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“I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” Sparks Blogger Debate About Mental Health

We need new ideas. What are yours?

In the wake of the tragedy that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a blogger from across the country was arguably the first to break through the noise and galvanize a debate around mental health.

Liza Long’s blog post about raising a mentally ill child, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” talks about her experiences raising her 13-year-old son, whom she describes as a gifted but unpredictable child who has threatened to kill her and himself.

As she put it, “I love my son. But he terrifies me." 

Her blog post quickly went viral, got picked up by the The Huffington Post and others, earned a million likes on Facebook, and led to Long's appearance on CNN to talk about the way mental illness is stigmatized in America.

“I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother,” Long wrote. “I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help.”

The Facts About Mental Health
The issue is enormous: An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from mental disorders in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

That’s one in four people in the country, or about 57.7 million people. And more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder.

But many of us don’t know how to talk about these figures, or where to find the solution. The Newtown tragedy sparked a national conversation about gun control and legislative action--President Obama is already pushing for new laws to prevent gun violence. But Americans are just beginning their conversations with one another about mental health.

What do you think we should do? We know many of our young people are angry, depressed, anxious. Can we help each other as parents, teachers, neighbors?

We need new ideas. What are yours? 

Tell us in the comments.

John Kimbrough December 26, 2012 at 12:19 PM
There is most likely a difference between someone having a chronic mental disorder and someone who has issues and problems in their life which frustrate, disappoint and anger them....We are all imperfect, we are all ignorant and we all suffer to various degrees......Life is not easy for anyone...I was sexually molested at the age of 13 by a minister at my local church. He was ordained. He was educated. He had a good job. He had a privilaged lifestyle....Are those who are diagnosed with a mental illness any less dangerous then someone who has done everything right in their life but still lashes out in frustration and anger at others every night or for one terrible moment in their life?.....Lets get the guns off the street and out of the hands of the American public because they are the weapon of choice for mentally disturbed people and frustrated people who think of themselves as being normal and righteous.....Lets us also have less violent movies and video games and television programs produced and made available to the American public so that we are better able to look at and relate to other people in and with a spirit of understanding, compassion and love......
John Kimbrough December 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM
It seems to me that Nancy Lanza had a lot of good things in her life to be both appreciative of and build on. I do not see why she wished to own a gun or more then one gun. It also seems to me that she should have been aware of the potential for trouble if her son was a somewhat confused, troubled or dysfunctional human being, man and young adult.....Too many times people go to a gun to vent their anger, frustration, unhappiness and lack of direction and purpose in their lives.....Regarding the gun laws of Conneticut, is it illegal to buy an assualt weapon there? If so, how did she get one and was it illegal for her to own one since it was illegal for them to be sold in Connecticut???????
John Kimbrough December 26, 2012 at 12:27 PM
There may be a reasonable argument to be made by some for the ownership of a handgun but not for the ownership of an assualt rifle. All guns all capable of killing another human being and it seems that all human beings have moral, ethical, mental and emotional flaws that might lead them to use guns if they are so easily available............When I was 13 years old my mother was involved with a man who brought a handgun into the house.....I did not understand the significance of this until later in my life (and my mother's decision/impulse to get involved with him), but she asked me while I was still young to take the gun that he left behind after he was gone and throw it into the river......At the time he was 25 years old and somewhat confused and troubled. He got drunk, was emotional, etc......I feel comfortable and safe knowing that the police have guns and that they are trained and wise regarding how to use them.....I also would feel more comfortable and safe knowing that there were gun laws in place and an enforcement of those gun laws in place nationwide as they are here in New York City. I applaud Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his stance and effort over the years regarding stringent gun control laws and his willingness and ability to speak out on the issue......
Frances Mayer December 26, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Judges hold bar/restaurant owners to answer criminally if a drunken patron has continued to be served alcoholic drinks and then goes out to drive drunk and injure, kill or maim someone. Why not have stiff criminal liability for guns for an owner who fails to secure them properly and that failure permits his guns to be used to cause injury and death? Why not propose a gun control law requiring owners to carry insurance the same as we do with automobiles?
