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?