Mother of child w/ psychiatric disorder proves true cause of CT shooting is mental health, not guns

“Thinking the Unthinkable” by The Anarchist Soccer Mom

In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”
“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”
“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.
We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.
At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.
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 7:30-1:50 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.
“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 waiving 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.”
And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.
I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. 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. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. ( Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.
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. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”
I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population. (
With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail, and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011 (
 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.

This story was first published online by the Blue Review. Read more on current events at

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10 comments to Mother of child w/ psychiatric disorder proves true cause of CT shooting is mental health, not guns

  • Joshua Stewart

    totally agree here is another Doctor who agrees its a great read..

  • Rainmaker

    Great Post Irv! Biggest problem I have with this Sandy Hook/Aurora issue is none of us know what really happened. How do we have an honest discussion about any of the issues when the information is all directed?

    As far as the article is concerned, the mother is putting herself and two other children at risk (and to a certain extent, anyone else within proximity). There is no correct answer. But there are several wrong answers and several worse answers. Should we all wait until that “genius child” hurts others?

  • JB

    Seriously, how can anyone not know the reasons for your child’s behavior? Its the
    antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals that he’s on. Have you looked at the SIDE EFFECTS of these medications? Can’t you see the child just wants some freedom? What is soooo wrong with wearing BLUE pants instead of what the SCHOOL demands as a dress code? Can you not see that your child is wanting creativity in his life? Why don’t you try CURATIVE EURYTHMY? or Art classes? or dance, or soemthing he really wants to do, rather than eh, soccer? How come he’s calling you those names? Where did he learn them? TV? My advice to you is love your child and do STOP being afraid of him – maybe you ought to take some dog training classes, seriously. Use your commons sense and STOP BEING SO SOCCER MOMMISH – and is he in counseling? What are you feeding him?

  • JB

    . . . and yes, maybe part of the cure is getting away from the environment you have created for him. No person is mentally ill by themselves, there is a nexus and involves EVERYONE IN THE FAMILY AND THE ENVIRONMENT. I am sure you must have read about the case of the autistic child and his visit with the Reindeer people. Now, that phenomenon is worth understanding in my opinion.

    • Marvin Motsenbocker

      I dont agree. Family and surrounding etc can alleviate the symptoms of basic (genetic caused) mental illness but you have to realize that a severely broken brain (esp. pre frontal cortex) is everyone’s problem. it is not fair to utter “No person is mentally ill by themselves, there is a nexus and involves EVERYONE IN THE FAMILY” and expect a family or mother to correct, cure or manage such severe mental illness in a society where every individual is “free” to do anything, go anywhere, buy any gun etc. We, as a society must confront broken brains for what they are, malformed or broken entities that need to be repaired or accomodated somehow. If my legs are missing I need a wheel chair (and my government buildings accomodate them), and if my pre frontal cortex is missing some functions so that I am not sensitive to the needs of those around me, it needs to be fixed or tools used (drugs are used now by doctors, I have no view on that topic and dont want to argue for or against) to allevite as much as possible. A severely broken brain problem is not solved by the family holding hands and singing kumbaya. Reality exists, we need to understand the reality taught by this mother’s writing.

  • here is a kid who clearly controls his enviroment.I don’t even know where to begin if i had ever talked to my mother in that manner i would have picked myself up off the floor.take away your electronic privilges really.this kid knows that you are afraid of him and his siblings have a drill that they follow take this kid to the hospital and want the orderlies to disipline him and or give him drugs you try to hug him while he is throwing a fit and wonder when he is going to become stronger than you.i have news for ypou this kid has been stronger than you for a long time you better send him to jail so that maybe someone can teach him something that you should have taught him a long time are right about him and these other kids.this is what we are teaching our kids these days and we wonder what is wrong with is called weak parenting try taking him to church and teaching him some morality allthough it sounds kind of late for that so society will probably either house and support him or bury him one.this would be sad if he was the only one but this is a national tragedy

  • The mental health aspect of the problem should be addressed with dispatch. However, mental health issues are an institutional problem that will take years to study and develop meaningful solutions. In the short term, arming teachers and administrators is the answer. Armed and trained teachers would have been able to return fire rather than cower over their students and martyr themselves in the process.

    • Marvin Motsenbocker

      I dont agree that “mental health issues are an institutional problem that will take years to study and develop meaningful solutions.”

      this is a no-brainer (pun intended).
      We have spent billions of $ over the years studying this stuff and thousands of people have spent years of their lives achieving PhD degrees and masters degrees over intensive study of the problems and have answers. Further, genetic causes have been discovered. If we can put wheelchair ramps on buildings, handicap parking spaces in lots, blind person bumps on subway platforms and elevator surfaces etc. we have the will to accommodate broken or severely damaged brains for drivers licenses, credit card usage etc. I expect everyone to get offended by my suggestion that handicapped brains be treated differently because of the fear that politicians use such designation to control opposition. But reality exists and this is the reality. Get used to it. A public determination based on scientific consensus of what is a broken brain, followed by institutionalization or the use of tools to monitor the broken, random event generator brain etc. A severely broken brain does not have the right to drive a bus, buy guns, direct air traffic or teach children. It is not impossible to identify a broken brain and monitor 24 hours per day or else provide an alternative, sheltered life to such an unfortunate. We do this ALREADY for young children. This is not new and doesnt require “years to study and develop meaningful solutions.” I dont care if the broken brain can do calculus in his head, count the number of spilled pins on the floor with a glance, memorize the phone book or predict the day of the week 1000 years in advance. Not relevant.
      The “broken brain” is a reality that you cannot avoid and cannot “defend” yourself from with a high powered rifle aimed at that brain. Not in a school with other healthy brains nearby or directly behind. there is a better way and it exists now. you can put down that rifle

  • michael

    since the feminist movement young boys have been demonized. They have had to relinquish their dreams and hand them over to girls, and men handed it over to women. There are 10,000 laws that make it so, and women equal.They stand in line each morning at the nurses office to be drugged by a women, and pass a women on every corner in the school on their way to class that make sure they wont act like boys.All that’s left to them is video games, and a future job at noodles or menard’s after graduation from college because 80% of the lost jobs in the last 6 years have been male.We have lost our greatest asset, young males who have been sold out by feminists, who acted like a strung out junky looking for a fix a fix of whatever men have.Now, after 40 years you have cost us our men, our Industry, and our country and we are left with a generation or 2 of mental defective pharma drugged males who are lost soles.Look at what you caused.

  • L. Enfield

    Not judging, just a couple of things I noticed: no mention of a father and no mention of outdoor activities.

    Men are tempered by men – a boy needs a man around as a role model.

    Fresh air, sunshine and hard work – mow a lawn, shovel gravel, walk. A tired boy is a good boy.

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