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Mother recounts terrors of raising genius son with violence-oriented mental illness

Mother recounts terrors of raising genius son with violence-oriented mental illness

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 Am Adam Lanza’s Mother

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.


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I have no clue what the answer is.

    Having represented enough children with parents who are mentally ill in the Child Protective Services system, I can tell you EXACTLY what the answer is:

    Reopening of the Psychiatric Hospitals where dangerous individuals were committed until at least they are stabalized from, if not cured of their mental illness, or locked away forever. Give them as much freedom within the facility as possible, but they are confined to that facility.

    Yes, it’s a harsh reality. The problem is that these individuals largely do not KNOW or are INCAPABLE of acting properly in society, and thus violation of others rights becomes inevitable, the most important of which is the right to life. If these individuals are incapable behaving by societies rules (for whatever reason) they need to be segregated from the REST of society.

Ronald Reagan will be blamed in 3….2….1….

Glad you posted that piece. It raises the points many of us raised in the other threads. Its not all about guns no more than 9/11 was about airplanes. An overreaction to the gun issue leaves the other issues out of meaningful discussion.

This is a typical left brainstorm & how it plays out win, win for them. Decades ago they close down the homes on the theory of mainstreaming & compassion. Because their intentions are good it can’t possibly be problematic. Then any suggestions for tweeking the system to deal with problems is met with canards to marginalize the suggestion deride the suggested. Since the left unquestionably occupies the high ground they then put forth yet another dubious solution which further advances their agenda. It’s nice to be God & hence beyond reproach!

BannedbytheGuardian | December 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Don’t blame the Goths either.

Iread a study that followed kids who went through a Goth existence as a teen. This culturally. Isolating experience proved to be a good thing that kept them away from the fads & trends of their peers .

Later in life. They always had a little bit of Goth.

this was a British study about Brit Goths beginning in the post punk era. The music was very strong & has stood the test of time.

There is also an historical link via the original Goth – Vlad the Impaler /Dracula who was an anti Islamist . Vlad did not drink blood of his enemies but impaled thousands & watched the blood drip drip drip.

No way are true Goths mentally ill.

Now I am going to YouTube for some Stranglers .

    No way are true Goths mentally ill.

    Why yes, it’s completely well-adjusted to mutilate one’s body with bizarre tatoos and piercing it with metal rods and other paraphernalia. That way, you’ll look like a total freak and no employer will ever hire you so you can live in your parents’ basement and listen to loud “music” for the rest of your life.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to snopercod. | December 16, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      In your haste to be combative you have missed the outlined parameter of the post.

      Your concept of Goth is not the one & only . The Goth as stUdied & outlined is frOm the UK post punk. Punks had piercings not Goths.

      The study demonstrated it was positive experience & a plus for later life.

      Quite likely the pseudo American version is violent & just a cover for mentally ill

      My biggest problem was that I could not carry the beautiful blue black hair colouring . I had to go deep deep red to match darker complexion.

      They were great times!

    i don’t where this ‘goth’ thing originated…maybe just because it fits into a familiar narrative? people who knew/knew of him report that he regularly wore button-down shirts and khaki pants…carried pens in his shirt pocket and his other things in a briefcase. i have yet to see a pic of him other than nattily dressed…more of a preppy nerd than anything that could be called goth.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to el polacko. | December 17, 2012 at 12:10 am

      I guess snoper& 10 others have never read. Shelley , Byron or Bram Stoker or visited a church built in Gothic style .These were all the rage even across the Midwest.

      Goth is the original awe of the great forces we live under. Perhaps these people are thinking Satan.

      Sad .

      Those pictures are 8 years old. Those descriptions of him wearing khakis and button down shirts are as well. His looks and attire had changed significantly. Goth. Yes.

        The Tech Club photo was taken 4 years ago, not 8, and he looks like an Inspiral Carpets roadie, not a goth. I have seen zero photos of him wearing goth clothing or white face makeup and read zero evidence that he consumed gothic literature, appreciated gothic art, or listened to goth bands.

        Just because an ignorant classmate may have said, “yeah, he was thin and pale and quiet and wore black; he was one of the goths” does NOT mean he WAS a goth.

        Perhaps he was, but so far there is no evidence that I have seen to support that assertion. And if you have seen such evidence, I would like to peruse it if you could provide a link.

