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‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mom’: Woman Details Terrifying Life With Mentally Ill Son

mental illness children

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, many have turned the national conversation to the inevitable: Gun control. But one terrified mother has written a blog post about life with her troubled son, arguing that we really ought to talk about mental illness.

“In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness,” writes The Anarchist Soccer Mom.

In the post, she offers a chilling portrayal of her life with her undiagnosed son, and the health care system’s lack of options. Her son, “Michael” (re-named for obvious reasons), is on medication, but is undiagnosed. He exhibits a quick temper, and frequently give in to unpredictable episodes that include frightening and violent threats.

The mother says that her 13-year-old son is an accelerated student, and that his IQ is off the charts. He’s highly gifted in math and science, and “will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who,” when he’s in a good mood.

But there’s an unpredictable dark side.

“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,” she wrote. Another altercation involved “Michael’s” school dress code. “You’re a stupid b***. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!” he screamed.

“I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me,” she writes.

Drawing comparisons between “Michael” and Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, the mother says that the mental healthcare system is painfully broken, and that a social worker even advised her to try to get “Michael” charged with a crime, because “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.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 4 million children and adolescents in the US suffer from a serious mental disorder. A Surgeon General report holds that 10% of children suffer from mental illnesses, and that four out of every five will not get the help they need.

A Washington Times op-ed written by Jacqueline Marshall argues that mental illness is not the answer to the Connecticut school shooting. I’ll give it to her, she makes a great argument. But how right can she be when almost every single mass shooting since Columbine has shown some history of mental illness or anti-social behavior in each of the killers?

What do you think? In the wake of Sandy Hook, should we be talking about gun control, or mental illness? Both? Niether?

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15 Responses to “‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mom’: Woman Details Terrifying Life With Mentally Ill Son”

  1. Kim Jackson

    Yes, I concur with this Mother, that not only do we need to speak about gun control, but, what is even more significant is the overdue discussion about mental healthcare. And to the reality that this system has been broken down for several decades, since the days of the Woodbridge Development Center when the hideous care was shown to the world of children, adults, and care givers could not feasibly take care of the increasing number of mentally disabled individuals who require long-term, behavior modification, violence reduction care… For several years now, I was wondering when, especially in New Jersey where the highest incidence of Autism has been confirmed. Where as these individuals increase in number and in age that there are few or any places at all for these so to be or already are adult who have Autism, PPD-NOS, Asperger's, Bipolar, ADHD, Schizophrenics, or other mental health illnesses that turn into violent episodes, that can TERRIFY their parents and caregivers. From where will the help arise? The events of Newtown, Columbine, Aurora, and other regions where gun violence grabbed at the headlines for a media thriller, however, the media traverses onto another story, however, the issue of the lack of mental illness still hinders parents and caregivers from getting the help they need. Now, some parents do survive in the world of denial that their children require more help then they can offer, and are "afraid," to admit that the numerous recurring episodes of tantrums, outbursts, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse are not just going to "go away with a good night's sleep." One thing these parents are in need to know is that, when they fail to take that MOST DIFFICULT STEP, to finally realize they need to contact the Police and their local Adult and/or Child Protection Assessment Team, to get HELP, they have to NOT stop there! so many people say, but, I do not want them on medication, and one of the most difficult thing for any parent is to come to the realization, that Menatl illness is NOT routinely caused by anyone "thinking that I AM A BAD PARENT." To be honest, what makes a BAD PARENT is one that fails to make the necessary action to GET HELP! Oh, yes one of the portions of parenting to assess, what makes you think that society is concerned whether you were BAD OR GOOD in YOUR PARENTING? What hinders your parenting skills is to ALWAYS WORRY ABOUT THE MYSTERIOUS "THEM!" Worry about what your child needs, whether child or adult, in the form of mental health illness, for if you did NOT do anything, that is where the concern of the public, AND those who encounter your children, become aware that a problem is there… Now, I will not have all of the blame of the failure of mental healthcare and community support fail upon ONLY THE PARENTS SHOULDERS. For while working in the medical field I have found that many "Professionals," that these parents do to for evaluation, support, diagnosis, and referrals have been and still remain as ONE OF THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES in the QUEST FOR HELP. I have found that many "professionals," DO NOT have the training to assist these parents, and for many of these parents who have been shuffled from one evaluator to another that MANY ARE NOT AS WELL-TRAINED in the fields they profess expertise or knowledge of… Especially in the diagnosis of girls on the spectrum, but, that is another story that I would have to digress, since this is another obstacle of lack of knowledge due to societal beliefs about the role of girls/women. Currently there are several "professionals," sitting off in an American Psychiatric Association boardroom somewhere, making several decisions as to what defines Autism, Aspergers, PPD-NOS, on the spectrum or off of it; what have a co-morbidity or does not…Well, I that this "POWER," of these "professionals," needs to be STOPPED! Because these "PROFESSIONALS," need to have the input of the millions of parents who have those children or adults that "did not quite fit, into the psychiatric criteria check off boxes, because if these "professionals," really wanted to make changes to the DSM-IV, V, VI, VII to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, then these "professionals," need to interact with these parents through a questionnaire study, nationwide to get the true Diorama of what mental illness is to those living with it DAILY! It is far easier to further disenfranchise parents, family, educators, doctors, nurses, practitioners, emergency mental health assessors, and others on the diagnosis, treatment, modification, education spectrum, but removing some diagnoses and leaving these caring individuals with no other recourse to give their client/patient and their support system, "Sorry we CANOT HELP YOU." this is the reason, most parents are left to defend for themselves, because, the public might say institutionalize them, however, with more states, losing money; and the closing of facilities to handle these severely impacted cases; and the horror stories like Woodbridge Developmental Center in New Jersey… This is why these children, yes, the children of each one of these parents who are afraid to socialize because of parental judgment; are tired of the mental health runaround; the lack of long-term services, which has to include, INDEPENDENCY SKILLS, LIVING QUARTERS, AND EMPLOYMENT SERVICES! and one of the most crucial first steps is to have EMERGENCY PSYCHIATRIC RESPONSE TEAM MEMBERS THAT ARE TRAINED, not just shifted into a job, they have no expertise in, especially in AUTISM! For decades, I have wondered where New Jersey has planned to keep all of those children, they have been rushing to assess into the spectrum? I wondered what is to become of them, as they mature into ADULTHOOD? yes, many parents work hard and diligently to teach those life skills to be socially acceptable, however, just like a grain of sand, we too, shall disappear… Even with financial obligations in place, with the natural life expectancy moving up into the age of 90 or more… these ADULT children require more then being shuttered into a parental world of concealed consent… For you parents of children with the "normal societal goals," being obtained, this is a term, that parents of adult children, allow their adult children to adventure out into the world, with strong, spoken apprehension as to their welfare and ability to thrive in this judgmental, prejudiced world. We know we have taught as much as the approaching growth of adulthood and new found autonomy forces us to concede to. However, we are aware of these young adult or maturing adults have "rights," but, we are afraid of the police who are NOT trained in special needs persons; the persons who might take advantage; the introduction of substance abuse; the subtlety of social graces that can now end in gunplay and death… Yes, we need to talk about mental health illness, however, there are far more many other issues that hinder the full recovery of a system that failed years ago… Unfortunately, twenty honest children, six educators, an overwhelmed mother and a LOST and FORGOTTEN young man had to be the catalyst to the conversation to catch a spark… Now, I wonder, if WE AS A NATION, could cut the political rhetoric, and begin revision of a system gone dead…

