‘I am Adam Lanza’s mother’

PLEASE NOTE: I did not write this. A writer named Liza Long did, at her website “Anarchist Soccer Mom.”

This is also very sad. And infuriating. Hey, let’s cut some more mental health funding!

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, 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.

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 Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’smother. 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.

(Originally published at The Anarchist Soccer Mom.)

73 Responses to ‘I am Adam Lanza’s mother’

  1. Colleen McFarland December 15, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    thanks for sharing this story, I will pass it on.

  2. charlotte shumway December 16, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    Thank you for your letter. Its so hard to be honest and open about a loved one that does unacceptable things. We tend to hide them. Your letter breaks my heart.But I think its written so well that it could open some eyes. I hope and pray your life can find balance and peace. And your son can receive competent care.

  3. Kristy December 16, 2012 at 1:53 am #

    Thank you for writing this. I am Adam Lanza’s sister in much the same way. My brother terrorized my family when I was a child, and there was just nothing anyone could do to help us. I remember many nights watching my parents in tears wondering how to help their son, as well as save my life. There were simply not enough resources, and they didn’t want to send their son to prison. It was an excruciating upbringing, and one that left physical and mental scars on us all. I pray for the Lanza family in addition to the families of all those affected, the first responders, and everyone across the world touched by these events. We need to fix the system to get people mental health care before it is too late. Thank you for sharing.

  4. mikina December 16, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    I can be Adam lanza mother but praying for a heavenly intervention

  5. Inez Perl December 16, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Yes, I am the mother with an adult son with MI. Since about 15 but full blown for the last 15 years. Been there so many times. He is now in a kind of halfway house with little support but some supervision at least. This was
    made available to him only after an arrest (one of many) for fighting and a misdemeanor charge. The Public Defender got him into this place in Miami. Miami sucks for mental health services, my son just walks around all day. I always hope that more attention and money will be dircected towards social programs to provide relief to this population. The people with mental retardation get a lot of services why not the mentally ill?

  6. Lois Lane December 16, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    I had a daughter with very similar issues as a child. No Judgement from this comment is meant for anyone, however, the very first time my daughter threatened to kill me and herself (age 10), I immediately got rid of my own firearm. I made a decision that I’d rather risk not having a weapon for self-defense than for my child to be able to find my weapon and do harm to herself or anyone.

  7. susie December 16, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Because the parents of the mentally retarded are highly organized and politically active.

  8. Patty Spitzler December 16, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Thank you for tor honesty…. While I wholeheartedly agree that mental health is something that this country swept under the carpet years ago and something drastic needs to take place, I am having trouble with the fact that Adam Lanza’s mother kept an arsenal of weapons in a home with a boy who was clearly capable of using them. I would find it very difficult to believe that she didn’t already know this a long time ago.
    I hope you get the help with your son that you so desperately need. My heart goes out to you as a mother.

  9. jawbone December 16, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Also, the mentally ill are considered by many in this society to not be exercising the necessary gumption and self-discipline which would “make” them “normal.” I’m so often amazed that the obviously mentally ill are treated as “evil” or criminals for things they have no real control over. If your own brain is making its own reality, how should that be handled? By therapy, of course. But we turn to the prison system.

    A brother of a friend of mine was misdiagnosed for nearly 25 years, then, when his new wife demanded he get real help or she had to leave him, they did find a new shrink who helped. But he needed constant monitoring and tweaking of his meds. It became impossible for his wife to keep her job as during his manic phases he would keep her up all hours of the night, sometimes becoming violent. In his depressive mode he became nearly monosylabic in his communications. There were precious and deeply welcomed transition periods, but never long enough….

    They split, sold their house at a huge profit, and he moved to a low tax state. Low tax states tend to not offer many services for the mentally ill. Now in his mid-60’s, he has gone through increasingly higher and more reckless highs and deeper depressions in recent years. He got in trouble with the law several times, but has some white privilege and was never sentenced to actual jail time. At one point he was in jail unable to make bail, but his alcohalic brother bailed him out — partially to have his drinking buddy back. The bipolar brother drinks to self medicate, then loses control.

    He has now run through his saving, must sell his house, and all the expensive things he bought during his highs (a Porsche, used but still pricey; ultra high-end watches; high-end sports equipment, very expensive equipment for his hobby) will go for pennies on the dollar. He’s unable to work on his hobby when he’s depressed, and can’t actually concentrate when he’s manic…but has hopes. Now dashed.