John Kimbrough December 26, 2012 at 04:12 PM
This seems like a reasonable and wise idea Frances.............
Karen Bertram December 26, 2012 at 04:35 PM
John, thank you for your balanced response to Ms. Long’s blog. Elsewhere I read comments lambasting her as an opportunistic grandstander simply seeking attention for herself. Like you, however, I understood her to simply be saying that no matter how many resources and caring people are put towards helping the mentally ill, sometimes it is simply not enough and things go wrong. The question in general is what to do better, and what can be done about people like Adam Lanza or the seemingly upstanding pillar of your community -- the man who molested you—who could have gotten the help he needed? In a recent letter to the public, Michael Moore suggests that more and better gun control along with improved access to health/mental care is not the complete answer. Rather, he suggests, Americans who are by nature quite violent could examine their collective attitudes towards others. We have a winner take all mentality coupled with the belief that we are entitled to that which we covet. He offers several historical examples including our current use of drones in a few places around the world, which have killed people we “suspect” might be planning to harm us. In closing, thank you too for sharing your personal experiences. It seems despite hard times you have managed to become a compassionate, thoughtful and introspective person. And that’s pretty terrific!
John Kimbrough December 26, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Hello Karen.....Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments...I am also thankful that you and others in this world think and speak in a wise and calm manner.....I am sure that someone like yourself, even if you can not make needed changes for the good of all on a national or state level, can still work for positive changes and good will within your own neighborhood, circle of friends and family..........May God and The Buddha bless you in all things today and everyday.................and by the way, please have a happy holiday.........
Deborah Jones-Brown December 26, 2012 at 07:27 PM
The issue can also extend the to psyche of Americans. History is definitely ignored. The cognitive denial of this kind of history bleeds into our neighborhoods, rich and poor. However this idea of PRIVILEGED makes people think they are different from those less PRIVILEGED. Therefore, one's crimes are is seen as a social issue - and that same 'social issue' elsewhere is crime done by monsters. I will mention here The Central Park Five and their efforts for Justice. However, America do not think that Black Men are valuable, therefore, you may not make the connection! & That is the problem America! Your children are showing you what the adults are training them to do as they continue to clean out the gun rakes of Assault Rifles! You had a very bright young man, who lived out the atmosphere of violence hidden behind lawns and the idea that there is somewhere in America where violence do not live! Until Americans address their violent pass to progress & their violent present for progress, no matter how well-to-do its violence will not escape you. Consequently, the mental illness suffered by Adam Lanza was exacerbated by the sick psyche of America straight up. The PAIN of VIOLENCE continues to spread & Mothers and Fathers, Family, Friends suffer a profound loss! Learn your history & work to not repeat its VIOLENCE. A People's History of the United States http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html
Karen Bertram December 27, 2012 at 12:36 PM
John, thank you for your newest comments and happy holidays and especially happy new year to you too. As for being a catalyst for change, luckily I grew up with people who were political and community spirited, which means that early on I learned that reaching out and helping is a great way to be connected to people and to one’s community. However, not everyone I meet is like minded I’m sorry to say. So I do point out, gently, that it is not always necessary to donate money. That in fact, a donation of time can sometimes be even more important than money. Anyway … thanks again for sharing.
John Kimbrough December 27, 2012 at 05:37 PM
I think we live in a world with hope and trust because of people like you Karen…..
John Kimbrough December 27, 2012 at 05:39 PM
There are some good points made in your post Deborah......We may be lost and confused as a society, culture, country and people......If the only criteria that we have to live by is our own thoughts and feelings, we may always be moving forward into darkness, not light......
John Kimbrough December 27, 2012 at 05:57 PM
It seems to me that the mental health of people is or has been a factor in determining how they are going on with their life and whether they make use of a weapon in the killing of one or more other people.......At the same time many people who do kill one or more other people are sometimes characterized as being normal people who had issues and problems in their life that they could not manage well. Where is the line drawn between what is a chronic mental health issue or problem and a life management issue that someone is unable to deal with, see their way through or overcome? A person can be mentally disturbed or have a mental disorder and kill.........A person can get angry and kill.........It seems unreasonable for us as American citizens to think that others make sacrifices or put in extra money, time and energy and effort to deal with a problem such as gun use and misuse through greater mental health care, and that we are not able to make some kind of effort or sacrifice either such as giving up guns or allowing them to be more tightly controlled and regulated......
