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For 20 years I represented people charged with every crime conceivable, from petty theft to murder. I visited jails and prisons in TN, AZ, OK, CA, etc.  You will not be surprised to know that after the "mainstreaming" efforts that closed mental health facilities decades ago, the primary "treatment" facility for chronically mentally ill adults is jail.

But this diary is not about me (though I may write about my experiences later). It is about the cry or scream for help from a mother who lives, in fear, with a mentally ill child. She says: "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."

As she says, it is easy to rage for gun control. But in a nation with over 100 million firearms and the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, 88%, even if we stopped all new production of firearms, they would still be readily available for criminals and people bent upon violence.

I found this "Anarchist Soccer Mom's" essay to be disturbing and true. Guns are the easy target for our rage. But a more effective response to the tragedy in Newtown must address the inadequate, almost nonexistent support system for treating mental illness in this country.

Thinking the unthinkable

Caveat: I do not wish to imply in any way that mental illness leads to violence. Quite the opposite. We need to ensure that illnesses of the mind and emotion are not stigmatized, feared or misunderstood.  We must be compassionate and understanding, and hope to prevent new tragedies.

Originally posted to Joe Hills Ghost on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:13 AM PST.

Also republished by Mental Health Awareness.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (20+ / 0-)

    Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." The Preacher and the Slave, by Joe Hill, 1911

    by Joe Hills Ghost on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:13:54 AM PST

  •  Republished to Mental Health Awareness (12+ / 0-)

    I read this earlier. Having a son with Bipolar Disorder, I totally understand this mother. My story was not nearly as bad, but similar. My niece, Autism Spectrum w/ Bipolar Disorder fits this description much more. We need more help than we get.

    "Mitt Romney looks like the CEO who fires you, then goes to the Country Club and laughs about it with his friends." ~ Thomas Roberts MSNBC

    by second gen on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:28:53 AM PST

    •  And I wish we would all help (9+ / 0-)

      Our response to this health crisis has been to stick mentally ill people into jails where they are hidden, mistreated, undiagnosed and forgotten. Or to leave families like yours and Anarchist Soccer mom's alone to deal with the problems without support or intervention.

      My heart goes out to you and to the other families (including my own) that are suffering and that need help so desperately. I pray that this latest tragedy will awaken people to the abysmal lack of services and support.

      Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." The Preacher and the Slave, by Joe Hill, 1911

      by Joe Hills Ghost on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:38:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I live in a small community, so behaviors might (9+ / 0-)

    be more generally noticed than in a larger area.

    A young man that I adored killed himself a couple of years ago. He had both health and mental illness issues. AND serious family issues (his mom had had drug issues, off and on, for a long time). Had I had a bigger house, that kid would have come and lived with me.

    I used to take him with me on rescue dog runs, and out to dinner and occasionally to church if he wanted to go (then out to lunch with my mom) etc..

    He died from a drug overdose. Whether this was intentional or not, I do not know. I do know that I was extremely shook up when it happened and think of him often.

    The little girl next door also died from self-inflicted drug overdose. She was 19, I think. Lack of guidance, dad gone all the time working. Mom into drugs. A bright girl, fiercely independent but lost. I also spent a lot of time with her and took her to school a lot to make sure she got there.

    Both deaths were sorrowful in this little town. Looking back, I realize I had zero effects in their lives, in the end. I should have done more, but not being their parent, I don't really know WHAT I should have done. So sometimes I blame myself a bit, then other times I don't. I really don't know what a non-parent SHOULD do in these cases except be open to them and talk to them and not judge them.

    It wasn't enough.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:40:42 AM PST

    •  Thank you (7+ / 0-)

      What you did was wonderful. You couldn't save them or heal their illnesses. But you gave them the great gifts of love and compassion, gifts they may not have received anywhere else. Please don't think of that as failure-recognize it as a true blessing.

      Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." The Preacher and the Slave, by Joe Hill, 1911

      by Joe Hills Ghost on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 09:49:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  After reading your comments on other diaries, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, chimene, Joe Hills Ghost

      I suspected you had more real life experience with troubled kids & families than most people.

      I read the soccer mom article linked in this diary & it was almost word for word my experiences with our son. We are still finding hidden knives from 15 years ago when he was high school age & at his worst.

      He & we were fortunate that he could behave safely living with his grand parents & his sister was spared more abuse at his hands as she stayed home with us & blossomed.

      He has outgrown a lot of his paranoia & is doing better than we ever could have expected - it is a miracle we marvel at every day. His father matured extra slowly too, that seems to have been a factor. Our relationship with our son is still strained at times, but a 1000 times better than when he left our house.

      Everything about trying to get services & help written in that soccer mom's article is true. I learned to think of prison as 'environmental management' for people who couldn't control their own behavior in a less restrictive environment. There are kids who need to be in locked juvenile facilities & it is almost impossible to get past the 'do-gooders' who think all children are born perfect & should be allowed to express anything they want on whomever they want.

      A homicidal or suicidal 10 year old is a living tragedy & the last thing a caring parent needs is ignorant judgments from people who can go home to sanity any time they want to.

      I learned to tell other parents to keep a tape recorder going when talking to or arguing with their problem child to provide proof when needed. I still have my tapes.

      Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

      by CA wildwoman on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 03:16:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can't imagine your trials (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CA wildwoman

        I worked in mental health before law school, and the experience served me better than I would have suspected when I became a defense lawyer. Especially when I specialized in death penalty defense. But I had a loving family and sweet daughter (despite divorces, illnesses and other chaos that seems to follow d.p. defenders).