    There is nothing his family can do for him, and they have tried since he first evidenced the bipolar disorder back in his late teens, early twenties. Back then it was called schizophrenia, and he was institutionalized by his father a few times, received electroshock treatments, meds which made him miserable, etc.

    Now, in his late mid-60’s, with with no money, he will be moving into a back shed at his brother’s place, –it’s called the “cottage”– and he will be exposed to the brother’s alcohalism.

    So sad, but, even when he could get help, he wouldn’t, perhaps couldn’t, during the depressions and absolutely not during the manic highs, the only times he feels alive.

    Even his more normal sibling, my friend, talks about him as not “willing” to do things to help himself. She speaks of him as someone without discipline.

    But, when his brain is misfiring, his world is not the same as the one more normal people experience, and he reacts to what his brain, his body, is creating as his true life experience.

    I have nothing but complete and utter sympathy for the families and friends, loved ones of the children and siblings descibed by other commenters here.

    Can availability of good medical care, good therapy help? Oh, I so hope so. We MUST try.

  10. Sharon Aitchison December 16, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    This is one of the most deeply moving writings of families living in peril due to mental illness that I have ever read. It is emotional and moving, but from your heart … you are a woman in need for herself and her family. I pray you get the right assistance for yourself to cope and for your child to be treated. God bless you.

  11. Michael J. Curtiss December 16, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Disturbing. Brave. Horrifying. Compelling. Awful. Hopeful.

    This is what we need to talk about. And talk about. And talk about, until the Adam Lanzas of the world are cared for, and those who love them can be made safe in the knowledge that they will be.

    Thank you.

  12. Del December 16, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    I have a patient who, after the Virginia Tech murders, told me that he thought it was “neat” that that happened. Several years later, still in his 20’s, he has not committed any violent crimes. He is friendly to his parents, while in the past they were afraid of him. He is a white male now in his late 20s.
    Why are the majority of these offenders white males in their late teens and 20s?
    What CAN be done? Medications and therapy are not 100% effective, obviously. Maybe we should start to screen all males at age 5 for violent tendencies, cruelty to animals, and start an early intervention program.

  13. sandra griffin December 16, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Powerful story. Will indeed share. I thank God for what I have. He blessed my life with a child who has Downs Syndrome. She has been a wonderful daughter and has lived with me for 45 years. The brave mothers and fathers who have to deal with a child who can fly off the handle at a moment’s notice is sad. Kelly does not do this. She is calm and full of joy. My heart goes out to the brave parents who live in a world of constant stress. Something more has to be done to help their children.

  14. TW December 16, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I have a 17-year-old autistic son who is mentally challenged and who had many of the same behaviors described in this article. I, too, have had to lock myself in the car to protect myself, and call 911 so that the police can prevent my son from hurting me further. We also have had our share of trips to the ER. He only has these behaviors with me, and does not try to hurt others in school. But like this mother, I am not going to put my son into the juvenile detention system, because it is not an appropriate placement for him. He is developmentally disabled, and would quickly be hurt — or worse — in such an environment. Every day is a challenge. But I do thank God he is not a risk to anyone besides me, and that he does not know how to use weapons (except his fists). It can be a horrifying, trapped life to raise one of these kids, and there’s slim pickings for getting the help he so desperately needs.

  15. Karen December 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    As a school teacher working with children on the Autism spectrum and the emotionally disturbed population…I believe of anything I’ve seen heard or read … This is what we should be using as the basis for moving forward in solving this problem. God bless this mom and god please help Michael

  16. Bonnie December 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I am praying for you and all families living with someone affected by mental health issues. The current options are just not acceptable and the problem needs to be addressed NOW.

  17. Sue December 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    I am a nurse. I am fortunate. My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 3. Had it not been for a wonderful pediatrian and day care provider, long with family and friends, this could have been my son.

    Yes I fought all along the way for him. School, and all. Now he’s a freshman in college.

    Bless you for your gift of words so others can understand.

  18. Lisa December 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    I applaud the honesy and courage it took for this mother to speak out about this epidemic that plagues our country. Mental illness is a real issue that needs to be addressed and dealt with on a national level. Prayers for everyone who is dealing with a mentally ill loved one on their own.

