Mentally ill and violent young men: What is the solution?

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.

She writes:

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

40 comments Add your comment

John Konop

December 17th, 2012
11:13 am

I had an older brother who committed suicide while I was in college. He was also a genius with schizophrenia, and my experiences with the issue were similar to the article

ie….. 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…..

The biggest issue in my opinion is society lack of treatment for mental health over incarceration and a toughen up attitude over treatment from parents……We would never do this with a broken leg……..Until we re-focus our assets toward treatment being acceptable and re focus our money toward this over the failed war on drugs approach to mental health issues, we will not see any real change. Every time I hear about this happening I have the exact same feelings

ie ……………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………………..

BehindEnemyLines

December 17th, 2012
11:28 am

This one has been making the rounds quite a bit since at least yesterday, so I’ve read the whole thing a couple of times.

What strikes me is that I’m not at all sure that even the author is prepared for where an honest discussion would lead. The primary concern for the majority of people is how to protect themselves & their loved ones from the severely mentally/emotionally disturbed. The best ways to do that are pre-emptive (instead of the reactive system we have now) but in a culture where “Born This Way” is celebrated as a musical triumph with significant social meaning I believe it’s a pretty safe bet that those measures aren’t going to go over very well in some quarters either. This is a significant case of “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it”.

While I sympathize with the essayist’s plaintive cry for help & might take it closer to face value, quite a few of the calls for “talk” about mental illness seem more along the lines “let us tell you what you’re supposed to think”. That’s not a discussion, that’s a p.r. campaign at best.

Private Citizen

December 17th, 2012
11:34 am

Answer

December 17th, 2012
11:34 am

This will never change until we change our culture… which means it will never change. Maybe when we stop pushing people down and marginalizing them this type of thing will subside. I’m not condoning the actions, whatsoever. I’m merely suggesting that everyone has a snapping point if you push them hard enough. Pushing the buttons of someone who is mentally unstable only worsens the situation.

Just A Teacher

December 17th, 2012
11:35 am

This would be a topic more suited to psychiatrists than parents and teachers. I know one thing, the severely mentally ill have no place in mainstream public schools. Try to explain to the families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary about the rights of the mentally ill. Go ahead and tell them that Adam Lanza’s rights not to seek treatment or to enroll in his public school are more important than their loved ones’ lives. It might not be politically incorrect, but I am going to be watching those students whom I know have mental health issues very closely. Unfortunately, the students don’t have access to that information.

Private Citizen

December 17th, 2012
11:35 am

Murder / suicide are the same action, depending on direction outward or inward.

James

December 17th, 2012
11:37 am

I’d wager that all of these young men have some of these things in common: Divorced parents (or parents with a dysfunctional marriage), addiction to video games, addiction to porn, lack of time in church.

Maureen Downey

December 17th, 2012
11:42 am

@To all:
If you are willing to talk to an AJC reporter about what security measures schools are putting in place today or what measures you think they should be putting in place, please email Jeffry Scott.
Jeffry.Scott@ajc.com
Thanks, Maureen

Mortimer Collins

December 17th, 2012
11:44 am

I wonder how many of these mentally ill children, in the above illustration and the ones who have proceeded to commit the murders of innocents, had a father in the home.

Teenage boys inherently will challenge the maternal figure, however, if “the ole man” is around then “the issue” is usually resolved and that rather quickly. Perhaps these young men blame their moms for the dads abscence which soon could turn to resentment towards Mom then society etc.

Just a thought…

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Mountain Man

December 17th, 2012
11:44 am

“She does not want him in either the prison system or a hospital for the mentally ill, but worries that he could become a danger to society someday.”

I am sure that is exactly what Adam Lanza’s mother said. She also most likely let him indulge in violent video games to excess. It is reported that she took her sons practicing with weapons. Shw owned a very powerful assault rifle and apparently did not adequately secure it even though she knew her youngest son was “troubled”.

