Progressive gun control advocates were clamoring for more liberty-crushing legislation immediately after the slaughter of the young students and teachers at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Meanwhile, others cry “white privilege” because most mass shooting suspects are white.
Yet, one critically important aspect continues to get lost in the intense press coverage: The failure to develop and implement serious and protective policies that address the needs of both the mentally ill and their potential victims.
The killer, Adam Lanza, was a genius with Asperger’s syndrome who was a “Goth loner” who dressed in black and obsessed with video games. Another recent murder-suicide also involved a young man with Asperger’s syndrome who killed his father, his father’s girlfriend and himself at a Wyoming college campus. Jared Loughner, perpetrator of a mass murder in Tucson, AZ, that severely injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.
Liza Long is a single mother of four children, one of whom is a genius with mental health problems that leads to violent reactions. She recounts her struggles in keeping her afflicted, 13-year old son, her other children, herself, and the rest of the community protected from these outbursts.
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.
Long offers a heart-wrenching conclusion.
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.
Even the Daily Kos recognizes that the politically correct approach of mainstreaming the mentally ill is a complete failure. Yet, it seems our politicians find it easier to preen over new gun rules.
Until the focus shifts from the weapons to the people using them, sadly another Sandy Hook becomes inevitable.