There are two quotes which really struck me in the online article:
“I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them,” he said. It took six months after the shootings for a sense of reality to settle on Peter. “But it’s real,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be understood to be real.”
Emily Miller, an editor at the Washington Times, wrote, “We can’t blame lax gun-control laws, access to mental health treatment, prescription drugs or video games for Lanza’s terrible killing spree. We can point to a mother who should have been more aware of how sick her son had become and forced treatment.”The first quote is a "no brainer" for me. It's something I've said again and again. The New Yorker makes it the final thought in the online article. It's real. It can happen to anyone.
The second quote, from Emily Miller of the Washington Times, is the kind of destructive and ignorant misinformation that keeps the public from taking the steps necessary to keep things like this from happening in the future. Yes, we can point to a mother (Nancy Lanza DID make guns accessible to a highly unstable individual) but NOT for failing to "force treatment".
The simple fact of the matter is, you CAN'T force treatment. Even children can refuse to participate in their treatment, or refuse treatment all together. And early treatment doesn't "cure" someone of autistic or psychiatric disorders, it can only help along the way... and it's not a permanent thing, it's something that has to be kept up with.
Adam Lanza was an adult. We can blame Nancy Lanza for not "making him better", but it's pretty much the same as saying a parent of a child with cancer is at fault for not "making them better" if they don't respond to treatment, or if their cancer returns during their adulthood and they refuse treatment. And the difference between a cancer patient and someone with a mental disorder is that the cancer patient has the cognitive capacity to understand what's happening to them (in most cases) and can make an informed decision about treatment, and a psychiatric patient very often cannot.
Once upon a time, psychiatric care was a nightmare verging on torture. And yes, it was awful and we needed reform. But throwing the baby out with the bath water doesn't just endanger the severely psychiatrically ill... it can also endanger their loved ones, and at least in the case of Adam Lanza, innocent members of society as well.
So let's place blame where it lies: not with Nancy Lanza for not doing something that wasn't within her legal rights to do in "forcing treatment", but with a society that has so stigmatized mental illness that we can't have the conversations, laws and regulations needed to protect the mentally ill and provide adequate healthcare options ... even if that includes involuntary admissions into a hospital, for those who need it.
I'm too discouraged by stories of suicide attempts which result in a 72 hour hold and stomach pumping, then a release which only results in more irrational acts. I'm tired of hearing about patients who repeatedly exhibit violence who are again and again put out into society, and, as a mother of a child with a psychiatric disorder, I also have to say I'm sick to death of having over a hundred ER visits before even the lowest level of treatment is expedited past the months and months of waiting time that some children face before they can even get into therapy, much less the amount of time and frequency of hospitalizations before higher levels of care.
Mental health care for both children and adults has become a national emergency. We need to stop trying to pretend that these are isolated incidents (not all severely mentally ill go on shooting sprees, in fact, very few do, but others can be homeless, self harming or suicidal, or show up in the courts for a number of different charges from domestic violence to simple vagrancy.) and recognize that we need to view this as a health care issue.
We need to put aside the stigma and realize that deformities or irregularities in the brain can occur in the same way that they can occur in other organs of the body, and shed the last of the superstition that used to shroud psychiatric illness. Although we no longer blame possession by evil spirits, we haven't come a heck of a lot further than that when it comes to our attitude about mental illness, and that's an attitude that's literally killing us.