In light of the school shooting on Friday in Connecticut, a mother named Liza Long has released a heartfelt article saying, “I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza's [Friday’s shooter’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. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it's easy to talk about guns. But it's time to talk about mental illness.”
She says something I agree with wholeheartedly: “it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people.” Canada, too.
The institutions we used to keep around to lock these folks up in are gone, and that is a shame, despite the fact that they were often abused, and many people can and should be treated and released. We know a lot more about mental illness now, but one of the things we no longer seem to know is that many people cannot, will not, ever be able to live in regular houses in the community.
We ought to lock them up.
But here is where I must disagree with her article.
She goes on to write:
“…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.”
Here is where the inside of me cries out, “no, no, no.”
If everybody who murders is mentally ill, then there is no evil in the world, only illness. I do believe the lines have often been muddied and we shouldn’t try mentally ill people for crimes they don’t truly understand.
I believe some people make bad choices and knowingly, sanely commit murder. It’s tragic, of course. It’s not what I’d consider a sane action, by any means, but to dismiss huge swaths of crime as evidence of mental illness takes us even further from solving the problem, in my opinion.
In fact, I think it’s sad, scary, dangerous, that the issue of mental illness is being so widely speculated about in the face of Friday’s shooting, given that (at least from what I’ve seen from reputable news sources) there is no evidence that the shooter was suffering from a mental illness. Sometimes, people just do rotten stuff. And I hate that.
But now, here’s where I’m back to agreeing; in the face of sheer utter moronitude – I give you… the Comments section!
I don’t know what the answer is – other than putting back some of the long-term mental institutions that were so glibly eliminated way back when.
But one person responding in the comments section to Long’s article has all the answers: this person suggests parents restrain mentally ill children by any means to ensure public safety, medicate them out of their skulls, even, “Have them committed to a mental institution.” She may not realize the point of the article – these institutions are gone. Lacking those, the commenter advocates locking them in their bedroom. Now, if this woman’s murderous teen is anything like my brother was as a teenager, a bedroom door won’t keep him in; most locks won’t either. The final solution: “Surrender them to the state.” Hmm… I doubt very much that any state would be willing to take them beyond the cuddly-infancy phase.
Can you leave teenagers on church doorsteps? If so, I’d have done it years ago.
But actually, that wasn’t the commenter’s final solution. Here’s that one: “…threaten to kill themselves? Let them. Because one day they will kill you. And your other children. And perfect strangers.”
Somehow, that doesn’t seem like the answer. But it would make a cool YouTube campaign. Instead of “it gets better,” maybe she could get Dan Savage and his partner Terry to inspire a series of celebrity videos urging teens with mental illness to off themselves. “It gets worse,” could be their catchphrase. “Life with mental illness is not worth living.” “End it now.”
Definitely not the answer. Not that I know what is.