  19. MS December 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. I am the sibling of such a boy. When I was 9 or 10 my brother suffered a psychotic break and was made to come home from college. It was on this occasion that he became violent towards my parents and me. A lock was installed on all our bedroom doors and in extreme situations, I was to go to the basement and lock myself into a room until the danger passed. One of these nights, we were all in the basement room when we heard the clash of metal and glass breaking. He was trying to kill himself. My parents called the police and went to intervene. He’d grabbed all the knives from the kitchen and ran through our plate glass window. Once the police arrived, my parents were answering police questions, my brother, who must have seemed calm took the opportunity to come back inside to my bedroom where he stood over me with a butcher knife. He said, “I love you, you’re my sister but I have to kill you”. I don’t know how I survived but I did. This was in the late 1970’s and to this day, he’s never been able to get any kind of comprehensive treatment. My parents had absolutely no where to turn. He’s gotten multiple different diagnoses and no help. The only treatment he has ever gotten has come after some altercation which led to police intervention. There are no good outcomes if this is all we can offer the mentally ill. We need to treat mental illness with as much seriousness as we do cancer. It’s something that we as a nation and a society need to stop ignoring and pretending will go away.

  20. Teresa December 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    I agree with you 100%…however, unlike Adam Lanza’s mother you did not mention having a house full of guns, or taking your son out for target practice. You had the foresight to have a safety plan for your other children. Those who keep arguing about their 2nd Amendment rights do not understand the dangers of having “legal” guns in their homes. I pray for you and your son and for all of the other parents in the same situation.

  21. Carol December 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    I feel sorry for all the families who have to deal with this and I also agree that we need more funding for mental illness. But the really have to look into what is causing this. When I was younger, I never heard of things like this and I am thinking that all the additives in our foods and the GMOs and toxic plastics may have some bearing on mental illness. Our government needs to become more pro-active and restrict some of the toxins like other countries around the world do.

  22. eydie December 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    universal health care that will cover mental illness as well as physical illness. secure treatment facilities that will house the mentally ill, protecting the family. the belief that mental illness is not a stigma. if your leg is broken, you go to a doctor and have it treated and you aren’t ashamed that you sought treatment. if your mind is broken, you should have the same option. until we change attitudes, healthcare and approaches, all the talk in the world won’t help a thing. i am sick and tired of these people going untreated and seeing the aftermath of their illness on the news. but we won’t take the steps that would actually help them.

  23. Kelly December 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Thank you for the courage to write this. I am Adam Lanza’s mother as well.

  24. Natalie Brown December 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    I have been a sister and a mother to a child with explosive and violent tendencies. Used to have to lock my daughter’s door at nightime. Luckily I didn’t listen to my son’s doctors who left us with little hope and opened my mind up to alternative treatments out of desperation. Not that eating fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy meats should be considered “alternative” but nevertheless they are. Our mentally challenged children are nutritionally starved. Cleaning the diet up (no processed foods with high fructose corn syrup, etc) has to be part if the solution. Despite numerous studies that date back at least to the 60’s that demonstrate the relationship between food and behavior, this is the last place parents look and it’s not their fault. Kraft, fast food restaurants like McDonalds, all those companies pay millions of dollars to keep us in the dark about this relationship…it is disgusting! We have also used supplements and homeopathy with great success. There is hope but we have to look outside the box and support these families.

  25. Raveena December 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    I admire your strength and courage and dont know if I could ever be able to handle a situation like that. It is a mothers love. But even if everyone hopes and wishes we could could end mental illness or find some preventive measure it is impossible. What needs to be done is to put away and hide all those objects that can cause harm and death at times out of their reach like you mentioned hiding the sharp objects in your home out of their reach. This is all we can do as preventive measure. We cannot have a mother having 3 registered handguns in her name and as we see they were the ones that were used on her. Other countries do have gun control laws and their death toll is a lot less.I have to add that I am full of admiration for you to put this out.

  26. Glenda December 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    You are not Lanza’s mother unless you have assault weapons in your home.Have you given your son guns to carry around. I think killing people is not just mental illness- it takes a gun.

  27. Colleen Lemkuil December 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Dear Mother of a mentally ill son, Your son sounds to me like Biplor patients I cared for as a psyciatric nurse. He needs medication every day for the rest of his life. Many are geniuses. In 1964 we had hospitals for teens and youth with mental illness and government funding said send them all home and no one took care of them. We need to train pschiatric nurses and we need to have group therapy for your family and the patient atleast weekly. The day may come when he can make visits to your home. Prison is not the place for them!! Promote hospitals for the mentally ill again with good professionals taking care of them. There is help! We just heard how the last boy could not be left alone. He killed his Mother and he took off and did terrible things. He needed help!! Colleen Lemkuil RN

  28. Serena December 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    I raised a child with ADHD and mood issues. As he got older the problems got worse, drugs, alcohol, etc. I had insurance and he had meds and went through numerous counselors and drug programs etc etc. while I don’t doubt some kids can be helped there are also many that cant. We can’t fight the fight for them. They have to admit they have a problem and be receptive of the measures to help. If they don’t want to be helped then we can’t do it for them.