    Yeah, Banned, I’m not getting the “goth” description of this mentally ill killer either. It seems that many people don’t have a clue what “goth” really is (and it was the Daily Mail that used the term according to the link, though I don’t know if they took it from a witness). Just because one dresses in black does not mean they are “goth”. Bizarre.

    I highly doubt Adam Lanza dressed in Victorian mourning gear and listened to Bauhaus whilst thumbing through a well-worn volume of Poe.

      I think it was somebody from the parent generation who said that Adam Lanza was Goth. They probably don’t know, and judging from the few pictures I saw, he was not.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to angela. | December 17, 2012 at 1:52 am

      Then there are the spin offs inc The PRE Raphelites . Swoon .

      Death for me is the Bloomsbury mob.

      Makes one wonder what lads like @Lanza would have been ithe 19th c.

The dangers from the mentally ill arise because of the spate of lawsuits and new laws enacted in the mid-1960’s through the 1970’s which prevented the long-term hospitalization – involuntary of course – (or imprisonment if you prefer) of insane people. Look at the so-called ‘homeless’ population: nearly all of them should be institutionalized for treatment of their mental illnesses. Yes, I know there are families and single mothers out on the streets as well, but year in and year out the core of the homeless population is comprised of the insane. When you add to that refusal to institutionalize those who are obviously and incurably insane the failure to adequately socialize children which has been the ‘elephant in the room’ for about thirty years now, you have our present situation. Some children, perhaps many children especially boys, require corporal punishment in order to achieve appropriate levels of socialization; they certainly require space and time for a level of competition now considered to be tantamount to violence in order to mature. Neither the socialization nor the socially-acceptable outlets for male aggression now exist in America, apart from some organized sports which fail to provide an outlet for enough young men. The chickens are coming home to roost – so to speak – from a full generation of imprudent social policies and deliberate destruction of cultural and social norms of conduct. Don’t look for any improvement as it is only going to get worse.

    I concur. In fact, it IS getting worse.

    The cases in the District Court that I largely practice in where Parents are accused of abuse or neglect of their children are often the result of underlying mental illness which is either not being treated, for which the parent is REFUSING treatment, or for which some psychiatrist said “we can’t do anything for you, best of luck” and sent the person on their way.

    In fact, I’ve got a case that I’m an Attorney at Litem on right now where the respondent Mom HAS been involuntarily committed to the psychiatric hospital after saying her life was over, threatening to crash her car, putting her newborn into her car and speeding down the highway before the police caught up with her. Fortunately respondent Dad stepped up and is providing for the child. The problem is that respondent Mom doesn’t understand “why that would have been wrong.”

There’s a saying: to every complex problem, there’s an answer that’s simple, easy and wrong. Got a problem with millions of mental-health issues out there? Ban guns. That’s a lot easier than wrestling with the complex moral and legal and medical issues. It won’t solve the problem, but it makes good headlines.

Professor, Thank you for posting this article. I will freely admit, I was one of those people, not the insane liberals, but one who used to think more gun laws would prevent this kind of thing. But I am coming to the conclusion if this mentally ill killer hadn’t used guns, it would have been knives, or bombs, something else.

and from what I’ve read he was denied permission to get a gun, those the laws that were on the books worked, however how can they prevent someone mentally ill person from stealing a weapon, which was the case in the recent mall shooting, or in this case, he used his mom’s guns and used his brother’s ID.

Yes, have some sensible gun laws, like making sure mentally unstable not having access to guns, however not sure how laws can prevent the person from getting it illegally it or stealing it etc. But a more whole approach is also needed, like not enough respect for life culturally, many of these video games are so awful, and more importantly, have more focus on treatment and follow up monitoring of mentally ill people. The gun is the weapon of choice, but as Seneca once said:
“A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.”

Yes have gun laws that can actually be enforced like making sure mentally unstable people cannot get access to such weapons, but beyond that not sure how it can be enforced by any law, so a more whole like approach is needed, the people who need such help, treatment need to be made sure they get such help, that seems to be the common thread in all such mass events, they are all mentally unstable with guns.

but banning guns from law abiding people will only prevent law abiding people from having such weapons for defense purposes, perhaps against such events or others like it.

