This is a very sensitive and a very brave account written by a mother with a 13 year old son (I am Adam Lanza’s mother), who is displaying behavioral patterns where he threatens to kill and harm her and himself. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, he is brilliant and a gifted kid.
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.
Unfortunately because, if he plans to execute a crime, you can be rest assured it would be done brilliantly with all details well laid out. It will be brilliantly ruthless in its execution!
So, what can she do? Given the American health system, justice system and the social infrastructure – it seems, sadly, NOTHING! Despite so much of emphasis on mental health and all that, she finds out that they ONLY way the society here has to handle such situations are Jails. You put him – this gifted and talented kid – in a jail…. and the system will take care of him.
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 am not sure if Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was caused by lack of guns controls or due to the highly prevalent mental illness in the US, or both, but one thing is clear – the progress is taking a rather large toll on the minds of the new generation.
Even though only a few Adam Lanzas surface in a year – and thank God for it – I personally believe that there are thousands of youth, kids and adults who are sitting on the edge of becoming Adam Lanzas. They haven’t tipped over as yet. But they could with a smallest of triggers.
Loving the kids
I have heard so many “experts” come up on TV to say – please hug your kids, kiss them and keep telling them how much you love them everyday. You know what? When I first came to US, this is what I saw parents doing here most. In my almost 30 years in India, I hadn’t come across a single parent doing this to his or her kids.
And, it is ONLY here that I saw kids killing their parents and other people in their schools and colleges so rampantly.
In fact, in India parents hardly have ever told their kids that “we love you”…. EVER!! The whole life goes through, and the parents – almost all of them – have never even found the time or inclination – to tell the kid that “we love you”.
Yet, they don’t kill and shoot their friends, family or school kids.
Ask the kids and they will tell you that even though they weren’t ever told about how much and/or if their parents loved them, they KNEW how much they were loved by their parents.
Honestly, I love to express my love for my kids. I make it a point to hug them, kiss them and keep telling them how much I love. Not because I want to follow a manual, but because that’s how I express my self. I am very physical and very outward in my feelings. If I don’t like you or what you do, people around me know very well, that you will know very very quickly! But it will be foolish of me to make that as the “Best Practice”. For, my mother told us very rarely that she loved us, but I KNOW no one in my life has ever loved me as much as my mother.
But, I do believe that this model of “forcing overt expression of love for kids” is like the love of a prostitute. While that “quiet, never verbally expressed love of a parent” is the love of a beloved who can say more from her eyes that Shakespeare could say in all his books, without ever touching you.
The problem with the American society, with its “fixes” for everything and manuals and “best practices” for even how to go crap; is that it has forgotten to be natural. Everyone wants a method. A way to get “it” in the best way.
Take the example of the father of the girl Emilie, who was tragically shot in Connecticut. Now, that guy’s “heart wrenching” story is being playing on TV everywhere. He is very well dressed, jelled hair, looking the part of a soap opera – trying to articulately and expertly giving all the politically correct answers. Heck, just 12 hours into his daughter’s death, the dude has a Facebook page up with a Funding avenue there.
If the guy is do distraught, how can he think through the entire social media campaign that he would have unleashed? To many parents outside of US, a father who loved his daughter of 6 years so dearly and lost her with someone shooting multiple bullets in her body would be unable to even think straight!
Although some are extremely stoic. And, to them nothing would leave them distraught. Which is fine as well.
But you can’t be “Just enough distraught, and just enough stoic” to look good in the media. There is an element of dishonesty somewhere.
And, Adams in every house and school pick up even the smallest hint of that emotional dishonesty extremely quickly. Prostitutes can fool only idiots as to how much they love them. A hopelessly in love beloved will make you realize of her love even from her sigh and to even the most hard-hearted.
Parents and the society needs to raise its consciousness to have it in them to LOVE. Not manuals to “show” love. To even suggest that, as experts are doing ad-nauseum, is creating a society full of emotional prostitutes!
Lets all ask this question – is this society going through an epidemic of big proportions of not even knowing what love is!
Photo Credit: Noah Berger/Reuters