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Old 12-16-2012, 08:11 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, 01:49 PM   #166
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Without going through this thread are you a doctor?
Nope. I'm in the hell that is medical school.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:50 PM   #167
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Sorry dude you don't get off that easy calling me out so pompously. I've seen too many sides of those in your profession both economically and personally.

Nice try though.....

Nobody's asking you to work for free, so leave that off your comments. Try a more common sense answer and we can debate this better.
So you responded to my post without responding to my post. OKAY THANKS.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:50 PM   #168
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Cool. You pay for it.
So the buck stops at... kids with brain problems! Obviously! Children (and adults) who need intensive mental health care should buck up and pay their own way, while millionaires and billionaires are justified in lobbying for historically low tax rates (in lieu of rates that are merely low) as the nation crumbles around them. Good plan.

**** addressing the problem, or anything. **** vital services that improve the lives of everyone in the community. Gotta punish people for needing help. Who cares if our society is worse for it?
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:53 PM   #169
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Cool. You pay for it.
With all the altruism in this thread, I'm beginning to think healthcare will be saved after all!
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:53 PM   #170
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So the buck stops at... kids with brain problems! Obviously! Children (and adults) who need intensive mental health care should buck up and pay their own way, while millionaires and billionaires are justified in lobbying for historically low tax rates (in lieu of rates that are merely low) as the nation crumbles around them. Good plan.

**** addressing the problem, or anything. Gotta punish people for needing help. Who cares if our society is worse for it?
Show me how much you have given to this cause.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:54 PM   #171
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With all the altruism in this thread, I'm beginning to think healthcare will be saved after all!
My point is everyone will sit here and whine and cry and bitch, but when it comes time to foot the bill they just want to push it on everyone else.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:55 PM   #172
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Show me how much you have given to this cause.
The RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE MOTHER****ING HISTORY OF THE WORLD cannot adequately address the needs of its citizens. Great job! USA USA USA

I'm actually a poor grad student with some brain problems of my own, and getting health insurance (Romneycare, lol) for the first time since I was a child was quite the exhilirating experience, I can assure you. I had a physical! I get to speak with a therapist once a week! I can get tests to make sure I'm not sick! I can afford medicine for shit! I'm living in the lap of luxury! I mean, I still have at least 3 teeth rotting in my mouth as I type, but it's not like that could kill you or anything.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:56 PM   #173
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The RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE MOTHER****ING HISTORY OF THE WORLD cannot adequately address the needs of its citizens. Great job! USA USA USA
So you want everyone else to pay. Got it.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:58 PM   #174
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My point is everyone will sit here and whine and cry and bitch, but when it comes time to foot the bill they just want to push it on everyone else.
Yeah, those millionaires and billionaires should pay for it!
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:02 PM   #175
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So you want everyone else to pay. Got it.
You're already footing the bill, it's just going towards extra toys for rich people instead of important, horribly neglected things that could actually make this a better place to live for yourself and everyone around you.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:03 PM   #176
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You're already footing the bill, it's just going towards extra toys for rich people instead of important, horribly neglected things that could actually make this a better place to live for yourself and everyone around you.
So why are you shouting at me? I'm generally fine with paying for something as long as everyone pays (within what I feel is reasonable, of course). Also, nowhere in here did I say that millionaires should not pay tax. Shout at your governmental leaders.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:05 PM   #177
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Yeah, those millionaires and billionaires should pay for it!
I think they can handle it.



The money is there. We could actually build a functioning society again.

But we won't.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:06 PM   #178
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My point is everyone will sit here and whine and cry and bitch, but when it comes time to foot the bill they just want to push it on everyone else.
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Yeah, those millionaires and billionaires should pay for it!
Yeah, that is the idea of progressive taxation. It spreads the costs equitably over an entire population, and people who have more income end up paying more to support the services our country determines are necessary.

Of all things, mental health funding seems to be pretty non-controversial -- at least in theory. Whether we view it from a humanitarian perspective (helping people has intrinsic moral value), a safety concern (helping people is important so they don't hurt other people), or an efficiency issue (helping mentally disturbed persons is good so they can contribute to society), if anything seems important in these days of tragedy, it seems like mental health research and development fits.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:10 PM   #179
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So why are you shouting at me? I'm generally fine with paying for something as long as everyone pays (within what I feel is reasonable, of course). Also, nowhere in here did I say that millionaires should not pay tax. Shout at your governmental leaders.
Because you're saying stuff that's reflective of the kind of thinking that got us into this mess. This is an eminently (and imminently) fixable situation but it's going to continue to fester because that "**** you, pay your own way!" attitude is applied to everyone except those most capable of doing so.

I'm not just talking mental health care, I mean everything. Roads, bridges, Social Security, Medicare (for everyone, if the "political capital" were there and anyone in power was actually interested in improving the critically dysfunctional state of health care in this country), schools. All of the money that's being funneled upwards could have made an enormous difference in millions of lives.

The anti-tax thing is a religious belief in America, and combined with general ignorance of the tax code ("If I make $250,000 instead of $249,000, I'll pay WAY MORE TAXES!!1") it's being gleefully exploited to increase the high scores of society's "winners."
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:15 PM   #180
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Because you're saying stuff that's reflective of the kind of thinking that got us into this mess. This is an eminently (and imminently) fixable situation but it's going to continue to fester because that "**** you, pay your own way!" attitude is applied to everyone except those most capable of doing so.

I'm not just talking mental health care, I mean everything. Roads, bridges, Social Security, Medicare (for everyone, if the "political capital" were there and anyone in power was actually interested in improving the critically dysfunctional state of health care in this country), schools. All of the money that's being funneled upwards could have made an enormous difference in millions of lives.
It's funneled upwards?
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