In the wake and aftermath of what can only be described as a reprehensible mass slaughter of innocent young life, the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre is currently sparking a number of necessary and heated online debates.
The leading debate on gun control, and whether stricter gun control legislation is warranted, is the obvious one, with the quieter, less popular debate on mental health and the failings of American mental healthcare system taking an unfortunate back seat.
The facts simply are this: guns kill people (with journalist Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times op-ed citing 30,000 firearm deaths per year in America,) but such events do not usually happen by surprise, and are often planned or fantasized about prior, according to expert behavioral specialists who study mass killings.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, According to Dr. C Andrew Morgan, a Yale University psychiatrist and behavioral adviser to the U.S. armed forces, perpetrators often say or do things which end up foreshadowing such violent events.
After the fact, “it never ends up being a surprise,” said Dr. C. Andrew Morgan.
The suspected perpetrator, Adam Lanza, is believed to have been a longtime sufferer of autism, or an autism-like spectrum disorder. While investigations are still ongoing, there are already accounts by neighbors and acquaintances detailing Adam Lanza as socially awkward and deeply troubled.
“Adam Lanza has been a weird kid since we were five years old,” wrote a neighbor and former classmate Timothy Dalton on Twitter. “As horrible as this was, I can’t say I am surprised.”
While more people are sure to come out of the woodwork, citing Lanza’s awkward and painful social behaviors, the question becomes: What do we do to prevent more Sandy Hook’s from happening?
As we previously reported, while gun legislation petitions swirl the internet, a powerful first person account of raising a violent, mentally ill child is also making its rounds across the internet, Linza Long’s op-ed entitled I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.
Long painfully documents her 13 year old son ‘Michael’s,’ harrowing account with mental illness and the impossibility of finding adequate, long-term mental care in an inherently flawed mental healthcare system. Long deals with her son’s episodes of physical violence, brandishing knives as well as verbal threats to hurt himself and others. Throughout the op-ed piece, Long is seen running from emergency room to the mental hospital, to social workers, probation officers, counselors, school administrators and teachers. Michael is being medicated with a laundry list’s worth of anti-psychotic and mood altering drugs, special schools and behavioral plans. But nothing seems to work.
“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.”
Long’s article ends on a painful yet poignant note:
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.
While the current White House petition on addressing gun control through legislation is now 120, 751 strong as of this posting, a less popular yet equally important White House petition on building a federally funded mental healthcare system stands only 697 strong, as of this posting.
Inquisitr readers: Do you feel it’s time for our nation to reevaluate its mental healthcare system, in order to prevent another Sandy Hook massacre?