A Chilling Tale

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The Anarchist Soccer Mom writes about her 13 year old son:

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.

[…]

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’s mother. 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. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map). 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. (http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/09/05/us-number-mentally-ill-prisons-quadrupled)

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 (http://www.npr.org/2011/09/04/140167676/nations-jails-struggle-with-mentally-ill-prisoners)

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.”


My guess is this woman’s problems are gonna get worse until they get better. The system holds parents legally and financially responsible for their children’s behavior. She knows her son needs help, she wants to get him help, but they want to treat him like a discipline problem and punish him. Meanwhile she has a job and two younger kids to care for. (She can forget about a social life.)

If he gets treatment they will expect her to pay for it. If he gets in trouble and ends up in custody or foster care, they will bill her for his food and lodging.

Then when he turns eighteen they will change the rules. They will quit holding her responsible and will start treating him alternately like an adult and, a criminal and an incompetent ward of the state. She won’t have any rights but the government will pressure her to participate in his care.

This is not a case of someone “falling through the cracks”. This is how our fucked-up system works. We aren’t just failing him, we’re failing her too. Sadly, this situation is far too common. Unless we are one of the unlucky family members we usually only get a peek into this Kafkaesque nightmare when some mentally ill person does something horrific.

If you think the government should “do something” to prevent tragedies like the one on Friday, here’s a good place to start. But it won’t be simple, easy or cheap.

BTW – I know more about the system than I want to know. Mentally ill juveniles and adults get represented by public defenders.



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68 Responses to A Chilling Tale

  1. DandyTiger says:

    Talking about guns is much easier. Pushing for more authoritarian (police) state control is easier. Of course that won’t really solve any problems, but that’s not the point with gun control arguments. Dealing with mental illness is fucking hard. It’s complicated, it’s messy, there are all sorts of gray areas for civil liberties, and there are no easy solutions even when you have good diagnoses. On top of that there is a cultural stigma that seems to inhibit even a public discussion of the issues.

    • myiq2xu (D) says:

      I keep seeing people say we need to “identify” the mentally ill. Great – this kid has been identified.

      Now what do you do with him?

      • elliesmom says:

        This mom is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. If she throws him into the system to get him out of her house, she a poor mother for not sticking by her kid when he needed her. If she keeps him in her house and he harms one of his siblings, then she’s a poor mother for not protecting her other children from him. If he goes out and harms someone else, she’ll be all over the news, and people will be asking what was wrong with her, and how could she have spawned a monster?

    • lyn5 says:

      The libs on my FB page are pushing for the assault weapons ban and saying how stupid Republicans are. The Obots are talking about banning guns; everyone else is praying for the victims and their families. I donated to one of the Newtown programs to help the families affected by this horrible tragedy.

    • OldCoastie says:

      Agree DT. I have one kid at school that is in similar circumstances to this kid (only not quite so bad). His mother is just a hero in my eyes… She lives in the projects, has 3 younger children and fights daily to keep her disturbed son on the correct path. It is nothing less than amazing. But she has fought and fought and fought for services and while there is some help, it is not nearly enough.

      Yes. Talking about gun control is MUCH easier than trying to come up with solutions for these young men.

      • myiq2xu (D) says:

        Most of these parents have no training or experience to deal with their kids problems – they become experts by OJT and necessity.

        I used to date a woman who had a daughter with severe CP. She said she didn’t even know what CP was until her daughter was born.

        • OldCoastie says:

          I give this mom HUGE credit as she recognized she had a serious problem and has been so proactive in addressing it… the whole family is in therapy, she attends parenting education, etc. etc…

          She doesn’t shy away from it but really truly is facing the problem head on…

  2. myiq2xu (D) says:

    A family that attends the same church as my mother had a mentally ill adult son. The dealt with his problem from childhood well into adulthood.

    He was in his forties when he was dropped off at the county mental health offices for a weekly appointment. Instead of going inside he car-jacked someone in the parking lot, drove the car to the courthouse, charged past security and ran into the courtroom of a judge he was obsessed about. He was carrying a kitchen knife he found somewhere.

    The deputies shot him dead.

    • myiq2xu (D) says:

      Locally we have had several cases in the past few years where someone called the cops to help with an out-of-control adult son so the cops came out and killed the kid.

      Usually there are drugs involved. The cops are always cleared.

  3. swanspirit says:

    repost from downstairs ..
    This was a great thing to post , it tells the story of what families go through , which is absolute hell.
    Sometimes , when we had a pt who was temporarily calm and cooperative , but the family , which often consisted of a single mom , or another family member who had taken on the care of their sibling , was exhausted or at risk , we as the psyche team of Psychiatrist , Social work , Nursing , etc, would recommend that they refuse to take the person back into the home when they were ready for discharge . Then and only then would the system kick in and find the pt a bed in a facility where they would get the care they really needed .Now in Maryland , if a psyche pt is charged with a crime they are not sent to jail , but to a psychiatric hospital , so pressing charges is encouraged , depending on the circumstances .