Maude

December 17th, 2012
11:57 am

These young men are let down by the school systems as well as the parents. I once had a kindergartener that was extremely violent,hitting students and teachers, tried to stab students with scissors,refused to follow any request from adults, called me ugly names daily, would make animals noises, the list is to long for me to finish. The bottom line was nothing was done for him!! He remained in the room all year with the other students and myself having to put up with this behavior every day all day long. I cannot imagin the violence this child will do as he is older. He should have been placed in a learning enviroment that would help him learn how to deal with the issues, instead of just being pushed from one grade to the next.

mommamonster

December 17th, 2012
12:15 pm

Maude, that’s the same thing I see as a SPED teacher. We have some very disturbed kids just thrust into General Education classes because “high school has no EBD self-contained room”. With the budget cuts we have faced this year these kids are left to fester. They disrupt their own learning but more importantly the education of their peers. The amount of data and paper work required to correctly place these kids is not unlike what Principals must do to fire inept teachers…a lot of people are unwilling to do the work, instead just “passing the trash” <—-NOT my attitude but I have heard this before. What we end up with is bigger, stronger, and more dangerous young adults who have never gotten the help they need.

Just Sayin.....

December 17th, 2012
12:21 pm

Well, MD, your’s is the only blog asking the right questions.

Everyone else has jumped straight to banning guns because that is the politically expedient thing to do.

I , frankly, don’t know what to do. There is no way to examine and predict the human mind.

JD

December 17th, 2012
12:36 pm

I just want to point out a small error. Maureen, you were correct in saying the mother does not want her child in prison. But she DOES want him treated in a mental hospital as a mental health patient. When her threatened her with a knife, she did her best to get him transported to a mental health facility. She kept her head during the crisis and managed to summon an an ambulance. Unfortunately, no bed was available for him at the mental hospital, so the ambulance took the boy to the only other place they could: the ER. The ER did what they could, but without the option of sending him to a mental hospital, they couldn’t do much. So they discharged back to his home — back into the care of the very person he had threatened to kill just hours earlier, and into the company of his vulnerable younger siblings. The next time her son threatened violence (suicide), she drove him straight to the mental hospital herself, flagged down a clinician and instructed that person to summon the police. That time she succeeded in getting him admitted. The mother clearly DOES want her son to be treated in a mental health facility. And that’s clearly the type of facility and treatment he needs. The mother is right to seek it and demand it. She’s fortunate that she has health care coverage. But even a clear-eyed parent with good health care coverage rarely manages to get in-patient treatment for an adolescent with severe mental illness. That’s not because the parent doesn’t WANT it. It’s because the mental healthcare system is in shambles. Services that are desperately needed are no longer available. That’s a problem that must be reversed!

Looking for the truth

December 17th, 2012
12:41 pm

I understand you don’t want your child incarcerated or hospitalized. If your child is dangerous, then he needs to be in a facility where he can be treated and your family can have some semblance of a normal life. It’s not wrong to want that. It’s better than having your child commit suicide, or worse, suicide by cop and have many other lives damaged because you didn’t want your child to be stigmatized.

Mary Elizabeth

December 17th, 2012
12:47 pm

Thank you, Maureen, for highlighting the need for mental illness awareness, especially as related to acts of violence. Education of the public, regarding mental illness and mental health, is key to improving this national problem.

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia about Rosalynn Carter’s advocacy for mental health. I am posting it in the hope that others (especially journalists) will join in her advocacy of this still inadequately addressed problem.
———————————————————————-

“She created and serves as the chair of The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force, an advisory board of experts, consumers, and advocates promoting positive change in the mental health field. She hosts the annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, bringing together nationwide leaders in the mental health field.

In April 1984, Carter became an Honorary Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and serves as a board member emeritus of the National Mental Health Association.

The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism provide stipends to journalists to report on topics related to mental health or mental illnesses. The one-year fellowship seeks to promote public awareness of mental health issues, as well as to erase the stigma associated with them.[7]

In 2007, Carter joined with David Wellstone, son of the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, to push Congress to pass legislation regarding mental health insurance.[8] Wellstone and Carter are working to pass the ‘Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act’ which would require equal coverage of mental and physical illnesses when policies include both types of coverage; both testified before a House subcommittee regarding the bill in July 2007.[8]

Legislation requiring parity in health insurance coverage for treatment of mental illnesses was ultimately passed and signed into law in October 2008.[9] “

Once Again

December 17th, 2012
12:49 pm

Tragically society turns to the modern psychiatric industry for help and they clearly are failing in their abilities. Worse still, their “solutions” may in fact be the root cause.