        I cannot imagine the level of stress you had to endure, made all the more excruciating by the conflict of loving your son while fearing him and his illness. I believe you must have been brave, loving and tolerant while feeling frustrated, guilty and angry. I am so, so glad that your son has matured and become healthier. Perhaps you could write a diary about your experiences and share your wisdom, to help me and others understand?

        Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." The Preacher and the Slave, by Joe Hill, 1911

        by Joe Hills Ghost on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 01:45:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  We simply do not have a national discussion (5+ / 0-)

    about mental illness following these tragedies carried out by mentally troubled people.

    Every other detail of the shooter is debated ad nauseum, the bullets used, the weapon of choice, whether they were white or male but the mental condition--that transcends race or socioeconomic background--and the treatment used or not used, escapes discussion.

    I frankly don't know how you discuss it rationally and fairly. I am inundated every day with the pro-gun arguments and can recite them in my sleep.

    But how do we discuss and solve this real problem?

    The choice of our lifetime: Mitt Romney, It Takes A Pillage or President Barack Obama, Forward Together.

    by FiredUpInCA on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 10:08:08 AM PST

    •  I wish I knew... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cany, FiredUpInCA, annecros, ladybug53

      Frankly, I'm a little angry at the anti-gun hysteria that's taken over progressive commentary. Not because it's untrue or not needed, but because it is ineffectual. As I said, there are over 100 million guns in this country. They are available and all the gun control in the world will not cure it (unless we immediately seize every single firearm).

      The jails are full of mentally ill people who need treatment, not detention. Millions of families are alone and trying valiantly to care for their mentally ill members.  The mentally ill are denied insurance or treatment or effective care. A tiny, tiny percentage are dangerous.

      Simple answers like banning high-capacity magazines are barely even band aids. Let's do something effective for the roots and causes of these tragedies. And let's do it with love and sympathy and empathy. We need a complete, wholistic dialogue, not just a drum-beating, fractional response.

      Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." The Preacher and the Slave, by Joe Hill, 1911

      by Joe Hills Ghost on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 10:22:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ironically (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annecros, Joe Hills Ghost
        Let's do something effective for the roots and causes of these tragedies. And let's do it with love and sympathy and empathy. We need a complete, wholistic dialogue, not just a drum-beating, fractional response.
        We're looking for a magic bullet to solve this. And declaring yet another war on a problem won't fix it either. This is a complex problem that won't be solved by simply passing gun legislation and calling troubled people evil.

        The choice of our lifetime: Mitt Romney, It Takes A Pillage or President Barack Obama, Forward Together.

        by FiredUpInCA on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 10:34:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Agreed. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FiredUpInCA, ladybug53

          We also risk polarizing the debate and the issues. I can see the fanatics on the right screeching "they're coming to take away my guns and bullets!" and the far left hollering "Let's seize all the guns and bullets!" (I know--this is an extreme example, but...)

          We need to draw people together, not drive them apart. Everyone was shocked by Newtown, everyone could personalize the tragedy. And mental illness and social isolation cross all party lines.  If we could get people to examine all the issues, to come together to reasonably investigate and debate the causes of these episodes, maybe we could effect policies, strategies, that actually work.

          Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." The Preacher and the Slave, by Joe Hill, 1911

          by Joe Hills Ghost on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 11:01:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  the third rail (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joe Hills Ghost

    sadly, you've planted yourself square across the third rail (or at least "the rail if ignore"). This diary won't be rec'd up and get much discussion or airplay. The reasons are simple:

    • you're not one of the chosen favorites
    • you dare to do something other than purely rant about how terrible guns are
    • far too reasonable a tone. Your belief regarding the root-cause is all too apparent ("wrong" priority) . It's better to evoke images of a blood-flecked monitor as you spew vitriol at anyone who thinks differently about this insane stream of mass-murders
    • nowhere near enough self-aggrandizement in this diary. Try introducing the diary with your academic qualifications and job-title
    • definitely too short - needs to be padded with images and anecdotes

    The rec-diaries - some are quite good and readable and make good points, but many of the favorites take an admonishing, browbeating tone rant-ish tone, and the diarist behaves like a raging schoolmaster of Dickensian slant. I believe it's also good to add a Parthian (it's a real word) shot commanding that readers take action according to your plan. It's also good to add a graphic showing just how progressive a progressive you think you are. Add a cool slogan and sig-line too - that seems to be prevalent among the anointed.

    I once recommended that one of the anointed write a diary under an unknown pseudonym so he could see what I was talking about (but he'd have nothing to do with it - preferred to debate about how it was "all about the content and writing style") - and he remained unwilling to write under the name of an unknown to put money where mouth was.

    •  Thank you! (0+ / 0-)

      Your thoughtful comments actually made me laugh and I needed that--a couple of hours after writing this my wife's father died suddenly, unexpectedly. We've been dealing with a lot in the last 12 hours so I didn't see your comment until now. Your points are well taken and appreciated.

      I thought about sensationalizing this diary but that would be buying into the very kind of thing I find objectionable about the tragedy at Newtown. I also wanted to write a longer piece but thought it better to let the person with the experience, the Anarchist Soccer Mom, do the talking.

      I knew that the diary wouldn't attract much attention, but somehow you and the other commenters found it and added great content, which made it all the more meaningful. And for that, you have my sincere thanks.

      Work and pray, live on hay, You'll get pie in the sky when you die." The Preacher and the Slave, by Joe Hill, 1911

      by Joe Hills Ghost on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 02:02:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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