  29. Rebecca December 16, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    It is not possible for the brain to function properly when it is deprived of the nutrients needed. Along those lines, when the brain is bombarded by potent neurotoxins, again it will not function well. Modern medicine usually completely dismisses the most obvious and simple causes of disease because it is not as profitable as prescribing mind-altering drugs which are KNOWN to cause suicidal and homocidal behavior. Here are two links, but there are numerous others http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/
    Most people who have “tried everything” have not even considered the causes of the problem.

  30. Mark A. December 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Repeal the 2nd Amendment. It is time to enact stricter gun control. Sign this petition:

  31. jay December 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I appreciate this letter, I am a father of an 19 year old boy, he had been diagnosed with almost all of the same behaviors cited in this letter. This past Friday i left my home for a few hours, i had spoke to my son through text about every half hour and he seemed fine. at about 7:30pm i received a phone call from my neighbor that swat was staked out at my house, after speaking to swat i went home directly, as i was riding home my son texts me “hey” i said what is going on?! he said nothing, i said son, swat is outside wtf! he said i don’t know i told my girlfriend i was upset, i told him to put his hands up and go out, he did. he was very compliant,Thankfully. This is what was actually going on,
    The couple, in the middle of a breakup, were chatting on a webcam when the South Maple Street man said he was going to kill himself, the girlfriend told police.

    He then walked back and forth in front of the web cam, loading and unloading a gun, she said.

    Police said she told them he also may have been inhaling from an aerosol can.

    —- police immediately called —— County’s Central Dispatch Center, which notified My Town authorities.

    They called in the SWAT team.

    The man walked out around 7:45 p.m. and was put into the ambulance (photo, above). The SWAT call was cancelled.

    The young man’s father told police there was a replica weapon in the house. It was immediately unclear whether that was seized.

    now the gun was a toy/replica gun and there was nothing in the house to hurt anyone with except kitchen utensils but no one had known and fortunately no one got hurt. he has all of the signs these people who hurt so many have had, this was not his first incident but if i have any say i hope for it to be the last. i had to have him committed, it broke my heart to do so but i had no choice, not saying they are gonna give him the best help, it would be hard for them to do so due to the fact he is not honest with them or himself about whats in his head. I had to make a choice, do i want to be a parent who had a possible danger committed or do i want to be a parent of a dead child or the parent of a violent offender with victims. i chose to commit him. it tears me apart and has left me lost and crying for 2 days now. what helped me feel a little better was this post above, i know i did the right thing, it’s my responsibility to protect him and the rest of the world from any danger he might have caused. after going through all of this i do believe that if he was left to his own accord and had the means to do something drastic he would. I love him as much as any father would love a child. I’m not very good a writing or sentence structure please don’t pick this post apart for that, please understand the post for what it is.

  32. Sandie December 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    So brave of you to share you story. I think you’re doing a wonderful thing by opening up a dialogue about mental illness and how overwhelming it must be for the parents without the proper resources. My heart goes out to you.

  33. Pat D December 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story. There are many situations out there that are similar to yours. Some kids are difficult to raise and it is not because their parents did anything wrong. Mental illness is real and a challenge to the person and those that love them. What you did was very courageous-committing him before he hurt himself or others. Hope that he does get some help and that some positive comes from this.

  34. lilly December 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. My brother murdered our next door neighbor at the age of 17 & was sent to prison for life. In the 23 years that he’s been in prison, never once has he been provided psychiatric treatment. He requested it at one point & was told that he knew why he was in prison & that he just needed to deal with it. To this day we do not understand what happened. His crime was unprovoked in any way; there was no prior dispute, & nothing that could even slightly give us insight as to why it happened. I do not deny that he deserved punishment, but I feel it was an injustice to all who were effected, including my brother, that none of us will ever understand why he took the life of an innocent person.

  35. phyllis December 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    There are more of us living like this than you can count. Even if you are fortunate enough to get help, it doesn’t mean that the help knows what to do. My son had to hurt someone outside the family before he got hospitalized; hurting me and his sisters was ok. My son seems to be in a fairly stable place at the moment but his sisters dont trust him. At 14, he stillneeds constant supervision. He is also mentally retarded, but that often just allows agencies to fight over responsibility; you’re not supposed to need both sets of services.

