'I am Adam Lanza's mother': Blogger admits fear for her own troubled son after Newtown tragedy exposes lack of care for mentally ill
By Olivia Fleming
PUBLISHED: 13:23 EST, 17 December 2012 | UPDATED: 14:15 EST, 17 December 2012
In a desperate cry for help, one mother has written a powerful essay about her mentally-ill son and his violent tendencies in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.
As parents prepare for the wrenching task of burying 20 first-graders and six adults killed at the hands of 20-year-old Adam Lanza on Friday morning, Liza Long has opened up about the overwhelming struggle she faces in caring for her 13-year-old mentally ill son.
Whilst speculation about Mr Lanza's potential mental instability grows, the mother of four from Boise, Idaho, says she fears her own son could one day commit the same kind of unimaginable tragedy carried out at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and is pleading for support across the board.
Mrs Long posted her blog post titled Thinking the Unthinkable in response to the killer's seemingly unfounded rampage, and it has since reverberated around the internet, gaining tens of thousands of comments from agonized parents across the U.S.
Written after Mr Lanza shot himself with a handgun after killing 26 other people, including his own mother on Friday, Mrs Long admitted: 'I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
'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.'
Mrs Long uses the false name Michael to describe her son - a 'highly gifted math and science student,' who will 'gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who.'
However she also fears his violent outbursts, as much as she fears the lack of care and support available for him.
She told NBC News: 'Every time I hear about a mass shooting, I think about my son. And I wonder if someday, I'll be that mom.'
'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.'
Mrs Long goes on to explain that Michael is yet to be correctly diagnosed by the legion of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and school counselors who have treated him.
'Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings,' she writes. 'He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.
'[And] 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.”
This solution, she believes, is unacceptable.
Another commenter, Robert, wrote: 'We have a son with mental illness. Now that he is an "adult" in the eyes of the law, he's decided he does not want to pursue any sort of treatment. Our hands are tied. There needs to be a discussion about how to strike a balance between protecting the rights of adults with mental illness and protecting the general public. Until we do, incidents like Newtown will happen again.'
However others were quick to judge, condemning Mrs Long and her teenage son.
'Are we no longer allowed to consider someone a lost cause (for lack of a better term) before they kill somebody?' writes borrower12 on Gawker. 'After reading that article, there is no way anyone can say this kid isn't an immediate threat to his mother's life, and to the lives of his two younger siblings.
'Every day, those two younger kids risk getting stabbed to death over the most trivial thing because this kid cannot control himself.'
Another commenter wrote with disdained audacity: 'Lock them all up or put them down. Some people can't be medicated, or treated with therapy. They have faulty wiring.'
Meanwhile others expressed concern about the speculation surrounding Mr Lanza's yet-to-be-confirmed mental illness, and the stigma Mrs Long's essay can attach to the ill - which subsequently disconnects society from their humanity.
A commenter named Chillas writes on Snopes.com: 'My grave concern here is that, while it's absolutely true that this country needs to deal with mental illness better, that bringing it up at a time like this, especially when there's such a tenuous connection, will simply serve to reinforce the suspicion and stigmatization of people with mental illness.'
Jezebel's Laura Beck wrote: 'I agree that we need to talk about mental health in this country much more than we do, that our system is broken and must be fixed - but the fact is, most people with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.'
Mental health experts agree that stigma surrounding mental illness still prevents honest discussion of psychiatric disorders, especially when it comes to children and young adults with underlying psychological problems.
In response to Mrs Long's essay, and several of the simplistic comments that followed, an anonymous psychiatrist wrote on on xojane.com: 'I have had patients who have believed they were “chosen” to carry out a mission or who started to speak of the devil being present in the form of human beings. But are they violent? Do they need to be locked up?
'At what point do I inform the authorities when no specific plans to commit violence are mentioned to me, but the words start to become more terror-inducing? “Enemies” are mentioned. “Hate” punctuates every other word. Conscience can appear strikingly absent or little, if at all. Behavior is erratic - but [this] does not pose a technical threat.'
She makes an appeal to the U.S. Justice department, U.S. Congress, and Health Insurance companies for help in treating, caring and helping her patients learn to deal with their illnesses, so they have the chance of living a normal life.
Even more, though, she pleads for the help of Hollywood to change America's attitudes towards mental illness.
'Please create some exciting television that is actually educational about mental illness. Or least give us a “Gossip Girl” who takes her medication and sees her psychiatrist regularly. Less stigma, better health,' she writes. 'Please find the mental health community a really attractive celebrity to get the U.S. mental health system some money.'
And to the Community OF Psychiatry Services' Health Researchers, she adds, 'You have kick-ass and innovative ideas for how to reform the system. Could one of you put on a sequin dress and walk a red carpet please?'
Psychiatrist Gail Saltz told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie that Mrs Long's blog post points to a much larger problem.
She earlier this morning: 'Mental health care in America is not prioritized enough. It's really at the bottom of the barrel.
'People are really often left to flounder, and we really as country need to focus on this because many children do have mental illness.'
President Obama vowed on Sunday to 'use whatever power this office holds' to stop massacres like the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In a speech at a memorial service for the victims yesterday, Mr Obama said that America had failed to protect its young, because 'the politics are too hard.'
Though he did not elaborate on his proposed action, he said that 'these tragedies must end.'
Mrs Long agrees. She wrote: '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.'