You owe it to your self to watch this informative video about the psychotropic drugs millions of americans are taking every day and the “side effects” we are all having to face.

http://youtu.be/UDlH9sV0lHU

JD

December 17th, 2012
12:55 pm

@ Mountain Man & Looking for the truth: The mother in the blogpost (Liza Long) DID want her child to be hospitalized. She and many, many other parents of mentally ill children are trying hard to get their children into treatment facilities. They know that their children need treatment, and they are desperately trying to get it. But it’s not available. Mental health facilities have been shut down. Children, adolescents, & young adults are routinely turned away from the ones that are left because there are no beds or there are more severe crises that are at the front of the line. If a mentally ill person does get admitted, they don’t stay long enough to get really stabilized and transferred into a longer term facility. They just get discharged back to their homes, back to their families who have no protection from them. It’s a story that I’ve heard over and over in support groups and have experienced firsthand. So don’t blame the mom who blogged about her son. She’s NOT the problem. She sees clearly what the problem is. And she said it clearly in her blog. Please read what the mother actually wrote instead of quoting what Maureen erroneously wrote about her.

What's Best for Kids???

December 17th, 2012
12:58 pm

Lots of students who do not belong in a mainstream setting, yet they are there. Their rights trump the rights of normally functioning students who go to school to learn.

Once Again

December 17th, 2012
12:58 pm

Young males are the prime target for the greatest violence industry in our society – the military. Since we no longer defend this country, but rather work to expand the global empire, a special kind of hatred must be exploited by the military machine and its enablers in the media. This certainly cannot help the situation we face as a society. I wonder if these same kinds of incidents became commonplace as the Roman Empire collapsed?

bootney farnsworth

December 17th, 2012
1:01 pm

one thing which will help is noting the high rate of violent crimes -not gun related, but violent- committed by mentally ill women.

I realize the current PC script is that men are the doers of all violence, but that crap just ain’t true.
if the blog can be reoriented to dealing with violence and the mentally ill, get back to me

Old timer

December 17th, 2012
1:05 pm

Good questions here.

Once Again

December 17th, 2012
1:12 pm

bootney farnsworth – great point. most women are not in prison for jaywalking – although far too many are there for consensual crimes (like drugs, prostitution, etc.)

Maureen Downey

December 17th, 2012
1:13 pm

@JD. See change in blog.
Thanks, Maureen

marm

December 17th, 2012
1:22 pm

We have a generation of children who think that violence is the way to solve their ills. There are areas in this country where children have to run through sniper alley to get to and from school every day. I pray to God that people realize that there are thousands of young people, black and white, who have grown up to be adolescents and adults desensitized and society needs to step up and finally DO something. Yes, many have mental health issues, but many more have been conditioned to violence. We can no longer watch the news and turn away because it just another kid in SW Atlanta or whichever urban neighborhood that got shot. We can’t outrun it, and we can’t hide from it.

Prof

December 17th, 2012
1:25 pm

There’s an excellent column on CNN News, http://www.cnn.com, right now: “The Warning Signs Were There,” by Katherine Newman, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins and author of the 2004 book, “Rampage: Social Roots of School Shootings.” She interviewed such shooters extensively, and concluded that there were definite warning signs beforehand. Btw, she noted that all but one of the 41 she interviewed were white adolescent males.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/17/opinion/newman-school-shooters/index.html.

Grasshopper

December 17th, 2012
1:26 pm

So, according to the data supplied, 71% of the mass murders in the US since 1982 were committed by white males.

According to the 2011 census, today 78% of the US population is white.

Race is a non-issue then! Why are we trying to make it one?

JD

December 17th, 2012
1:28 pm

@ Maureen, Thank you for correcting that!!!

Prof

December 17th, 2012
1:29 pm

P.S. Sorry, the link goes to “Page not found.” I think the final period should be omitted. Or just go to CNN News.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/17/opinion/newman-school-shooters/index.html

William Casey

December 17th, 2012
1:53 pm

Unfortunately, all EFFECTIVE solutions (or semi-solutions) will run up against a wall of constutionality. Four pronged effort:

1. Nationwide initiative on MENTAL HEALTH in which the priority is protecting the public.
2. Ban automatic/semi-automatic weapons. Buy them up. Ban on all guns would be impossible. Too many out there. Plus home defense and hunting are legitimate use. NOBODY needs an AK-47.
3. Harden schools as targets. This is of limited value unless you want schools to be fortresses. A single armed guard wouldn’t help much if buildings remain as they are.
4. NEVER announce a suspect’s name. Take away their fantasies of infamy by letting them know that they will die in obscurity.