  36. Beth December 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Last year my daughter was physically assaulted by a girl three years older that has Aspberger’s. This happened on school grounds. Having worked with autistic children for several years, I knew that this was not going to be a one time incident. My daughter ended up being assaulted 3 times. I was able to secure a restraining order against the girl and pissed off the school because they had to follow it. During the hearing, in front of the judge, this girl screamed hateful comments, threatened to continue to stalk my child and if given the chance she was going to hurt her. Her mother never said a word. I believe going to court was her way of being able to get help for the girl. This summer I was contacted by CPS that the girl was removed from her home because she was a danger to her mother. My heart breaks for her mother, the child, my child and all others that suffer from this mental illness. Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, I would have loved to take my child out of school to home school her, but I had just come out of remission and could barely take care of myself, let alone, try to teach my daughter. Thank you for being so honest. My heart cries for you. I don’t know how I would react if it was my child.

  37. Jo Ann December 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    This type of conversation is critical to change the manner in which mental illness is dealt with in our nation. It, however, will take much more, including a large investment of money for appropriate and available treatment options. I hope this recent tragedy galvanizes the public to demand meaningful action both in terms of gun control and mental health treatment.

  38. Deborah Ross December 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    It’s heart-wrenching, sad and shameful that we don’t have the awareness or sufficient support for mental health needs. There’s too much suffering and silence. My aunt was a psychiatric nurse in a facility for more than 30 years, devoted to helping children and their families with mental health issues. Today, I doubt she could find work. I remember when, under Reagan, the programs were being eliminated, and hospitals closed. No alternatives. No options. And the tragedies we are witnessing now are in no small way connected. Anyone who claims to truly care about humanity cannot look away from the desperate need to care for our children and these families who need help. You want to take on some kind of political action? Take this on.

  39. Julie December 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Thank you for demonstrating such courage by writing about this. I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like for you to live in fear of (and for) your own child. While I certainly don’t have a solution, I appreciate your openness and willingness to share your story in the hopes that it will spark a national conversation about mental health and what it means for our health care and gun laws. God bless you.

  40. Leslie December 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    It’s so very difficult to believe that 50 years later, the solution is the same as that suggested to my mother. “Get him to hit you.” We should have better solutions by now.

    My heart goes out to every person, every family, every parent dealing with mental illness.

  41. Juanita December 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    My brother-in-law tried to kill someone while in a schizophrenic delusion. He was sent away to a hospital and over medicated. Two years later he was released. No one offered any support or follow-up, or required therapy. He had to report to his parole office and “keep a job”. Really? A paranoid schizophrenic with a record is supposed to keep a job? He spent decades in uncontrolled mental illness. Finally, after a suicide attempt, he is starting to get the help he long needed. Everyone feared he would try to kill someone again. We need to help our mentally ill.

  42. Nicole December 16, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    I am amazed at the strength and love the writer of this letter shows. Dealing with a child who scream they hate you and have plans of killing you or themselves can not be easy and this mom does such a good job handling the situation!
    How do we not all see the need for something different for our youth with mental illness. I will be happy to support some kind of place other than jail for our youth. I have seen madness and uncontrolled anger before, it is scary for the whole family. When that person who had displayed these actions sees other people do this he is shocked, wonders what they are thinking. Maybe a place for these kids to talk to one another is a place to start.

  43. Izquierdo December 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    Forty-two comments so far.
    I think this may be a Suburban Guerrilla record.
    Obviously this subject resonates deeply with a great many people.

    Here’s hoping that this latest incident results in real progress in the fields of gun control and mental health treatment. It seems to have galvanized public opinion even more than the many previous horrifying massacres. Maybe we have finally reached the tipping point.

  44. Jennifer December 16, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I am also a mother of child with emotional disturbances. I felt terrible yesterday when I spoke to my husband and told him “this could have easily been our son.” Much to my surprise, my husband looked at me with remorse and sadness and said “I know. I thought the same thing.” Despite years of trying to get our child help, he continues to threaten some of the same things that other parents have mentioned that are extremely concerning. I pray for all of the families involved in this horrific tragedy.