Such an absolute tragedy, all those innocents 🙁 so very sad. 🙁

    Exactly how many laws did Lanza break before his killing spree began? He murdered his Mother. He stole her legally owned firearms. He was in possession of stolen property. He was underage to have possession of those firearms. He drove to a “GUN FREE ZONE” [get the irony?] and committed 26 murders.
    The people who are really responsible are the people who advocate for mentally deranged people to be allowed to run the streets rather than being confined and/or the mental health “professionals” afraid of being sued because they refuse to diagnose a mentally deranged person as being mentally deranged.

      lightning in reply to Towson Lawyer. | December 17, 2012 at 8:19 am

      Actually, as a mental health clinician, I don’t fear being sued for recommending confinement; rather I fear them getting their freedom. The truly frustrating thing: I personally have recommended confinement for clients who are a danger only to have a judge say, NO. Society looks to my profession to “handle” these issues, but when told that confinement is the only solution they deny this, order more pills, and send the client back out into society. Ugh.

Professor, I’ve spent over a decade living in homeless shelters and rescue missions viewing first hand the uselessness of our governmental fixes for the mentally ill. I’m just worn out and at a loss of hope in the national political system fixing anything – their interests percolate around their own re-elections. Then you have the ACLU, social workers and the do-gooders…

My opinion is the only thing that is workable for society is long term mandatory warehousing of the mentally ill, with in-house chemical treatment and counseling. When a person is able to function in society, then release them to a half-way house. Without this approach we’re going to keep seeing these type of incidents happening, along with seeing the insane homeless sleeping on the sidewalks of America. At any one time 1/3 of all homeless people are mentally ill – shelters are not the answer, and I don’t believe a home atmosphere addresses the problem adequately either.

    lightning in reply to David Yotham. | December 17, 2012 at 8:25 am

    The thing that saddens me is that most folks think that institutionalization would automatically be this horrible thing straight out of your classic horror movie. Have their been cases of this in the past? Yes, like any other aspect of society, mental health has its share of horror stories. However, like many such things, it is actually quite rare. Many times the people who are trully mentally ill, need and even do well in institutions. They are safe. They are not called on to perform at a level they are not ready to handle. They have people to make sure they take their medication, which if they are truly mentally ill, they need. Unfortunately, today, these clients are seen as doing well in a residential facility, and judges often think that since they are doing so well in a confined setting that the community is no big deal. For the judge it probably isn’t; for the client, a totally big deal.

Wanted to add something else, I get why schools want to be “gun free” zones, well thats a good thing, but what about the people who are unlawful or mentally unstable, they won’t be swayed by any “gun free” zone laws, so how can the school possibly protect themselves?!?

I read in Israel, all the schools have weapons, yes they are locked up to prevent any kids accidently getting access to such weapons, but the schools have them so the teachers can use them to protect the students and themselves against aggressors, who certainly will not be swayed by any gun laws.

    I like this idea. Don’t get me wrong. But there’s a problem with implementing it here in the United States.

    That problem is that not everyone in our population has served in the military. In Israel, just about all of their population HAS served, so their teachers are proficient (if possibly rusty) in how to handle a weapon should it become necessary.

    Implementation here would require special training of certain, delineated or selected teachers in each school. It will be difficult to implement, but largely less costly and more effective than just about any other idea I’ve heard suggested.

      That is a very good point. I did not consider that.

      Maybe the ex-vets who are teachers in a school, if there are any can be trained for such things, or maybe schools can have desginated people (like how they do on planes), teachers, pricipicals, etc, just few people there who are properly trained, so that then at least there is a way for them to fight back against such events, and they have access to weapons that can protect innocents.

      MaggotAtBroadAndWall in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Eugene Volokh has a solution for those school administrators, staff, and teachers who have not had military experience:

      Midwest Rhino in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      We could put more retired military into the school system for a little balance against the leftist unionists.

      The kids would be helped also if they became comfortable with strong men with guns around. I’m thinking maybe cops do programs like this, to get neighborhood kids comfortable with them.

      iconotastic in reply to Chuck Skinner. | December 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      I disagree with your conclusion regarding how difficult it would be to train civilians for armed self-defense. They don’t need to learn small-unit tactics, combined arms, nor all the other topics required so that soldiers accomplish their task (killing people and breaking things) without killing each other too often in the process. These people need to learn basic armed self-defense. With that education and tools the staff can deal with the kind of threats posed by these crazies.