John Kimbrough December 27, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I am 62 years old and have lived in four places in my life those being Brooklyn, New York (19 years), Austin, Texas (16 years), Bangkok, Thailand (13 years), and Sereisophon, Cambodia (8 years)….I also lived for short periods of time in Seoul, South Korea, Edinburgh, Scotland, and in Victoria and Huntsville, Texas in addition to travelling in Asia for 3 years+. In each place there were guns and violence…In each place there were potential threats to my being……In each place there were people who were confused, lost and unhappy…..I have never seen any kind of need for a gun. I have seen the need to gain knowledge and rejoice in fellowship with my fellow man. Maybe that is something that we could all benefit from seeking out in life…….but what is best or good for me may not be best for others…..Still we can all have lovely lives without guns and there must be better things for fathers and sons to do then go hunting together…..Why is so much of life based on or built around something that makes us think of ourselves as being “men” instead of loving and wise human being?????
Mark Kovach January 01, 2013 at 12:00 PM
People who advocate for tighter gun control laws in this country are generally not in possession of all the facts regarding the issue. For instance, having worked for a major sporting goods distributor from 1976 to 1978 I learned that a large percentage of hand guns and rifles, including assault rifles, aren't made in this country. Many are produced in South America where it is fairly easy for anyone with money to buy arms in bulk. Ban the sale of any type of weapon in this country and all you will do is create another black market for another product. The proliferation of gangs in this country is frightening. If you live in a major city there are gang related activities in your area. These are the customers for illegal weapons and when we ban guns they are the ONLY ones, besides the police, who will have them. BETTER we discuss, and solve, the issue of mental health in this land. Here is a starting suggestion. Every school in this country has "counselors" for the students. They are, generally, not trained professionals in that field. If they were replaced with people trained to be social workers perhaps those who are troubled enough to cause violence in our schools could be identified before it starts instead of us monday morning quarterbacking it afterwards.
John Kimbrough January 01, 2013 at 01:17 PM
I think that you make some fair and reasonable points Mark and more importantly, you articulate them in a polite, calm and focused manner.....I think that we all, to a certain extent, have issues and problems in our lives, and we all, to a certain extent, have emotions and feelings that at times can get out of hand and harm both ourselves and others.....I think the responsibility for making this country safer from confused, unhappy, lost and evil people is on all of us. That means, in my opinion, less guns, better mental health services, more understanding, love and compassionate thoughts, words and actions to our fellow man, looking more closely at what we put into our minds and being each day as far as media, books, video games and movies, etc. and just an overall less selfsih and fearful attitude to life, living and our fellow man here in The US. I think that gun control is needed. I trust the government and I trust the police. It seems that most of the people who do these mass murders are not criminals but disturbed people with medical issues and problems......How did they get these guns? Who sold these guns to them? The seller has greed for money and profit. The buyer has greed for what? Freedom from fear or a desire for power and revenge? Let us work together and put forth a greater effort to do the right thing, which in my opinion is to make the country a safer place for ourselves, our children and our future.......
John Kimbrough January 01, 2013 at 02:31 PM
In the United States we find a developed country that is beset by a number of problems that seem to be caused by confused, lost and angry people. We may not be a people that are carrying guns with us everywhere that we go, though it seems that quite a few people do such a thing, but the gun that many of us are using is not a weapon made of steel. For many of us instead, the gun is our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Too many times, we habitually engage in these various manifestations of ill – will to others and many times the step and line between thoughts, words and actions and the actually use of a weapon to kill others is a very easy and thin one to cross. Certainly, the easy availability of guns in the United States allows people to cross that line at their convenience and without a second thought or allowing themselves an opportunity to cool down and look at things more clearly and calmly. If we can all see our tendencies to ill – will, aversion, anger and violence and how they manifest in various thoughts, words and actions, we will be less likely to pick up a gun and use it, while at the same time weakening those tendencies of mind. The people of the United States with their freedoms, opportunities and material wealth should be able to put forth such an effort.

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