  45. Elizabeth December 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    Thank you! I thought I was alone.

  46. Julia Murray December 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    I’m mentally ill and I live at home with my mother. I have told her that there are times I have thoughts of hurting her, but I have never acted on these thoughts. Still I am worried, particularly since I have no idea what to do about my life since there are few realistic alternatives for mentally ill transsexual ex-prostitute drug addicts with no job for 10 years. Fortunately I am interested in poetry and literature and politics and much else. I only wish that those who are responding to what happened in Connecticut all understood that if unconditional love is not there for and by everybody that these things will happen. This is a society based on dominance of the normal. Finally, the problem is in the mind, not the brain — there is a difference!!! P.S. I’ve been hospitalized 21 times have had electro-shock, many meds, etc. I would prefer to live with someone other than my mother but as you know there is little or no housing for someone like me, esp. in Arizona!!!

  47. Christine December 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    You did exactly the right thing with your son. I’m proud of you. I lived with a mentally ill sister, she was so out of control that it was a very scary childhood for me growing up never knowing what mood she was in, wondering what would trigger. She even babysat me! But back then mental health wasn’t really even discussed. She did get help with electric shock treatments, it made her a zombie, she had to wear diapers and couldn’t talk for a long time and then it was right back to the mental abusive person who was at times normal and smart!people don’t understand. What Adam did was horrific, his mother did what she could, but you can never fully control another person, people need to know that. The only hope for mentally ill people is to get treatment, stay in it and have people like this woman did with her son, get them into treatment when you notice it happening. I see all angles of what happened. You have to have sorrow for Adam’s family, his brother and father. They are left to live with all of this. You have to feel sorry for all the tragedy here. There are people who will say “You need to do…” but that doesn’t always work, you just do the best you can with what resources you have. Nobody could control Adam but himself, that is the sad part. I took classes,psychology classes on grief management and mental illness. Schitzophreniacs and bipolar people know what is happening to them but they cannot control it, they can say I’m sorry after it but they can’t stop it. I even joined support groups for both illness. I watched countless people in the group in such pain and sorrow. One lady’s mom took her to lunch, bought her clothing, had her nails and hair done, then she went into a manic mode and attacked her mother, she very distraught and telling us she knew was doing it but couldn’t stop. It’s very sad. It’s sad for the victims, the mentally ill person, all the families, and all of us who watch it. We need better ways to deal with mentally ill people, more treatments available.

  48. michelle December 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    wow..u have opened our eyes to the other side..we sit here and judge the horrific actions b4 we even know the truth bc the truth is.. sadly b4 ppl are killed bc of someones mental illeness and its obvious.. only some one that cant think socially acceptable would go off like this… there must be more support and action for children w these behaviors and mental illness. im gratful my angel has down syndrome and just said to me the other day… i would never shoot u mom… and it spoke volumes to me bc at age 18 he decided to live w his dad… but TG not bc he hates me. hes not a big hugger… but TG he ‘would never shoot me’
    having a child w a disability is hard… i can not even imagine what parents do to get the help to stop these kids…. you never know… u just dont know.

  49. Susan P December 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    I have always said that there is a lot more to these stories than we are being told. My heart goes out to you and I will pray for you. Recently, my grandson, who lives with me went through a breakup with his girlfriend. After about 2 weeks of severe depression he told me that he thought he needed to seek professional help. Would you believe that none of the so called shrinks that I called would even talk to us without him being hospitalized? I couldn’t believe it. So thankfully he suffered through the depression without an incident. My thought was then, what do you do if you are suicidal? Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing my story or my grandson in the same category as you. What I am trying to relay is that children and young adults that really need psychiatric help can’t seem to get it. In Adam’s case however, his mother was receiving nearly $325,000 a year in support from her ex. Surely, she could have found someone to have helped him? Just asking. I am so thankful that you are speaking out. God bless you and your family.

  50. Cat December 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Thanks for your story and I too have a sister with MI. She is now 32 and has a history of being baker acted and in prison. She abused my parents, who now have passed on. She recently had a child and it was placed in the care of my brother and his wife. Now we are waiting for the courts to give full custody to my brother. We live in fear that she will persuade the judge that she is a fit parent. Her illness started when she was 11 or 12 and she was in a psych-ward when she was a teen. She was released at the age of 16. She does not always take her meds and as anger management issues. She has been diagnosed with all types of MI. She beat my Dad and chased my mom around the house with a knife. As a teen she would threaten to commit suicide. Most of all she is manipulative. Worst of all, there is no help. In order for anyone to be safe from her, she is put in jail temporary. This country needs to change the way they care for the MI. If they continue as they are, there will be more mass shootings and more fear for all of us..

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