      It works well in Israel and their threat is considerably more lethal, if not less crazy.

    janitor in reply to alex. | December 17, 2012 at 12:02 am

    This is a good idea. Perhaps teachers could take mandatory classes in use and handling of firearms instead of some of the useless administrivia and diversity stuff they are required to do.

    The thought of unionized teachers with guns is a scary thought. They would be afraid to use the firearms for fear of hurting the villains feelings. There is a need for volunteers with training to step up and do the job.
    Just make sure that the volunteers have proper training, no history of mental illness, no history of illegal drug use, are not illegal aliens and the guts to stand up to the criminal.

This is a problem that involves more than the families of people who are forced to take care of a relative who has a violence-oriented mental illness.

Anyone who lives in an area that has a maximum-security prison (there are two within 10 miles of me) has friends who tell of the horrors of having to deal with inmates who have severe mental issues. I know of several who have opted to find other employment or retire earlier than they had planned because of this. Their biggest complaint is that they chose a career to oversee criminals, not people who belong in a mental institution where they would recieve proper treatment and not be a danger to both the staff and themselves.

Aside from all this, I know many people, both CO’s and ‘Brass’ who themselves have been affected by this system of using prisons as a place to dump the mentally ill. The strain that they face every day, including the necessity of having to carry an approved small pocket knife to ‘cut down’ a prisoner or two each month who has managed to hang himself, results in almost all of them becoming heavy drinkers to relax when they get home resulting in failed marriages, mental stress that often takes the form of short tempers with their own families, and a higher than average suicide rate than many other professions.

Until there is a change in this, dare I use the word insane, method of both ‘helping’ the afflicted who can’t be trusted to medicate themselves without supervision and protecting society from those who cannot be helped, I fear for not just my personal friends, but society as a whole.

[…] Legal Insurrection and Gawker. Many of the commenters at Gawker seem to think that mental illness is a cop […]

As demonstrated over the past few days by the progressive left… if they ever fully develop their inner Stalin-Mao-Fidel-Pol Pot we are going to need all of the guns we can get our hands on to protect ourselves, our families, our property and our country.

Gulags have absolute gun control.

I’m panicked that the objective of the animals injecting race into this is not clearly understood by enough of us.

Their objective is racial street violence on behalf of the Obama administration, and ultimately, the invocation of martial law. All this, orchestrated from the White House.

Did that help wake anyone up?

Occupied Territory | December 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I live both sides of the mainstreaming question. When I met my mother in law in 1979, she was in a state instituion. She’s a nonviolent schizophrenic. It was a horrible place to live; very dehumanizing. Witin a few years, and ever since, she’s lived in a more “community housing” type arrangement. It is much, much better. My wife and I are very pleased with this, and it seems to be a good setting for those she lives with, too.

My brother in law, on the other hand, is also schizophrenic. We feared him being around my son when he was growing up and have had as little to do w/ him as possible. He is obviously sick, and has abused girlfriends at times to some unkown degree. He was once involuntarily committed to a psych hospital for evaluation, but in Mass. that can only be for 3 days if no crime has been committed. We fear that someday we’ll hear some very bad news that he’s involved with, but there’s nothing we can do (let alone we almost never know where he is as he has gamed the SSI and shelter situation and roams the country).

(And, if you’ve never experienced a psych ward, it’s traumatizing. I feel for every family that contemplates it because it will leave a scar for life on the patient.)

That’s how Gerald Rivers f/k/a Geraldo Rivera, got his start: he did an expose of a mental facility in the 70s. Long time ago…. It caused quite the uproar. As I recall, most of the patients were neglected and/or strapped down.

But an institution for the mentally ill with violent tendencies would be superior to having them cause the deaths of innocents.

