Monday, December 17, 2012

Article on Mental Illness

"I am Adam Lanza's mother."

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district's most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can't function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30 to 1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, "Look, Mom, I'm really sorry. Can I have video games back today?"

"No way," I told him. "You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly."

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. "Then I'm going to kill myself," he said. "I'm going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself." That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.
[More after the jump...]

"Where are you taking me?" he said, suddenly worried. "Where are we going?" "You know where we are going," I replied. "No! You can't do that to me! You're sending me to hell! You're sending me straight to hell!"

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. "Call the police," I said. "Hurry."

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn't escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I'm still stronger than he is, but I won't be for much longer. The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—"Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child have…"

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You'll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing. For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, "I hate you. And I'm going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here."

By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I've heard those promises for years. I don't believe them anymore. On the intake form, under the question, "What are your expectations for treatment?" I wrote, "I need help."


Joel said...

what she writes about using our jails and prisons as a mental health system is all to true and tragic. Something I work on..............with very limited success.

very sad

Dirty Davey said...

One can only hope she's smart enough not to keep a home armory and teach the kid how to use it.

Dave said...

I agree with her that there's probably a bigger role for government to play with addressing mental health issues.

HOWEVER...she is not "Adam Lanza's mother" at least from what has been reported. Her son, Michael, seems full on psychotic. Adam, on the other hand, had Aperger's. The author of this piece had to hide sharp objects from Michael to keep her family safe. Meanwhile, Ms. Lanza took Adam to the shooting range regularly. In hindsight, it's easy to say that that was a bad idea, but it should at least indicate that she didn't think that her son was a potential mass murder, as this author seems to think of her son.

So, yes, let's talk about mental health issues, but let's also realize that Adam Lanza is not the poster child for why society should have better mental health resources (plus, don't forget that the Lanza's appear to have been quite wealthy, so access to mental health resources probably wasn't an issue either).

Pelsmin said...

I'm amazed, but not surprised, to see the conversation focused almost entirely on guns and not on deinstitutionalization. You see the stats and they point away from gun control. Number of Americans who have access to guns in their own home in any given year, >100 million. Number of Americans who commit such mass murders with those guns: <3 (on average) in any given year. And in recent years, at least, nearly all of the perpetrators were recognized before the attacks as having sociopathic tendencies. Short of the complete confiscation of all firearms in the country (not conceivable in any scenario) you can't eliminate the weapon. So you need to manage the .00003% of Americans with access to guns in the house who would use them in this way. And remember that some of the worst school attacks in history were not committed with firearms, including Bath, MI, where 44 were killed with homemade bombs. China has seen over 100 students killed or injured in knife attacks in the past couple years -- also by people with known anti-social, violent tendencies.
We've got to protect our children, and owe them more than knee-jerk feel-good actions.

Jim Oliver said...

I have had 2 people very close to with pretty bad mental illness and I think the increase mass shootings are in part from smaller families and mainstreaming of the mentally ill but despite that, I am still for the mainstreaming of the mentally ill.

At one time a child like the one in the article would be put in an institution or the family members would watch him closely (our families are too small for that now. I do not see how a divorced woman can handle a boy like that. A few brothers would help).

60 years ago if that boy went to school he would be severely punished and end up in an institution. To return to that seems not a worth while solution.

I do not know an answer but I think that we need to think creatively. IMHO you cannot ever (in the USA) make the shotgun illegal and so there is no use in banning anything safer than a shotgun.

My crazy, wild guess idea is that we have a mandatory 1 year of military training for all American males and we teach all those males and shame them into running toward gun fire ready to sacrifice themselves as needed like in war to get the shooter.

Sure it is a lame idea but it is all that I can come up with right now, have you git better?

Of course we can hope for better meds. Maybe some that the mentally ill will like to take.

Tom said...

She tells us that she loves her son, but she is not even on his side. Here's how I know...

Kid insists "I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!"

Mom responds "You can't wear whatever pants you want to..."

If it were MY kid, he wouldn't be send to such an arbitrary, authoritarian institution in the first place, but let's say that somehow I had to. My response would be to TAKE THE KID'S SIDE: "You're right and you know I will support you. This IS America and you certainly should wear any pants you want. But you know what those a--holes are going to do when you show up in blue. Do you have a plan? Did you figure on my support? What do you want me to do?"

That's not the end, of course, and the kid may not make it to school that day. I'll phone him in sick (again?). But the important thing here is that your family is not your enemy; the enemy is (might be) someone else. (even so, we should try to understand them, the better to work out a strategy). If he knows -- really KNOWS -- that his family has his back, that he can count on them, then maybe there won't be such a problem with sharp objects.

...and then she called the cops on him. NEVER call the cops on family. If you call the cops, that's the end of the family.

Yeah, and "what they said" above, as well. Just Damn.

CalRob said...

Where's the father? Guess we don't need those; they're optional. Surely the consequences of optional fatherhood can't be that bad. We'll just stick the bill to the rest of society, and I implicitly trust governments to Do The Right Thing for some of society's weakest and most vulnerable.