Monday, December 17, 2012

Solutions? . . .

Everyone and their brother is spouting off about what could've been the issue that  caused Adam Lanza to kill those at Sandy Hook Elementary and who or what is to blame.  I have consciously stayed away from speculation in the news media and have not read a bunch of article about the incident.  Usually I am all over this kind of stuff and I can't seem to get enough information, but this one, this one is different for me. 

Why?  My child has the ability to be the face of this tragedy.  The trauma he experienced early in his life and the attachment issues that have sprung from abuse, neglect, and being shuffled through 10 different placements have broken him in a way that is beyond understanding.  I walk with him daily through his issues, and I cannot even understand what it is like to walk in his shoes.  Now, I must also mention that my son is not only dealing with behaviors that are labeled as Reactive Attachment Disorder but a slew of other mental health issues and brain damage that occurred from maternal alcohol abuse during pregnancy (FAS or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome).  My child has the deck stacked against him.  My child has a "grab bag full of crazy".  I don't say that disrespectfully, I say that to make people understand that we never quite know which disorder is making it's way to the surface to control his thinking at any given time.  He is a whirlwind of trauma and it pains me to think abouot the utrmoil he lives with daily in his mind.  It is a hidden disability, the appears to be a kind and pleasant 17 year old in public.  He appears to be able to function at  a "typical" cognitive level, he cannot. There is not a connection of cause and effect with him.  He doesn't understand that their are consequences of his actions. He acts mostly out of impulse without regard of the fallout.   Without medication, mental health services and constant supervision he is not only a danger to himself but to others. 

As I sit here and make him out to seemingly be a "monster" he is NOT.  His mental health issues don't define him. When he is able to control himself and his impulses, he is a wonderfully pleasant, helpful and loving child.  He is kind and compassionate at times.  He engages in conversations and wants to be a part of the group.  He is not a loner who prefers to stay on the outskirts, he enjoys being the center of attention.  He is a joy.  He loves his family. 

I don't believe this answer is solely gun control.  I am all for owning weapons if you choose, however, I don't believe assault weapons or semi-automatic weapons are necessary for anyone who is not on a battlefield.   I also think each gun owner needs to be held responsible is their weapon is used to commit a crime by someone who had access to it.  Proper gun ownership is key. 

I don't believe that metal detectors or armed guards at schools are the answer either.  This is not about schools only, it is about malls and movie theatres and any where else a large amount of people gather.  I went to Jamaica in the 90s and everywhere I went there were armed guards outside of the building.  Want to go to Burger King? There is a man holding the door with a automatic rifle.  I don't think we need that kind of climate in our country. Besides, who is to say that man is mentally healthy himself and won't go bananas so day?

So what is the solution? My first thought is BETTER and more AVAILABLE mental health services. People that are this kind of crazy do not just "breakdown" one day and shoot up and elementary school.   There are indicator, there are signs. There is not enough services and not nearly enough affordable care for people who are struggling with mental illness. Too many families cannot get their loved ones help or the stigma is just too great. We need to have frank and honest discussions about the mentally ill  in our communities.  We need to eliminate the barriers to people seeking help.  We need compassion and kindness.  We need understanding and patience.  I would suggest that someone knew that this shooter was not stable from a young age.  Adults may refuse care, adults may refuse medication, but if we start early and are offering coping mechanisms and appropriate therapy, perhaps the lifelong healing process is in forward motion before it hits a breaking point.  Will it be enough is every case? Absolutely not, but there is still room for improvement.   

I mourn for these families. I mourn for the young man who thought this was the answer.  It may not be popular to say that I am sorry for the man who committed these crimes, but I am.  Somehow, "we" as a community failed him.  We failed the children.  It is time to be honest about what we can do to prevent this from happening to anyone else. 


Kathleen Benckendorf said...

As you know, it's not easy to find services, and parents as well as others can end up being victims.

"Police were called to the Drake home at least 25 times between February and November on reports that the two children had run away or had hurt their parents or a family member."

Now the parents are facing criminal investigation / charges for "locking" these teens in the basement. Hmmm, wonder if they were "locked" in or if the door was ALARMED?

First Lee said...

Sorry, I think Adam Lanza simply lacked most of his conscience, and that enabled him to simply ignore what was left until he killed himself. He put a bullet-proof vest on. I truly believe this conveys somebody who planned this out in advance, and not someone who "snapped" because of brain damage or mental illness.

First Lee said...

I'm not trying to say Adam didn't have mental health issues, just not in the vein that you're talking about.

Sheri said...

I think you misunderstood me, First Lee. I don't believe he snapped either. I believe that there was definitely premeditation and likely was ill for some time. That was my point, people don't just snap into this kind of crazy.

Sue said...

Sheri, thank you for this very important post. I, too, have an adoptive child who has some issues related to FASD although not severe, but concerning nonetheless. I have often wondered what he might be like as he gets older (he's 11) and goes through that teenage angst period so many kids encounter as they reach puberty and beyond. Having already raised two kids to adulthood, I remember that at times during puberty their personalities became unrecognizable as the children I once knew!

Some positives that I see for my son and you have mentioned some of these as well with yours. He craves relationships with other people, he is loving and kind most of the time, he likes attention, he doesn't isolate himself. He has the ability to make friendships. Although these aren't guarantees that he will always be this way, they are so far good indicators of the ability to *connect* with others and that is so important.

I work hard to make sure my son takes responsibility for his actions, another important step in parenting any child. I am mindful of not exposing him to violence in TV and movies.(we don't do video games in my house but they are so often mind-numbingly violent that children should not be exposed to them IMO). From a mental health standpoint, I think the absence of some of the qualities above should be a matter of concern for any parent. It doesn't mean a child will repeat the acts of Adam Lanza, but most likely indicates that the child is in pain, suffering and needs help.

Thanks, again, for a very insightful post.

Rhonda said...

The question is... If Adam had a proper diagnosis and the mom felt no societal shame and blame for consuming alcohol during pregnancy... Could the outcomes for each person affected by this terrible situation have been vastly different. Understanding the problem and having an accurate full diagnosis could have mad all the difference.