I’m a 30 year veteran of the mental health system in North Carolina (um, as a clinician, not a consumer). Problems in NC psychiatric system:

An insuffient number of beds forces prioritization and judgment calls on admissions clinicians. Private hospitals require insurance or cash up front, but chronically mentally ill people quickly use up their lifetime insurance coverage for inpatient psych treatment. They are denied admission and referred to the state hospital system where there are…

An insufficient number of beds. Causes prioritization and judgement calls again. Many an admissions MD has had 5 or 10 patients brought involuntarily by law enforcement on commitment papers, each of them roughly equivalent in ‘dangerousness to self or others’, but only 1 or 2 beds available. The overage gets refused admission, but can’t be released without eval, and are referred out to some other state hospital in some other catchment area, or the police get stuck with them and temporarily jail them for safety until somebody finds a bed for them. This leads to…

Premature, statistics based discharges of already admitted patients as opposed to clinically based discharges. “We need beds! Go see Doc Miller and find out who can get rid of to empty 5 beds!” Just as there are street-smart frequent flyer manipulators among the petty criminal class, so too there are a great many chronic psych patients who are system-savvy and recognize a chance to get out early by holding it together long enough for a discharge hearing. Many admissions clinicians feel it’s their only choice: release the half-crazy guy out the back door to make room for the fully crazy guy they just brought in the front door.

Many of the chronically mentally ill belong to both groups (psych and criminal) and bounce from hospital to home to jail to home in endless cycles – and there is often the same space issues at the jails.

The lack of sufficient psychiatric inpatient beds leads to a concurrent raising of the bar for admission and lowering of the bar for discharge, especially in the state-run sector – it’s too tough to get into a psych hospital and often too easy to get out.

Political problems – Here in NC, the mentally ill have essentially zero political power or public support (as opposed to cancer patients, heart, diabetes, etc.), and most don’t vote, of course. The state-run psych hospitals where the most dangerous patients are admitted and discharged and their administrative body have little political power in state-level government, hence, theirs is the first budget purged in budget battles.

More gun control or even outright banishment and confiscation will not work, period. There no sector of society more creative than the mentally ill, who by definition think outside the box. Gone murderous, they will find a way.

If we’re going to make sufficient changes to the national network of state-run and private psychiatric hospitals to minimize or eliminate mass murders by the mentally ill, get your checkbooks out, because it will be **extremely** expensive as well as prone to the same civil rights lawsuits and challenges that have made it what it is today.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

27 comments so far and apparently there’s a huge, intractable, nearly impossible problem to solve. Waaaay too complicated.

Isn’t it easier to blame the NRA?

I’ll take ‘low hanging fruit’ for $200, Alex.

“Yet, one critically important aspect continues to get lost in the intense press coverage”

Professor, you are sadly mistaken if you think this is an accident. The Left actively doesn’t want to deal with the real causes of these shootings. If they did then the atrocities might go end and then how would they further their agenda?

The Left loves it when kids are murdered like this–they can exploit the outrage to further their agenda. That the agenda will mean more children are murdered is a feature to them, not a bug. The Left is evil that way–which might explain why they have so much kinship with Islamists.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to iconotastic. | December 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I suspect you are at least 80% right there.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to iconotastic. | December 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    What powers the left emotionally after an event like this is shame, based on a sense of guilt – the same dynamic that powers racial guilt among liberals. Whether racism or mindless violence, their supposition is we could have done something to prevent it, we did not, and we are now to some degree responsible for having failed to do so. Therefore, they insist on immediate action, caring not so much whether it is effective, but whether it relieves their sense of guilt and shame.

    A popular item in the currently emerging liberal gun control jihad is to criminalize large capacity magazines on semi-automatic weapons. It’s nuts, the suggestion of an ignorant child. “Who needs a 30-round magazine!” they wail. If one shooter takes, whatever, 20 seconds to empty a 30-round magazine, I can empty three individual 10-round mags in 21 seconds, that is, I can change out 2 mags in less than a second, as most experienced shooters can. This is progress on preventing mass shootings?

    No. It is progress on relieving liberal guilt and shame, and if trampling on the rights of others is the result, so be it, because it is not a right they personally choose to exercise and won’t miss once gone.

    The underlying force driving gun control liberals is pure selfishness.

    I suspect a more pedestrian reason for the left’s disinterest in getting the government focused on the mentally ill than the conspiracy of ghoulishly wanting a dead body count. We on the right have for decades labeled the rabid communist/socialist spittle droolers of the Democrat Party as the LUNATIC LEFT.

