there was the hospitals who existed to take the stress off; give people a safe place to decompress and get a grip on their situation. It apparently worked wonders… once again, not something anyone is willing to implement when they can “fix” it with an expensive drug. Why is it okay for the pharmaceutical companies to make a ton of money, but not highly educated therapists? I wonder.

  101. 101
    Elie says:

    Please lets be clear about the status of mental health treatment. There is most frequently, NO magic fix… Most people with mental/psycholocial conditions are first of all — complex. Treatment is not usually immediately successful and involves medications that have sometimes terrible side effects that don’t even work against the primary symptoms. When they do work, they can sometimes cause other side effect activities– like suicide — sometimes people become MORE active and aggressive. Other times, people can’t do basic problem solving and have hard times figuring anythin out. Parents and family members see all of this and parents — specifically ENDURE, along with their children — long periods of uncertainty and poor communication with docs about what they hey to do when x happens. Parents — who may have other children at home — may be afraid of their children with aggressive behavior and there is little if no alternatives or them. They can throw their aggressive kids out — but the separation is frequently incomplete and fraught with the pain of knowing your child is abandoned by you..

    This is a long and difficult conversation that we need to have not only related to the violent children with mental illness — but all the children who grow up and marry and make other relationships even as they struggle with their issues. We have to begin just talking about reality and not the fantasy of what many of us are living through..

    My husband is bi-polar. Thankfully, he is not physically violent — but he is a very harsh and difficult person to be with — and we have no children. He is harsh about 25% of the time… and this wonderful, intelligent and imaginative companion the other part.He is on meds, but they are imperfect and his lack of trust makes it difficult for him to stick with a regime of any kind… he has suffered so much in his work relationships — where despite his brilliance — his personality issues are barriers to success. He struggles in what seems to be simple relationships with my family..

    We all make our choices and I will stick by him, Lord willing. But he does not present the level of horror and pain that Mrs Lanza experienced. Her funeral will not be well attended, despite her efforts to save her son. She was not perfect — but I think she tried to stick by her boy but the whole thing got away from her. I have no proof, but I bet her husband, the boy’s father, abandoned her and his troubled son to go “do his thing”…. I hope we have a nice detailed article about HIM at some point. He shouldnt get a clean break away on this…

  102. 102
    Mnemosyne says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    Have you considered looking for a “coach” rather than a therapist? If you’re looking to build concrete skills, sometimes that’s the way to go, and a lot of it can be done by phone/e-mail. Coaching is huge for ADHD adults right now and a quick Google seemed to show a fair number of options for Asperger’s adults as well.

    Downside is that it is usually not covered by insurance.

  103. 103
    Elie says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Hi there, M — good to talk with you..

    I don’t think its an either/or between talk and medication. Frankly, effectiveness is an issue and sometimes therapy (which can take a very long time) and medications, work unevenly. Its not always a matter of impatience. Sometimes, people are scared and want stuff to work fast because they feel threatenned. Other times, they are just wanting their loved one to feel better after a seeming forever period of bearing witness to their slow disintegration. “how long?” is reasonable to wait before you get relief or see relief in the symptoms and suffering of someone that you love? How many side effects? Dry mouth and tinitus are one thing — but feeling your body is tingling all over and herky jerky movements in your mouth and limbs that you cannot control are another…

    Its just not as straightforward. We need more research and interest in mental health conditions — NOW. Pink ribbons need to be replaced with yellow or blue ribbons or whatever color that symbolizes mental health..

  104. 104
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @Mnemosyne: I have a therapist I have worked with for years and she has been incredibly valuable. The only problem is that she really has no experience with Asperger’s and so the help she can provide with those issues is limited.

    I have worked with a coach. I got her business card at the Autism Society. I thought she was borderline worthless.

  105. 105
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Elie:

    It’s definitely not either/or — more like “both/and.” But it’s so, so tough to get insurance companies to pay for the amount of therapy that’s actually needed for long-term problems.

    I tried to add it to another comment, but I had a diagnosis of dysthymia (aka long-term low-grade depression) and was taking Wellbutrin and it STILL took 7 years of therapy in addition to the medication to get to a place where I could function pretty well. I’m now on a different medication (Concerta, because it turned out that my undiagnosed ADHD and the related issues were causing me to be depressed rather than the depression being primary) and seeing a new therapist to work on my ADHD issues. And that’s not counting my medication doctor (psychiatrist) and the nice girl who comes over once a week to help me declutter and re-organize our apartment. And 90 percent of this is being paid for out of my own pocket (the only thing insurance will pay for is medication and medication doctor visits).

