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Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy At Sandy Hook Elementary School

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.


  1. I read the article, too, and was horrified at what she has gone through. I can't imagine having my teenage son treat me that way.

    I was equally horrified to read that mentally ill people need to resort to crime in order to get help. Where's the logic in that? After they hurt themselves and other people, then we do something? Why not prevent the tragedy in the first place by being proactive?

  2. When I think of the size of some teen boys(in particular)(though not 'picking on boys' just that they are often bigger and stronger)and the size of some of their pint size moms, thinking of trying to protect not just yourself but your other children from another child and not being able to get help without criminalizing that childs mental health problems, it is truly a sad state of affairs. Prevention by providing assistance should be the first choice.

  3. I'm going through similar things with my 5 yr old who may soon be diagnosed with Aspbergers but no where near on this level as described in the Mom's post. We deal with mainly the prolonged tantrums and outbursts. Most of the time, my son is an amazingly sweet and quiet kid. We've been so lucky to have so much help right from the beginning here in Delaware, and we're finding new avenues of assistance even now as we hope to find some answers for his behavior. I've sought out every source of info I can for him and our family, and I'm so sad to see that the amazing help we've received from our school system and the local children's hospital is not so easily received by everyone in this country. It's also scary that this extreme behavior by her son is allowed to go on with no assistance and she's mostly left on her own to deal with it. I'll have to post about this myself.

  4. Emz, I'm glad to hear your son doesn't have the extremes in behavior her son did(though not of course glad you and your son may have to deal w/Asperger's.) Delaware is fortunate to have a good special education system as well as some quality mental health care, regretably this is not true nationwide. I hope all mothers never have to deal with this, I cannot imagine how hard it must be to see your child melting down and changing in front of your eyes and not being able to get them any help without charging them with a crime. Thank you for your comment.