John Konop

December 17th, 2012
1:53 pm

The reality is simple, you can spend the money putting the mentally ill in jail and or prison or treat them. Not only is treatment less expensive it is the right thing to do. Also society itself must be open to treating the people with mental health issues like and other illness verse turning a blind eye, pretending it is not a problem, embarrassed by the situation…… Talk to anyone in the system, they will tell our legal system is a dumping ground for mental health issues. We can blow our money on the failed “War on Drugs” or promote mental health treatment and or pay for people who cannot afford it.

………The number of incarcerated men and women with severe mental illness
has grown so tremendously in the last few decades that prisons may now
be the largest mental health providers in the United States. Yet U.S. prisons
are not designed or equipped for mentally ill prisoners……

http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/crcl/vol41_2/fellner.pdf

Mary Elizabeth

December 17th, 2012
2:21 pm

The homeless, as well as prisoners, are often victims of mental illness. We must address mental illness more forthrighly, as an aware, concerned nation.

Pride and Joy

December 17th, 2012
2:40 pm

Get rid of the guns. Angry, violent men kill over and again with guns. Until we no longer have angry, violent, ment, we shouldn’t allow anyone to have a gun.
Go ahead and treat the mentally ill. Until you cure all mental illness and can prevent men from becoming violent, get rid of the guns.

Truth in Moderation

December 17th, 2012
8:12 pm

John K, Thank you for sharing your painful past. The wounds run deep. I pray you will gain a new level of healing.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4

Truth in Moderation

December 17th, 2012
8:30 pm

Jesus faced mental illness head on:
“Jesus and a crazy man” Mark 5:1-20
http://www.missionarlington.org/d/loc-02-21-aug11.pdf

Sandy Springs Parent

December 17th, 2012
8:46 pm

We need to stop the main streaming and we need to segregate class rooms by ability, Ability is both mental apptitude and abilility to socialize. When I was in middle school back in 1972 or so when the Who’s Rock Opera Tommy was out and popular. About the deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard, in the days before video games. We ironically, had a kid in either my 7th or 8th grade classes who I know realize had Asberger’s syndrome. No one was mainstreamed back then, but I guess Tommy’s parents wanted him to be. Because all of a sudden he appeared. He would hug the walls as he walked between classes. Of course, everyone would sing the Song, Tommy to him as he did this. But then in my Social Studies class one day he stabbed the Social Studies teacher, with a pencil who we all at the time was an old lady ( she was probably in her mid 50’s). He was gone and never came back.

Then 18 1/2 years ago my cousin’s son who was only 23 was stabbed to death by his 18 year old girlfriend Heather. She tried to plant the knife in his left hand and say he stabbed himself, but she put it in his left hand. The DA found out that she had been kicked out of high school for stabbing a teacher with a pencil. But this could not be used against her because she was a minor. My cousin found a diary when she was cleaning out the apartment, where her son Kyle lived with this girl. In the diary, the girl Heather referred to herself in 3 different names and wrote in 3 different voices. In one of them she calmly wrote and dated it, ” I cut Kyle today, no one was going to leave me again “. Even though the DA at that point had only charged her with 2nd degree murder and her father had hired one of the top defence attorneys, I told my cousin not to turn it over to the DA. Otherwise, she would get off with just going to a mental hospital for a short time. In the end, because Daddy hired a top Defense attorney, she pleaded guilty to Manslaugter for 7-25 years. The judge only gave her 5-7 years in Upstate NY. She was out in only 4 years, although NY has only 1 women’s Prison Wende. She was out by 22. My family, all knows she will kill again. After, all she had the gall to send my cousin Christmas cards from prison. She also broke into her house while she was out on bail and ate a bowl of cereal and left it out as a calling card. The first and only time I ever met this Heather, I could see in her eyes that she was dead inside. You could see that there was something off with her.

