Morning Coffee-12/17/12

Mirror, Mirror

Foam on a cappucino.

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 After Ronald Reagan rescinded (August 31, 1981) the landmark Mental Health Systems Act signed into law in 1980 by Jimmy Carter, the number of homeless increased dramatically.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.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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10 thoughts on “Morning Coffee-12/17/12

  1. Read the same article – very good. While I don’t have my own children, I had a stepchild in a previous relationship and learned how challenging the situation was from the inside – for so very many different reasons, for the child, the parents, and all others involved in their lives, which can get very very complicated. Sadly, in milder cases, symptoms can go unrecognized, until they burgeon into something that cannot be ignored. This isn’t “just another childhood phase” … yet who would want to see this in their child? Those who are willing to love and help and take the time to do what it takes – TRUE LOVE – to give the child what s/he needs, whatever that may be. May we all learn more about this, and do what we can, wherever we are, to support and hold those who deal with it daily, and to help give them the support and courage they need to see what needs to be seen and do what needs to be done.

    • The challenge is when you can sense something is ‘off’ but you have no answer for what it is. That is why it is so important to never quit trying, and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. It is a difficult road to travel, but there is great potential for all of us to grow in compassion and caring both for the child in that situation and for the parents and – as you pointed out – all the others involved in their lives.

  2. It feels good to read an article that doesn’t condemn and vilify Adam Lanza. It doesn’t lessen my grief for all the parents and the community as a whole and my heart goes out to all of them. It just seems to me that people have been so focused on the gun, they have neglected to see the man holding it and what might have driven him to commit such an act. My belief system allows that there are no victims here. There is a greater lesson here and it isn’t just about gun control. I hope we all learn it. Thank you, Julie.

    • It is my sincerest prayer that we do. I have the strong sense that it does not bode well for us if we choose not to. Thank you for letting me know I’m not out here all by myself. It just is not a bandwagon I could jump on.

  3. You’re right. And also, the states don’t want to pay for mental health care. My son’s mother in law was killed by her son a couple years ago after being repeatedly released from a facility. Florida releases people all the time, people who are known to be violent towards themselves and/or others.

    • It is broken, this “system”. I don’t know that blanket legislation of any sort will “fix” what is wrong. At least, for the first time in almost 50 years, we are beginning to have an open dialogue about the complex situation that is the mental “health” system.

  4. When I first read about this in our newspapers in the UK my first thought was “why”…..this must be a very disturbed young man and what would cause him to do such a thing…..I know that it is a dreadful thing to happen with those young lives lost, but I have to say that I sent my healing thoughts to that young man…..he was a loner, and to feel alone is a sad way to be.
    Enjoy you retreat Julie Marie.

    • If indeed he was on the autism spectrum, and at the milder end, then it’s likely he was intelligent and acutely aware that he was different. For an adolescent that is extremely painful, and it’s not likely he had adequate coping skills to handle the pain. He was a human being, struggling like the rest of us, but with demons we can never know or understand. May he, too, someday find peace. We are not to sit in judgment. That is not ours to do. I feel mostly just great sadness at the whole situation. It was senseless. It is a tragedy.

  5. I want to mention there’s many levels of healing needed, not just mental/medical layer.

    Aside from praying, what can I do? I wish I knew. As we know, there’s free will. Unless the person is open to help, we can’t do healing work. But how do they know what’s going on with them? So for now, I’m asking angels to guide these people to appropriate help. Thank you for the opportunity to express my perspective. This has been a concern.

    • I agree with everything you said Shizuko. I have the sense that this is going to intensify some more before it shifts. We can focus on sending the energy of Love and Grace into the hearts and minds of all who are in such distress, no matter where they may be found. And we can continue to pray for those who are left behind to grieve such incredible loss.

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