Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Living with People Who Scare You

   After last week's massacre in Newtown, CT, a woman wrote her own story about living with a mentally ill family member...
    And it's scary.

'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother' chronicles her struggles to love, take care of and protect a son who's brilliant, yet flies off in threats at a moment's notice. She's never sure when he will veer from promises and apologies to actually looking for a knife.
    Here she is in person:

What can be done, in a situation like this? Especially when the kid in question isn't cooperating -- or worse still, now lives in an adult body and deliberately makes threats, or refuses to take their medication...
    The Brick drove a special ed ("sped") schoolbus route for years. Some of the kids he had contact with were almost as big (he's 6-foot), and reacted to anything they didn't want to do, with violence. Shoot, his regular bus routes were almost as frightening, like the kids who first knifed up the back seat, then set it on fire. While the bus was going down the street. And that's for people who are supposed to be "normal." (The extra fillip came when some parents accused bus drivers of either making these incidents up...or accused them of hurting the kids themselves! Thank God for videos on the busses that proved what really happened.)

So, what to do?
   You can't just lock someone up, Minority Report-style, because they could be dangerous. But how to protect yourself and others?

Take someone seriously, the first time they make a threat -- and lock them up? (Words are easy to say. Kids say stupid things all the time.) There are plenty of reports cropping up right now, mentioning similar threats, guns collected, etc.

Hold them down, and force feed the meds? (What about personal freedom, then...)

Let them commit the crime - then lock them up? (The lady above was told by a social worker that they couldn't do much until her son actually acted on his threats.)

I know this from a more personal angle, from dear friends whose son has been in and out of group homes and psychiatric situations for years. They tried to keep him at home, then were forced to give him up to the state (he's adopted), after he began trying to harm their pets -- and their other children. When he's calm, he's a wonderful guy -- polite, charming, funny. But he can also be physically threatening, angry...shift into deception quickly, and turn on people in a flash. He may say he's sorry, afterward, and revert to his former charm -- but the damage is done.
    They love him dearly. But they also have a responsibility to the rest of their family. 

    I realize that some of you are going to disagree on this -- but it strikes me that a concealed weapon permit -- and a responsible person holding it -- could have stopped the school shootings much faster.  Ramp up the eligibility requirements, if you wish. Regulate the sales. But I am not the only one who believes that a good dose of preventive medicine can help.
   Done responsibly, that is.

It still doesn't solve the root problem, though -- of kids out of control. And did you notice how many of these school assassins are boys in their teens and early twenties? And based on this list, this has been happening literally for hundreds of years. Mother Jones has a penetrating article on the mental illness connection with mass shootings that's worth reading.
    I wish there was an easy answer.

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