    My guess would be a significant number of the DailyKos and DU are in IMO one step away from the achieving the status of Lougher’s and Lanza’s of the world. Listen to the rants of the rabid spittle droolers on line and the only difference is they haven’t yet done what they either advocated or expressed personal preference happening to some person.

    If the government ever took serious it’s mission to protect society from those who are violent or advocated violence, most of the Left would be in straight jackets housed in insane asylums. This is why reform will never happen until the public stops voting for politicians who view the lunatic left as a base of support. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

Well, at least we know what happened to all the lunatics turned away from in-patient care: they ran for public office — and won.

Fifty times the number of children who died this week in the school shooting will die this year in automobile accidents.

Yes, we have to deal with the increasing populations of our mentally ill. (Although I’d like to know why the rates of mental illness are growing at a rate above the increase in the population. Too readily drugging children’s brains? Environmental toxins?)

Be this as it may, most mentally ill are not genius mass murderers who go postal, and this kind of event really needs to be kept in perspective, numbers-wise and risk-wise.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to janitor. | December 17, 2012 at 6:31 am

    That is one of the aspects of this that bothers me, that the whole nation has this thrust in their face as a “national tragedy”. It’s really a local tragedy. It is so jarring that it reaches us all emotionally, but we are not a national family that must mourn the loss of every child. Daddy Obama doesn’t need to tell us he will make it all better, just rely on the nanny state to take care of us (Daddy will get those bad guns away from those bad Republicans).

    “National tragedy” is when our our president is surrendering ground in our “war on terrorism” (Iraq, Egypt) while holding back our military (e.g. Benghazi). National trillion a year deficits, or a president asking for unrestrained power of the purse, are national tragedies that we can actually act on. Instead we are supposed to take time out for big Sandy or Trayvon Martin, while Obama parades around as the great healer or something.

    Events can focus us around “national narratives”, but such power for Obama’s media to direct everyone emotionally, feels like Big Brother on the big screen in Orwell’s “1984”.

    lightning in reply to janitor. | December 17, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Your comment has tickled my pet peeve as a mental health clinican. You are correct in that there does seems to be more mental health issues now than in the past. One of my observations, (which is not based on scientific research) is that this is a reflection of society. Society doesn’t want to be bothered by the messier aspects of life. Parents look to teachers to raise their children, they also don’t want to have to sacrifice for their children and hold the belief that they can focus on their wants and needs and as long as “their happy, their kids will be OK”. Teachers burdened by children who are not being taught at home, have to find some way of managing their classroom. What do they do? As soon as Johnny acts up, here comes the ADHD diagnosis and the pills. Often done by a pediatrician in a ten minute visit, NOT a psychiatrist. Parents and teachers feel relief because now that Johnny is drugged they don’t have that messy behavior to deal with. Yet, throughout his life Johnny feels neglected and fails to fit in with peers due to his beahvior (which can be affected by the drugs and withdrawal from said drugs). Johnny can then develop personality disorder for which there is no good treatement, and becomes violent. A child who is abused is 100x easier to treat than a child whose parent is self-absored. In my experience, they also tend to be more violent.

Dear Professor,

I know the article that you have linked to has been making the rounds, and I sincerely feel for the mother. No one should have to live like that. However, if you look at Ms. Lang’s actual blog, which was started in 2008, shortly after she got divorced, you will see that the family is highly dysfunctional. If her son is 13 now, and the divorce took place around 2007, he would have been about eight years old. Divorce is usually something that takes some time to lead up to, and so it is very likely that this child was 5 or 6, if not younger, when a lot of this chaos was taking place. It seems ludicrous to expect children to grow up in extremely dysfunctional situations and expect that somehow they grow up to be “normal”. If you expect that a normal teenager will lash out sometimes, how much more is that amplified when the “adults” seem to only be concerned with their own happiness and fulfillment? We see in the Lanza case here too that there is some sort of dysfunction, after all, the brother who was only 4 years older said that for 2 years, he hadn’t had contact with his brother, who lived in the same house as his mother. Did the older brother never visit her? Adam Lanza purposely carried his brother’s ID with him on his spree & had to know that people would very likely think that he was Ryan, at least for a time. It’s a kind of vengeance; for the rest of his life, when employers or girlfriends google his name, there are going to be a plethora of links stating “Ryan Lanza ID’ed as shooter”.