    • myiq2xu (D) says:

      Parents are usually pretty far down the road by the time the pros get involved but they are typically reluctant to have their kid arrested. When they do have them arrested they start feeling guilty afterwards and refuse to cooperate with prosecution.

      • swanspirit says:

        Absolutely , which is why counseling the family is so important . Sometimes if you emphasize the safety of the child, and assure them they will be included in every aspect of care , they feel better , but usually the first few times the police get involved they are horrified and in shock .
        Very few counselors include any “future orientation ” with their education , and leave the parents helpless as to what to do if certain situations arise, such as police involvement .
        Then again , you have parents in denial , absent parents , parents that can only be located when they themselves are in jail … etc etc but lets just ban guns that will do it !

        • myiq2xu (D) says:

          The criminal justice system is not the best place to deal with mental illness.

        • Mary says:

          True, myiq. But that’s where a lot of them end up. It’s a large part of the increase in our prison population.

          I have a friend who teaches a GRE program in the prison system. She says about half of her “students” really belong in mental hospitals—-many of them schizophrenics.

      • swanspirit says:

        No it is not, but who else do you call when your child / sibling /relative is going off and threatening or assaulting you ?

  4. myiq2xu (D) says:

    This is an example of “bayoneting the wounded”.

  5. DandyTiger says:

    Go Packers. Nice close of the season. Too bad the Bears have no offensive line. Oh, did I say too bad?, I mean isn’t it great.

  6. myiq2xu (D) says:

    WTF?

    FlowbeeBryant:

    There is another elephant in the room we’re not discussing: racism and how it’s putting our entire society at risk when it comes to mass shooters. If a black kid was pulling knives on his family and threatening their lives, just how fucking long do you think they’d be allowed to remain free, walking among us until they finally snapped? If a black kid made people as uncomfortable as Adam Lanza did, would he make it to 20 years old and a mass shooting of an elementary school before people FINALLY deemed him dangerous?

    Black kids can’t even listen to loud music in parking lots before they’re perceived as threatening, yet somehow white kids like Adam Lanza and Michael go their whole lives with excuses being made for them before they finally snap and kill dozens.

    Isn’t that an argument for racism?

    • OldCoastie says:

      the discussions are going to get a whole lot crazier before this all settles down.

      • votermom says:

        I’ve been scanning the comments on the original article (almost 2000 now) and they really run the spectrum as well.

        There’s a lot of diet/homeopathic/alternative suggestions, but this one sounds interesting:

        i know a student like this who benefitted from a trained dog. this dog was trained to know when an outburst was going to happen and he stepped in and calmed the child down. the mother was at her wits end until the dog came into their lives. http://4pawsforability.org/ is where they got their dog. it was a lot of money, but the community pulled together and did fund raising events to help the family. like you, the mother was scared for her life and the lives of her other children. after hearing her story, i am a true believer that these dogs are angels. please look into it so your son has an opportunity to thrive.

        December 16, 2012 3:52 PM

    • Underwhelmed says:

      But if it turns out Lanza the white kid was bullied at school by any kids of colour, miraculously the white kid will be to blame for that too. Because race trumps everything.

  7. t says:

    I wonder how many kids like this live into old age, if any. Personality disorders like this are mostly untreatable. You can try giving drugs, but compliance with the kinds of drugs these people need is relatively low, given the severe side effects of the drugs, which even in this day and age are mostly archaic things like risperidone and lithium. Really the only solution for the sake of society, including parents, etc, is either some form of incarceration (mandated mental care, etc) or death. Sadly.

    And what of this woman’s other kids? How will the post-traumatic stress from having to live with this boy affect their mental health and their future stability? I hope that someone from her state has read her post and is stepping in to help her get the boy out of their home, and perhaps out of the community. It would be sad for him, but he is truly a danger to everyone in his community. Something needs to be done. He is a bomb that needs to be disabled.

    • myiq2xu (D) says:

      Steven Stayner was kidnapped by a child molester at age 7 and found at age 14. During the seven years he was missing no one knew what happened to him of if he was alive or dead. There were a lot of rumors though.

      Years later his brother Cary became a serial killer.

      I can’t help wondering if the emotional trauma of Steven’s kidnapping didn’t have something to do with what Cary did.

    • angienc (D) says:

      This is so true — I hate to sound cold hearted, which is why usually refrain from saying anything when people start talking about how we need to “identify mental illness better” because I know their hearts are probably in the right place BUT — that’s fucking impossible for the GOVERNMENT to do unless we make it easier to involuntary commit people (and that would open up a whole other can of worms). We’re not talking about depression here or panic disorders or any of these other mental illnesses people seem to think are “cool” nowadays (because everyone seems to brag about their kid being ADHD or whatever is the “in” thing that everyone has) but are easily treated.

