I stumbled onto this piece titled, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America.” This mother encapsulates another facet of the conversation we need to be having alongside gun control policies–how do families and we as a country support those with mental illness? Viviana has been raising our awareness to supporting family caregivers of those with physical disabilities and this piece reminds me both of the strain and the stigma of caring for a loved one with mental illness. Her remarks concerning how we currently use the penal system to treat mental illness resonated with and saddened me as well.
“According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.
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.” Read more…
ADDITIONAL info since originally posting:
Since my initial post, I’ve had a chance to read a critique of it by Slate’s Hanna Rosin. Rosin raises some good points about protecting the anonymity of this son, about the integrity of the writer, and so forth. All good things to keep in mind (she especially hits on something I’ve been pondering of late about the slippery genre of blogging-this modern mix of readily accessible personal/public writing), but nonetheless, I think the article continues to raise our awareness to the difficult and often isolated role that family caregivers for the mentally ill play. The Institute of Medicine has named “depression” as one of the 9 key chronic illnesses that will shape family caregiving over the next twenty years. Living with or caring for someone battling some form of mental illness most likely touches all of us. From a pastoral care perspective, the most exhausted and often lonely people I have known are those living with someone they love who lives with some form of mental illness. Finding ways to support them is critical to our being a more humane society.