    All of my issues are considered relatively minor and it’s been a huge struggle, so I know it’s much worse for people who are dealing with more serious issues. Good luck to you and your husband.

  106. 106
    Elie says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Many thanks to you M — and best wishes..

    It IS a process.. people need to know how much work it is and how dearly won are any improvements.

    We have to care about each other — our individuality and our need to be part of an accepted “pack”. Both of these are who most of us are and what dictates our deepest emotional and psychological needs.

    My hubby and I are in for the long haul — for now. We renew our committment to each other and this — every day. It must be every day.

    Best to you as well —

  107. 107
    Mnemosyne says:

    @J. Michael Neal:

    Try another coach. There are lots of them out there. In my experience, it’s more important to find someone you like and think you can work with than what their exact title is. Do any of the local teaching hospitals have autism programs? Sometimes they can have really good referrals. If there are good books that you’ve read about Asperger’s, see if the author has a website with referrals on it.

    I basically have a team of three professionals working with me on my ADHD, plus an occasional Cogmed coach, so don’t think you have to give up your regular therapist. IMO, it’s actually better to have multiple people because they all have different perspectives and can offer different (hopefully complementary) advice. And believe me, I understand the frustration of trying to find people who can help adults with an issue that’s “supposed” to only cause problems for children.

  108. 108
    Elie says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Need to add that we have been lucky in that my hubby is a retired military and we get some help both with VA and Tri-Care. The rest is out of pocket. We are lucky and it is completely non trivial how much this would cost otherwise. I get it completely.

  109. 109
    gene108 says:

    @beltane:

    The only good thing the article may have done is draw people out and have people communicate, who have issues with or are related to people with mental illness.

    Otherwise it portrays the mentally ill as one step away from a homicidal rampage, which doesn’t do the broader mentally ill population any good.

    It really just puts another layer of stigma around being mentally ill.

    As far as treating mental illness goes, the laws about having people committed and what not need to be studied and the beds made available to handle an increase in intake.

    If you want better outcomes, some sort of group home setting is needed after people get released, who don’t have a place to go, but that takes more money than just cutting them loose.

  110. 110
    Elie says:

    Most of the “mentally ill” are just regular folks trying to make it throuh holding jobs and having relationships. The severely mentally ill are also a complex community — 99% of which are non violent.

    Gene — there is no one strategy about half way homes or such that touch on the reality of this. The best thing that you and most folks can do is to say that you do not know the reality of what is needed and help us ask our political and social and scientific leadership to try to find the fuck out what the reality is so that we can do something effective rather than just making shit up that fits our ideas of what we think reality is…

    We mostly do not know shit

  111. 111
    keestadoll says:

    @👽 Martin: Let’s take it as a given that mental health care in this country is really wanting. Ok. Could we also take it as a given that a huge percentage of this country is on some form of psychiatric medication (ie: anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and within last few years throw in anti-depressant “boosters” like Ambilify)? Ok. Could we also take it as a given that more and more children are being prescribed psych meds every day? Yep. Could we take a minute or two (eh, what the hell, throw in three minutes) to have a national discussion on the tole those meds take on DEVELOPING brains and how maybe just maybe that can lead to violent outbursts and suicidal thoughts (hmm, listed side-effect on huge percentage of such meds ps) that could lead a kid’s mind down a road where a mass shooting is a viable option? Yes. We can talk about banning this gun, that gun, this mutiple round clip or that, but do you think that we could at least, while we get past the NRA’s grip on this nation, ALSO get past PHARMA’s grip on this nation to discuss the role these meds might have played?

  112. 112
    Aaron says:

    O lord what is this pain I feel that wont go away? 
    Be with the families in CT today. 
    Let them suffer not another day
    Let them know there babies are upstairs looking down and there okay
    We will never know why those kids were taken away from there parents and friends.
    Within seconds there lives came to an end. 
    I pray that you be with their parents during this god aweful day.
    Bless the ground were the children will lay. 
    Let there be no more violence on this sweet land
    If you see someone struggling lend them your hand.
    Stop all the killing and fighting too.
    Why cant everyone be just like you. 
    As this prayer comes to a end. 
    I give all my prayers and thoughts that i can send. 

  113. 113
    fuckwit says:

    You know, for as many obvious whack jobs as Loughtner, there are as many people who “seemed totally normal”, who cracked and turned into mass killers, or who simply kept their illness hidden from others.

    You CANNOT tell who these people are ahead of time, reliably.

    You CAN stop fucking selling them assault rifles, semi-auto pistols, and high-capacity clips and magazines, for fuck’s sake.

    Outlaw the guns, and buy them back from those who already have them. That is what must happen. Now.

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