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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, 02:17 PM   #181
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The anti-tax thing is a religious belief in America, and it's being gleefully exploited to increase the high scores of society's "winners."
It's hard to be supportive of taxes when you really disapprove of what they are spent on.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:18 PM   #182
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It's funneled upwards?
When I posted that chart, did you notice the enormous decline in tax revenue from the top as compared to the good ol' days of the 50s? All while they're making more money than they've ever made and everyone else is being squeezed to death?*

Shit is not right. It's not justifiable if you have any moral or ethical compass whatsoever.

*Literally, in many many many cases for many many reasons.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:23 PM   #183
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Also, again, the main point: People who have serious mental illnesses are in no way being coddled. The system is broken. It's not their fault and it's not their responsibility to fix it by themselves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxtxzF5L8VA
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:23 PM   #184
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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.
Which makes sense. But I don't submit to the idea that we need to tax the rich in order to give to the poor. I'm not exactly "informed" when it comes to politics, so I tend to stay away from those discussions.

The second part of your post is spot on. I think advancing genetic research is crucial to the identification of these disorders. Sequencing one's genome costs a fraction of what it did 5 years ago, and that cost is going to continue to drop in the next 5 years. If we can figure out a way to screen those with mental illnesses effectively while lowering the cost, that would be a huge step in the right direction.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:23 PM   #185
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It's hard to be supportive of taxes when you really disapprove of what they are spent on.
I don't know. We tend to really like Medicare, social security, schools, scientific research, and a national defense. The problem is when people don't instantly see how it benefits them. Then it's called waste and welfare.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:26 PM   #186
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Which makes sense. But I don't submit to the idea that we need to tax the rich in order to give to the poor. I'm not exactly "informed" when it comes to politics, so I tend to stay away from those discussions.
Well, with mental health, it's really taxing the rich to give to people in the mental health profession. That's like medicare and medicaid. Who benefits from those programs? Sure, the old and poor do in the sense that their health care costs don't drain the little income they gather. But they don't get rich from it. So monetarily who benefits? Well, you will. Doctors and hospitals are palaces of wealth today. Totally different than pre-Medicare.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:28 PM   #187
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I don't know. We tend to really like Medicare, social security, schools, scientific research, and a national defense. The problem is when people don't instantly see how it benefits them. Then it's called waste and welfare.
I love my state-run health insurance, limitations and huge flaws notwithstanding. It's nice to know a broken bone or serious illness won't bankrupt me.

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Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies

Bankruptcies due to medical bills increased by nearly 50 percent in a six-year period, from 46 percent in 2001 to 62 percent in 2007, and most of those who filed for bankruptcy were middle-class, well-educated homeowners, according to a report that will be published in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
...
They concluded that 62.1 percent of the bankruptcies were medically related because the individuals either had more than $5,000 (or 10 percent of their pretax income) in medical bills, mortgaged their home to pay for medical bills, or lost significant income due to an illness. On average, medically bankrupt families had $17,943 in out-of-pocket expenses, including $26,971 for those who lacked insurance and $17,749 who had insurance at some point.

Overall, three-quarters of the people with a medically-related bankruptcy had health insurance, they say.
Everyone is footing the bill for this in some way, either from having to help a loved one receive treatment they desperately need (see also, my mom had cancer and I sent her a third of all of the money I had to help her get chemo-****ing-therapy) or via the enormous costs to society when tons of people fall into financial black holes.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:29 PM   #188
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I don't know. We tend to really like Medicare, social security, schools, scientific research, and a national defense. The problem is when people don't instantly see how it benefits them. Then it's called waste and welfare.
It's fine when you just say broad topics like Medicare, social security, schools, scientific research, and a national defense. Of course those are all good things in concept. When I dig in deep and see the details it makes me angry, and it doesn't matter what side I vote for because the failure and mismanagement runs so deep.
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:50 PM   #189
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It's fine when you just say broad topics like Medicare, social security, schools, scientific research, and a national defense. Of course those are all good things in concept. When I dig in deep and see the details it makes me angry, and it doesn't matter what side I vote for because the failure and mismanagement runs so deep.
Which details? The "I know a lady who has three kids and drives a Cadillac and eats lobster every night" kind of detail? Or the "Americans pay more for worse healthcare" and "government-run health care is vastly more efficient at allocating resources than private insurers" (PDF) sort of details?

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Dougherty noted that MassHealth, by far the largest program in state government, spends just 1.5 percent of its $10-billion-a-year budget on administrative costs – compared to about 9.5 percent by the private market, according to studies by the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy. That figure won plaudits from several lawmakers on the panel, including some who have supported implementing a statewide single payer system.

After his remarks, Dougherty told the News Service that he’s learned to appreciate “elements of single payer” during his 30 years in health care.

“It’s got to be better than this devil-may-be marketplace,” he said
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:05 PM   #190
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:09 PM   #191
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Which details? The "I know a lady who has three kids and drives a Cadillac and eats lobster every night" kind of detail? Or the "Americans pay more for worse healthcare" and "government-run health care is vastly more efficient at allocating resources than private insurers" (PDF) sort of details?
I was really referring to numerous cases of frittering away money that really benefits nobody.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:12 PM   #192
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:14 PM   #193
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If you're so twisted that your own mother is afraid of you, it's time to spend your days on the island of misfit toys.
Have you ever watched those documentaries about parents that think their kids are possessed? It's pretty damn scary. I don't know how in the world you can fix that level of messed uppedness (I know those weren't words). The kids were even afraid of themselves.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:16 PM   #194
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You can't fix that. You can't fix that enough to keep society safe from people who are that broken.

That is a much more accurate answer than things like gun control.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:24 PM   #195
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Have you ever watched those documentaries about parents that think their kids are possessed? It's pretty damn scary. I don't know how in the world you can fix that level of messed uppedness (I know those weren't words). The kids were even afraid of themselves.
This reminds me of prosopagnosia. With this disorder people cannot recognize faces of others, even familiar people. In rare cases, with brain damage to a very specific region, people can suddenly develop this. Imagine the stress, anxiety, and destructive narratives a person would develop in their mind if all of the sudden they thought their parents or other loved one was not longer who they were supposed to be.
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This is a test for a client's site.
A new website that shows member-created construction site listings that need fill or have excess fill. Dirt Monkey @ https://DirtMonkey.net
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