white balloonsAs we have moved through the heartwrenching news in the wake of the Connecticut School shooting, there have been tears, anger, debate, and disgust. Mostly we want to know why? Why would anyone do this?

There's no answer that is good enough, but there is an answer, and one mother, Liza Long, revealed in a brutally painful essay titled "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother." I read it first thing this morning after Gawker published it, and I've read it countless times since. It chilled me to my core, as I read each stark powerful word.

In it she talks about her 13-year-son and his struggles with mental illness. She describes how the very son she gave birth to and loves also terrifies her. They've been through mental hospitals, police involvement, and trips to the ER for his violent outbursts. They can't pinpoint a specific problem, and nothing they've tried, from drugs to therapy, has worked. He regularly threatens to kill himself and kill his mother

She writes:

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.

The only option she's been given by a social worker is jail.

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.

Amen. I look at my own sweet children, and I can't imagine how I would cope if I saw signs like this in them. Would I be strong enough to make the hard choices? Would I even know what choices there were? Or would I, like so many do, be embarrassed, protective, or paralyzed with fear? I don't know, and I don't think anyone does until they're in that position. And the reality is that any of us could be in that position; mental illness can strike anyone. We ALL could be Adam Lanza's parents.

While I agree that we need to address gun control (though I'm torn as to how), I, like Long, believe the bigger issue, the most significant issue is mental illness in our society. We can't continue to ignore it. We can't pretend that there aren't mothers like this across the country feeling guilty, and helpless, and scared. We have to figure out a way to help them and their children before more of our children are killed.

Because even if there are no guns left, there will be people sick enough to want to do something like this. And that is dangerous in any society.

What do you think of this mother's essay?

 

Image via MaretH./Flickr