I have a reflective cup of coffee for you today. The post-tragedy pattern is following the predictable trajectory: “We must assure that this never happens again…” A story written by the mother of a troubled child tells the chilling truth about what we are dealing with here. She could have been, she is, Adam Lanza’s mother.
No, not his actual mother, but this woman’s experience is hauntingly similar. Yes, we mourn the loss in Newton. Yes, we will be there in spirit to provide support and comfort. But what about the elephant in the room that no one (except those who have a personal connection to the issue) seems to be talking about? No, not gun control. The elephant I’m talking about is mental illness and the lack of resources available to those with troubled mental states, or help for the people who love and care for them.
What we are facing today is traced back to changes in mental health policy that began in the 1960s. It is a complex issue and beyond the scope of this article, but I mention this here because we are our brother’s keeper. We are responsible for the well-being of our neighbors. If Adam had been in in-patient treatment, he would not have had the opportunity to commit the act in the first place.
We are asked to look in the mirror. After Ronald Reagan rescinded (August 31, 1981) the landmark Mental Health Systems Act signed into law in 1980 by Jimmy Carter, the number of homeless increased dramatically. It is estimated that 1/3 of the homeless population is mentally ill. It appears that there is a higher proportion of mentally ill in the prison population as well.
Are we addressing this challenge in a considered, compassionate way? We are still warehousing our mentally ill, only now they are caged in prisons if they are not on the street. Or, in the case of many young (mostly) males, their mothers are left to search for help when almost none is available. But we love our children, so we continue to try despite the sometimes terrible results. Adam Lanza needed help. Adam Lanza’s mother needed help. Where were we?
We cannot continue to ignore this problem. The issue is screaming for attention, and every time the focus is on the guns and not the person wielding the weapon, we are not doing much to prevent other, similar tragedies from happening.
To the mothers of all the Adam Lanzas out there, my heart goes out to you. Continue to be a champion for your charges, but do not sacrifice the well-being of your family or your health.
I pray that somehow, some day, some way, we face the image that is looking back at us from the mirror: pay attention, please. We need help. Help us.
(NOTE: I am not advocating more top-down system-wide sweeping changes. That obviously hasn’t worked. Will post more in the next article.)
All original material posted here is (c) 2012, Julie Marie. All rights reserved.
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