On Adam Lanza, Mental Illness, and My Son

On Adam Lanza, Mental Illness, and My Son

We have a myth in our society that explains tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, and it goes something like this: When something bad happens, it's because hidden in our society are evil monsters, who prey upon the innocent, and that there's nothing we can do to stop these people but to arm ourselves with guns or prayer and hope they don't come for someone we love.

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Image: © Wang Yiou/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com

We're told to be sad, but to not be angry about things like gun control laws or the lacks in our mental health care system.

Now it's come out that the shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was reported by his brother to have suffered from a "personality disorder". It sounds benign. It is not. Personality Disorder is a diagnosis that includes all sorts of terrible psychiatric disorders, all of which include extreme behaviors. Cluster A Personality Disorders include paranoid and schizophrenic disorders. This psychiatrically ill man took guns that were legally owned by his mother, killed her, then went on a shooting rampage at the elementary school where, reports say, he attended as a child and his mother once worked as an aide.

Right now there's a lot of discussion on gun control. If I hear "guns don't kill people, people kill people" one more time, or a misquote of the second amendment, I'll scream. If Adam Lanza had gone into that school with something other than guns, if he'd gone in with a knife or a club or his fists, the death toll would have been less... even zero. I've heard over and over, if someone else had a gun, they could have taken Adam Lanza out before he killed anyone. It didn't work for his mother.

It seems that this has become a common theme: Take them out before they do any damage. Why are so few people talking about the real issue: that this young man was known to have a disorder that had potential for harm or self harm? Was there any treatment, any options that may have averted this tragedy? Other than simply shooting the mentally ill?

We live in a society where treatment of the dangerously mentally ill includes a 2PC (involuntary admission) which can last up to 48 hours, usually some sort or tranquilizer, then release with new or additional medication... medication which often takes 3 weeks to level off in the system, or to ascertain whether it will work at all on that particular patient.

And yes, I understand it's costly to keep mental patients in the hospital for longer periods of time, and yes, I understand that some people feel that this impinges on the rights of the patient, but compared to the cost of innocent lives and the rights of those who died and their families, that cost is worth every cent of insurance and tax money, and every court case that comes before a judge.

We are a society who has criminalized a certain class of neurobiological disorders. We would never criminalize cancer, or arthritis, or even Alzheimer's. Mental patients are being jailed instead of treated. Or their being let out in society, to be homeless, or to live with their mothers, rather than being placed in structured, therapeutic environments.


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