In the wake of Newtown, many of you are sending me links to a moving essay by a mother whose adolescent son has violent and unexplained episodes. I added a link and excerpt earlier today, but decided to devote an entry to the essay due to the interest.
I am sharing another excerpt but go to the source and read the full piece. In the essay, the blogger discusses her challenges dealing with her 13-year-old son who is easily and quickly enraged. She does not want him in the prison system, which, she says, is where many mentally ill young men end up. But she worries that he could become a danger to society someday.
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.
Several friends who have sent me this piece present it as evidence of the need for mental health services, but the child in the essay has received services.
What he hasn’t received is a diagnosis. So, I’m uncertain how schools should respond or what else the community can do. We clearly need more mental health services for families who cannot afford them, but Adam Lanza came from a family of means and apparently had access to a full range of health services.
It is interesting to note how many of these mass murders are white males and, who, despite their mental illness, live in households where weapons were accessible. Even if their families never suspected that they would kill innocent people with family guns, didn’t they worry about them killing themselves? In my own experience with writing about mentally ill children, the more common threat is that they will hurt themselves rather than hurt others.
Here is the excerpt of the entry by Anarchist Soccer Mom:
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.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog