I’ve written in this post, this post, and this one about the real problem with the recent mass murders – America’s failed mental health system. Sandy Hook provides the latest example of this failure, lessons that continue to be paid with innocent blood.
If you want an up close, uncomfortable look at this problem from the inside, I highly recommend I am Adam Lanza’s Mother. Read that article before reading one more word here.
Seriously, go read it. Done? OK.
I am very grateful to Liza Long for sharing her personal hell with us. In her heart-wrenching essay, Liza Long accurately lays out what it’s like to live with someone who can cross the line between angry and psychotic in a heartbeat. She continues to try to get help from the mental health profession, but the only advice they give her is to press charges and send her 13-year-old to jail. Really? That’s the best that we can do? Shutter our problems in jails?
As a rule, I keep my personal life personal out of the blogs, so I’ll only say here that I understand all too well what Liza Long is going through. As this insightful article points out, every case is different. While most folks seem fine with someone who has a heart problem, high blood pressure, or cancer, they will almost without exception treat a person with mental health issues differently, perhaps unconsciously, perhaps not. I see this even amongst Christians who should know better. As a result, families are set adrift to deal with their challenges, risks, and fears alone – to do the best that they can and pray that’s enough. No one should have to live like that.
Human beings have a tough time separating fact from fiction, especially when it comes to formulating public policy. Movies like The Snake Pit and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest helped fuel the dismantling of America’s mental health system in the 1970’s. Yet, like A Clockwork Orange and Bambi, they were works of PURE FICTION! The latter two forever tainted automatic knives and hunting, respectively, based on nothing but emotional garbage. The former two drove horrible public policy that now leaves scores of mentally ill untreated and without hope.
Americans tore down a mental health system that worked OK in general, though the system could certainly have been improved. Now, the rules governing mental health issues virtually eliminate long-term inpatient treatment no matter how badly a patient needs long-term institutionalized care. The current treatment standard is 3 weeks of inpatient care to settle on a pharmacological approach, then out you go with meds the patient will probably stop taking the day after they are released. Medicate and quickly release – that’s America’s mental health strategy. Most patients without family support systems end up homeless on the street. This is one of America’s “hidden” shames. As a volunteer guardian in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I’ve seen this routinely. The vast majority of chronically homeless are, in fact, likely mentally ill. If you don’t believe that, spend some time working with homeless shelters or hanging out in our cities’ public parks around dusk.
That said, an important clarification is necessary here. As Jennifer Cerbasi correctly observes, very few of those with a mental illness are violent. The mentally ill can certainly be messy to deal with, but most are more of a danger to themselves than anyone else. However, the very few violent ones can do untold damage as we’ve seen at Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, etc. Meanwhile, liberals want to talk about guns, which is easier for them than facing the real issue.
So what are people like Liza Long and others to do with their violent, mentally ill family members? Her son is clearly and very seriously disturbed and a constant danger to all round him. I wish that I had a good answer. With long-term inpatient treatment all but illegal, the burden falls on the families who will live in daily fear of their loved one. Seriously, would you have Ms. Long’s courage and fortitude to live with requiring an emergency drill for the other children to run to the car for their lives at a moment’s notice when their sibling goes violently psychotic? The American mental health system needs major reform, with violent or potentially violent individuals able to receive the long-term inpatient care that they desperately need.
Ms. Long bravely wrote:
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. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
That paragraph should bring tears to your eyes. Ms. Long understands because she lives it every day. Guns are not the issue, rebuilding a mental health system that provides the help that the violently psychotic and their families need is the right answer.
In my not so humble opinion, Mayor Bloomberg and his freedom-hating buddies are cowards. Yes, cowards, and I’d tell them to their face if they had the courage to face people like Liza Long or live with her son for a couple of months. They’d rather pass some quick legislation to violate the Constitution and punish tens of millions of innocent gun owners who have never committed a crime and never will. Bloomberg and his freedom-hating buddies would rather cowardly further their personal agendas and pretend that they solved a serious problem than actually face the messy business that is the wreckage of America’s mental health system. Shame on them. Shame.
Hell has a special place for gutless politicians like Bloomberg and his ilk who turn a blind eye to the Liza Longs and the now murdered Nancy Lanzas of our country. Time to drop the emotional, anti-freedom bumper stickers and pretend quick fixes and deal with the real issue. I pray that the rest of the country wakes up and finds the courage to fix our shameful mental health system to accommodate long-term inpatient care for those that need it. The child, spouse, or family member that you save might be your own.