    lightning in reply to Katja. | December 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    I don’t presume to know how dysfunctional her home was, but I would urge some caution concerning your statements. Mental health issues create feedback loops. What I mean is that when a child develops behavioral problems (regardless of level of seriousness) this causes reactionary behavior in other family members. Now for all I know, maybe this child was what is known as the “identified patient” and the parents were truly the problem. No one will ever know truthfully the extent of which it was. Yet, along with my caution of feedback loops regarding behavior, I would also say what you describe as their experience is identical to my own. My parents were selfish people who divorced badly (I didn’t see my two sisters for the first 7 years of my life). Yet none of their five children shot up a school, and surprisingly none of us have severe mental illness. We all grew up to be moderately succesful and strive to be better than our parents. I am sure that many on this site have similiar stories and like me (and my siblings) are law abiding contributing members of society.

Just saw this:
December 16, 2012 4:00 P.M.
The Facts about Mass Shootings
It’s time to address mental health and gun-free zones.

By John Fund

“New York Times columnist David Brooks and Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson have both suggested that the ACLU-inspired laws that make it so difficult to intervene and identify potentially dangerous people should be loosened.”

Don’t know if you heard you were “quoted” or not…

Mental health needs to come out of the closet. There remains too much stigma regarding this issue, in spite of the fact that research has shown that the most severe mental illnesses have a physiological basis. Are there bad mental institutions? Yes. Does that mean that we shouldn’t have facilities available for those who need them? No. Prisons are not great environments either and we have had some which have abused inmates inappropriately. No one discusses dismantling the entire prison system, rather they fix the specific institution. This makes sense and should apply to mental health institutions as well. Education about the warning signs of mental health issues need to be discussed as well because they do exist. The greatest concern regarding mental health is the practice of it by doctors who are not trained and do not spend the appropriate amount of time understanding the client’s environment, history, and symptoms. This leads to misdiagnosis. We also, as a society, need to stop looking for quick fixes (ie pills) to stop feeling/dealing with life. Sadness, anger, and certain behavior are normal given certain events, environments, and interactions. We all need to learn the difference between normal emotional reactions and true mental health issues.

I think it’s abhorrent that the British tabloids went after Lanza’s mother. I’m sure you’ve seen the links on Drudge (crazed survivalist, etc). She was also a victim. A much better story in American media (for once):

Law and Order In the Fallen World (via @TheTransom)

An excellent read on the subject of mass killings with some perspective, not the trite kind.

The Facts about Mass Shootings
It’s time to address mental health and gun-free zones.

…In fact, the high point for mass killings in the U.S. was 1929, according to criminologist Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century…

…Eonomists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.

I spoke with Lott after the Newtown shooting, and he confirmed that nothing has changed to alter his findings. He noted that the Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons…

…Lott offers a final damning statistic: “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

Nancy Lanza Would Take Son Adam Shooting to Bond With Him (Video)

Nancy Lanza, the mother of Adam Lanza, told friends that she would take her son shooting as a way to bond with her son. A close friend also told FOX News that he didn’t think she had the support system she needed to deal with Adam. According to a family friend,

“She would take them shooting because that was a way a single mom could relate to her son.”

Teach mentally ill kid to shoot gun, Well, that worked out real well for everyone concerned.

[…] at LegalInsurrection there is an article that will both break your heart and scare the life out of you at the same time. It is written by a […]

[…] Dear Readers:  I was privileged to be able to post a thoughtful piece on Legal Insurrection on mental health issues related to some recent mass murders (a big hat-tip to Lipstick Underground): Mother recounts terrors of raising genius son with violence-oriented mental illness […]

Something doesn’t jibe here:

Did this woman have a gun safe?

[I’m betting no].

As a gun owner- this pisses me off. I encourage everyone to be armed to the damn tooth. But it seriously pisses me off when people don’t keep their heat on their person or locked tight.

Here in Washington state- an off duty cop left his gun sitting in the mini van with his todller age kids. Kid picks it up and shoots his sister.

We don’t need a law on this- it’s common sense. How about a little respect for a thing that is made to kill?

Dammit! Beat that punk’s ass with everything within reach! Stop babying adolescents!