      I have an aunt who is schizophrenic (and yes FlowBee Bryant above ^^ in the past she has taken a knife and threatened family members — and no we didn’t have her arrested because what the fuck good would throwing her in jail be? It’s not like she’d get treatment there). As usual with this kind of thing, it manifested itself when she was around 19-20 years old. My grandmother watched her full time if for nothing else just to make sure she took her meds (lithium among other things). Yes, the meds are terrible but drugging them up is ALL YOU CAN DO with a schizophrenic. It’s sad — it’s harsh –but that the truth. I’m not going to go through all the times she stopped taking her meds, how hard it was on the family, (my grandmother especially) but IMO it actually would have been a lot easier on everyone if we could have committed her without her consent (no, the knife incident wasn’t enough — it only got a 72 hour observation & once her meds kicked in, they turned her back over to us). 10 years ago my grandmother passed & my grandfather followed 2 months later — that caused my aunt to snap, btw — but after another 72 hour commitment stemming from that incident and some out patient treatment, she’s been doing pretty well under my mom & dad (no spring chickens themselves) supervision. They’ve got her set up in a little apartment not far from where they live, check in with her daily, etc. She has a little cat. She has her TV. It’s as NORMAL a life as she can have (we don’t let her have a car — she’s driven more than one of my grandparents’ into a ditch in the past–my mom takes her shopping once a week, etc). But the fact is, she can go off her meds anytime & have another incident and you know what? There’s nothing any of us can do about it but pick up the pieces after something happens.

      But what would have happened to her if after my grandparents died my mom & dad weren’t there? She’d be homeless, dead or in jail — just like those young black men that racist Flowbee Bryant in her ignorance about mental illness is talking about.

      • myiq2xu (D) says:

        And the cops can’t/won’t do anything unless they are actually violent, even if they have stopped taking their meds.

      • swanspirit says:

        There are different levels of functioning even with schizophrenics . Some are very high functioning take their meds ,drive ,work ; and some others are in Clifton T Perkins . That is Maryland’s hospital for the severely criminally insane
        CTPHC is a Maximum Security facility, commonly referred to as Maryland’s forensic psychiatric hospital.
        http://dhmh.maryland.gov/perkins/SitePages/Home.aspx
        In between are all levels of care , and levels of families ability and willingness to care .
        There are also gov’t funded subsidized housing facilities for people just like your aunt , where she could have a cat , a tv , and someone to come by and check on her , to see that she takes her meds and see how she is doing .. Here in Worcester County , there are even converted old schools into this type of housing .

        But obviously , some people still go without care , and some families underestimate their ability to keep themselves and their families safe .

        • angienc (D) says:

          I’m not surprised Maryland has a nice place like that.

          NOLA doesn’t — the kind of government subsidized places available for her here I wouldn’t board my dog in.

        • angienc (D) says:

          And btw, Swannie — she is getting SSDI, etc. My grandfather (who got 2 purple hearts fighting in the Pacific in the US Navy during WW2 & was career Navy) was too proud to sign her up for that kind of thing while he was alive. My dad initially didn’t want to either, but my mom basically *made* him do it for her, so not *all* of her expenses are on my parent’s shoulders — but if they hadn’t been there to help her, she would never have been able to sign up for these things herself. I know there are a lot of dedicated social workers, etc. but they are overworked. I’m not criticizing individuals within the system itself — I’m criticizing the system.
          And I’m criticizing people who think the answer is as “easy” as IDing mental illness.
          And I’m really criticizing people who aren’t even addressing mental illness & are blaming guns our of ignorance or for their own nefarious reasons.

  8. votermom says:

    MSM agenda – which picture will focus attention away from mental illness?

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2012/12/amid_all_its_political_correctness.html

  9. angienc (D) says:

    Breitbart is reported that the ACLU & others helped defeat a recently proposed CT state bill that would have made it easier to commit the mentally ill:

    In February 2012, Connecticut Senate Bill 452 (SB452) was put forward to remedy the fact that Connecticut was one of less than ten states in the U.S. to lack an “assisted outpatient treatment” (AOT) law.

    But the bill was passed to Connecticut’s Joint Committee on Judiciary in March, where it quietly faded away because of opposition by those who viewed it as “egregious” and “outrageously discriminatory.”

    Had this law passed, it may have forced Adam Lanza to be treated for his alleged mental illness instead of allowing him to roam free, and ultimately to kill 26 persons and himself in a vindictive rage on Friday.

