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Mental health must enter debate in wake of Sandy Hook killings

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Almost on cue the anticipated rhetoric following the killing of 20 school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., centered on banning of guns, media violence, games that advocate killing, but few talking heads are discussing mental illness that was allegedly part of the life of the Connecticut shooter.

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In a recent article published in The Blue Review, a journal of popular scholarship published by the Boise State University College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, a mother offers her perspective on her son’s mental illness. Liza Long, mother of a 13-year-old boy with an IQ that’s off the charts, but plagued with behavioral problems that are, at times, explosive. He threatens to kill himself and his mother and others who instruct him in a manner he finds hostile.

“We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael (not his real name). Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.”

Michael’s mother described a fit of rage that forced her to take action. “Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer. She drove him to a hospital for help.

“The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork — “Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced... does your child have?”

Her son is still young. However, he is violent at times.

Michael’s mother concluded that it’s time for a meaningful, nationwide conversation about mental health. “That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal,” Long concluded.

One should take a step back and listen to her thought. If Adam Lanza’s mother had had the kind of help she needed, would our nation be grieving over the loss of 28 lives?

Keith Hansen

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Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889
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