  2. James Bennett Saxon

    All useful in trying to make sense of this. Long's commentary is valuable even if disingenuous. We have a war on terrorism. Time for a war on whatever this is. ..

  3. Scott D. Sullivan-Reinhart

    It is a violent person using a tool. The story was fabricated to get attention.

  4. John Hurd

    well as a father of a diagnosed autistic bipolar 18 year old son storys like this are all to real and to frequent we as a nation need to relize it is our falt we are failing these people with these mental disorder by saying they don't need all these programs and moneys they are supposed to get to help them and us deal with these terrible mental problems they have we as a society need to wake up and relize it is our responsibilty to help these people wether they want help or not it is time for us to throw our hats into the ring and stop all this goverment controlo over the money and programs these people need we must stop them from ending the programs and group home funding for these peopl it isn't there personal piggy bank to move where they thanks it is needed it is supposed to be a way of helping these people with mental illness and if we continue to turn our heads to the relization thaT WE ARE FAILING TO HELP THEM THEN WE ARE ASKING FOR MORE OF THESE HORRIBLE THINGS TO HAPPEN we must help them and please remeber these people in your payers for they are trully victums of a person that should have been help long ago by us.

  5. John Hurd

    i as one of the strugling to get his son help agree with you and thanks for your outspeaking and awaking comments may all who can change this now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Lynn Thomas

    both gun control and mental illness I too have a son that has mental illness and the family has reached out for help and we are up against a wall not enough help for them and when they get to be adults they have rights and then there is nothing you can do unless they are hurting themselves or others and by that time its to late. Professionals need to listen to family members we have been living this nightmare since he was sixteen and he is now in his thirtys its been a roller coaster ride.

  7. Dana Carol Smith

    Even though the Sandy Hook tragedy is horrific and I cannot imagine how difficult it is for the families and victims to cope with such a tragedy, I also thought about Adam's family. Adam is somebody's brother and son. Somewhere along the way, the system failed him and he did not receive psychiatric care he needed. Stigma and easy access to mental healthcare is a huge problem. I believe most people with a mental illness would be able to live product, normal lives if they were properly treated. I am writing a book on the topic right now, comparing mental illness treatment options available 60 years ago and today, what is different, what is the same, and what would have saved people years ago if the treatment options available today were available at the turn of the century. I am lucky to have good health insurance that pays for psychiatric treatment and medication, but many people are not so lucky. It is a shame insurance companies and employers do not view mental illness as a chronic illness, just like diabetes. I doubt the stigma will ever go away and that is one reason people do not seek help.

  8. Lynn Thomas

    wish this could go to the president to read and for him to talk to some of us regarding mental illness.