The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has brought up the issue of better gun control. But the other and as important issue is how our country views mental illness and how we help our citizens who have mental health problems.
Liza Long recently wrote a blog post called I Am Adam Lanza's Mother and posted it on The Blue Review and reposted it on The Anarchist Soccer Mom and called it Thinking the Unthinkable.
Her blog post details her day to day life with her 13 year old son who suffers from mental illness. She tells the story of her family's daily life, living with the possibility of her son will have an episode that results in calling paramedics and police and a trip to the local hospital. Where her other children have to run and lock themselves in the car while she attempts to wrestle whatever weapon her son has away from him.
She asked the social worker what her options were to deal with her son's increasingly frequent disturbance. She was told the only way to deal with it was to have him charged with a crime. She quotes the social worker as saying “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.”
The sadness of having to charge someone who is ill with a crime in order to get the appropriate treatment for them horrifies me. In the United States we are failing our citizens who are mentally ill. Before we have another Sandy Hook or Columbine, let's make a concerted effort to help the mentally ill before they hurt someone. Whether it's their families or others. It's time for a call to arms, not to arm ourselves with guns but to arm our citizens with the knowledge and the power to care for the mentally ill.
Liza Long is an author, musician, and classicist. She is also a single mother of four bright, loved children, one of whom has special needs.