    Although there is some variation, the way these laws work in other states is simple: AOT laws preempt older statutes that only allow the mentally ill to be forcibly institutionalized for treatment if they’ve done harm to themselves or others. This is possible because AOT laws allow a state to institutionalize a mentally ill person for treatment if the state has reason to suspect such institutionalization will prevent the individual from doing harm to self or others.

    Why didn’t the legislation pass? Because the ACLU and other “civil liberties” groups and individuals cried foul. The ACLU in particular said 452 would “infringe on patients’ privacy rights by expanding [the circle of] who can medicate individuals without their consent.” They also said it infringed on patient rights by reducing the number of doctors’ opinions necessary to commit someone to institutionalization.

    More here: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/12/16/Recently-Defeated-Connecticut-Mental-Health-Bill-May-Have-Stopped-Friday-s-Shooter

    Of course, this just means the MSM will amp up coverage on GUNS– it not only is what Obama wants (and he’s calling the shots with the Fifth Column) but it would expose how flawed their bullshit thinking of mental illness is.

    • myiq2xu (D) says:

      AOT programs will cost money. A LOT of money.

      So would gun prohibition.

      • myiq2xu (D) says:

        BTW – How come our 2nd Amendment rights are never considered to be a civil liberty?

      • angienc (D) says:

        Yes we can’t afford one but would *actually* help prevent these incidents & the other is over my dead body & won’t do a damn thing.
        Obviously Obama & the vile progs want door #2 because they don’t really give a shit about mental illness or these dead children (how many again does Obama’s kill list take out on a weekly basis? WTF are we doing about Syria? — and these gross, corrupt sociopaths voted for him AGAIN). They just want to make the control complete.

  10. yttik says:

    ..”they want to treat him like a discipline problem and punish him.”

    Jail is certainly not the way we should be treating mental illness, but neither should we be completely avoiding discipline problems just because somebody is mentally ill. Mental illness is not an excuse for pulling a knife on your mother. I realize that some of those with mental health problems don’t know what they’re doing and can’t control their illness, but that doesn’t excuse their behavior. I think we do a lot of damage by excusing or ignoring the behavior of the mentally ill.

    The vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. They attack toasters, not schools. They injure themselves, not others.

    Also left out of our discussions about mental illness is sexism and the way we raise boys. Mentally ill or sane, white or black, the vast majority of these crimes are committed by young men. Young men are not more prone to mental illness, they are more prone to violent acting out, in part because that’s how we teach boys to be men, to express themselves. It’s tempting to label people crazy when they behave crazy, but how is a kid who shoots up a school any different them a father who kills his wife and children? Terrorists who target innocent people? There’s a huge difference between having a brain chemistry problem and having no respect for human life. The two do not go hand in hand. Unfortunately violence perceived as a valid way for men to express themselves, does.

    Also frustrating, we don’t understand brain chemistry and medications. We recently quit prescribing many anti depressants to kids and young adults because it was causing them to become suicidal and homicidal. Many of our school shootings have involved young men already on medication. That doesn’t mean medication caused the violence, it means that even when we do find the best care available, our medical system lacks the knowledge to know when we are doing more harm than good.

    • votermom says:

      Some hyper-violent kids do well in very structured systems with a lot of physical activity – like military schools, boot camps, or farm-type schools. I think the combination of strict boundaries, activities where rage-energy can be worked out (endorphins/sweat it out/sleep physically tired every night), healthy food, and clear leadership (think wolf pack structures).

      Ideally there would be places like these specifically geared for the kids like anarchist soccer mom posted about. I don’t think the govt should run these though – private funding, possibly thru charities, would be a better idea.

      Human organisms have amazing abilities to heal themselves given the chance.

    • Constance says:

      The key here is MEN. Give them some sort of injection to neutralize their male hormones before it is too late and they massacre innocents Castration would have the same calming effect but I don’t see a political system run by males coming up with that solution.

  11. DeniseVB says:

    Did Obama give his speech in Newtown tonight? Just realized CBS didn’t prempt the Cowboys-Steelers game for him 😀

  12. DandyTiger says:

    From The Onion:

    Following the fatal shooting this morning at a Connecticut elementary school that left at least 27 dead, including 20 small children, sources across the nation shook their heads, stifled a sob in their voices, and reported fuck everything. Just fuck it all to hell.

    All of it, sources added.

  13. Constance says:

    I have tried to get mental health appointments for a relative who needed help. They demanded “who are you to call for an appointment”? ” Why doesn’t he call himself?” Of course the mentally ill person doesn’t call because they are too depressed to figure out who to call and hang on through the phone maze explaining the situation over and over trying to get an appointment. Eventually I was told “we can’t help anyone who isn’t motivated enough to make his own appointment.”

    It is lazy but easier for society to just blame the mothers of men who commit these crimes.

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