Anonmom

December 17th, 2012
9:22 pm

I see this as partially a “Generation Y” problem.. I see it as a “boy” problem. I have 3 sons — 1 is almost 21. Thank G-d, none have wound up needing ADD or ADHD meds. Thank G-d, we’re a stable family. Let me tell you some things I’ve observed as a parent of boys over 21 years — I’ve posted some before and have been ranting about them again since Friday. (1) Denver; Newtown; Gabby Giffords — the shooters are all in their 20s. They all appear to lack coping skills for life; (2) when my boys were young, they played on way too many sports teams where you couldn’t keep score — there couldn’t be losers — everyone had to win. Everyone got trophys. I thought this was awful — learning how to win gracefully is an important life skill — parents can control a lot when kids are small but not when they’re big. I couldn’t make the travel baseball team take my son; I couldn’t make Wharton take my child (well, the parents with the millions could but not me); I can’t make the girl say yes to the prom; I can’t make the employer hire my child; the parent can’t make the committee approve the PhD at a certain point — at some point the kid reaches some level and there is going to be a ‘fail” and the kid needs coping skills and if they haven’t experienced some loss (for our family, the biggest was a dog run over by a car… I don’t recommend it) — they don’t have anything internally to help them cope with the present glitch. It can become suicidal — it can become homicidal. (3) We, as a society, have tried much too hard to turn our boys into girls — we want our boys acting like girls in school — when the boys don’t sit still and read and write quietly — the teachers turn them in for medicine for ADD & ADHD — it’s much easier this way (I know, some kids really do need these meds) — we are at a point where over 70% of the male children in our population are medicated — but once they get to age 18 the adults in their lives (parents, or teachers or coaches) no longer have the right to medicate them — so off to college they go — their bodies are used to the drugs — they are used to their parents being in charge of the dosing — they aren’t used to being responsible themselves — they sometimes just forget — sometimes they deliberately forget — the colleges, because of HIPPA, aren’t allowed to communicate with the parents — theire’s a “disconnect” and things go wrong — at Emory a few years back it wound up in a dead swimmer practicing for varsity swimming… perhaps one of these cases we’re talking about wouldn’t have happened if the meds had been property dosed (I’m guessing here) — but I do think I know that when I was a child not so many boys were on these meds at alll– they had to learn actual coping skills so they had to control themselves… maybe that would have prevented some of this too… I don’t know, I’m guessing at this too but it seems to me that there is probably a correlation here between the high numbers of boys on such meds and the increase in this generation of these incidents; (4) what about those mental institiutions that Reagan took down? Can’t we put them back up? Many of those in jail; many of hte homeless and many of these people really need to be housed in places like that and we need to be more realistic as a society about “mainstreaming” or not. Some random thoughts. So sad. Heartbreaking and we don’t even know why he entered the school……

Woody

December 19th, 2012
8:57 am

I would guess that any parent with a child like this, as the mother in the blog, can pretty accurately identify their child as a future danger to others. So, regardless of whether a diagnostic category exists into which the child can be pigeonholed, the parent knows there is a serious problem. What is lacking is a program to receive such children and treat them, particularly since getting someone out of the loop of a family dynamic is often the first step to stability. Probably a day program, part school and part mental therapy, for urban children. Probably a residential program for rural kids who would have to commute too far. Repeat: the parents are identifying these children. But they are probably not the ones who can actually help them.

Archie

December 19th, 2012
1:19 pm

Mental Illness exists and pretending it isn’t there won’t make it go away. It has to be dealt with in a humane, moral way.

JD

December 26th, 2012
12:35 pm

Stigma — I just want to put in my 2 cents about this. I think everyone should be in favor of reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. Stigma is a primary reason why people who recognize their own symptoms choose NOT to seek treatment. If they seek treatment at all, they may seek a diagnosis that will get them some minimal treatment with less stigma rather than an “unacceptable” diagnosis of one of the major mental illnesses. With less stigma and more encouragement to get treatment, patients will be more forthcoming in reporting their symptoms, diagnoses will be more accurate, symptoms will be better treated, oversight & re-evaluation will be more consistent, and we’ll all be better off & SAFER as a result.

My point is: ALL will benefit if we remove obstacles that prevent the ill person from getting effective treatment. Stigma is one of the big obstacles, and it’s one we all can do something about. It doesn’t take legislation or programs; it takes educating ourselves and reaching out to friends & neighbors who are struggling to take care of a “difficult” loved one. It takes a little courage, yes, but if you have the luxury of choosing whether to help a mentally ill person, you are fortunate. Just imagine the courage that those families have to muster every single day; they didn’t get to choose whether to deal with the mental illness that popped up in their midst.