In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, most of us are experiencing a range of emotions: fear, anger, helplessness. But for most of us, that fear doesn’t include the terror that someday, your child might perpetrate a crime like this.
One incredibly brave mother wrote a blog post on Friday, entitled Thinking the Unthinkable. The post, which has since begun to go viral, describes in poignant detail her 13-year-old son Michael, a smart boy who loves Harry Potter and Greek mythology. Michael also suffers from profound mental illness. He has threatened himself and his family with knives, been on a “a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.”
“I live with a son who is mentally ill,” writes the blogger behind Anarchist Soccer Mom. “I love my son. But he terrifies me.”
Her younger children, aged 7 and 9, live with a “safety plan,” and know to run to the car and lock the doors if Michael is out of control.
Despite a host of psychiatrists, school administrators, social workers, hospital admissions, and police encounters, Michael doesn’t even have a diagnosis yet. And our society, despite massive advances in health care, offers no real solutions for Michael’s family in terms of mental health care.
“When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime,” Michael’s mother writes.
“No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, ‘Something must be done.’
“I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.”
“God help me. God help Michael. God help us all,” pleads this mother, begging for a meaningful, national conversation about mental health.
I can’t agree more. Yes, we need to discuss what qualifies someone to legally own a gun in this country. But discussing how our society addresses mental illness is more pressing. My family tree, including my own children, includes a lot of mental illness. I have never felt so blessed that my children “only” contend with autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, and anxiety.
I have dealt with anxiety, depression, and ADHD most of my life–disorders that are far easier to diagnose and treat than what this mom is talking about. Ubiquitous advertisements and articles about meds like Prozac and Ritalin have removed a huge amount of the stigma of treating these disorders.
But we are lacking in a very painful and real way the same discussion about more complicated, more difficult-to-treat disorders that manifest in violence. It’s one thing for me to discuss my daughter’s ADHD. It’s quite another for a mother to reveal that she has had to wrestle away a knife from her son.
Thank you to this mom for putting this out there, for starting the discussion.
Read the full post at The Anarchist Soccer Mom.
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
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