There is little that anyone can say in the wake of the Newtown shootings that will make sense. So it is with mixed emotions that we refer our readers to this piece, a cri de coeur about mental illness, from a mom raising a boy who needs services, and what that feels like.
Our particular admiration for this writer is born of the unflinching gaze she turns on her family and our society, and the case she makes for mental health care as part of a national agenda. Do we really use prisons as our treatment of choice for the mentally ill?
The piece originally ran on her blog, and has been re-published several places, including Gawker, under her name, Liza Long, and the headline “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.”
“This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.
“I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”
There is a lot of conversation today — in the grocery store, online, in the email inbox — about how stricter gun control, or the rebuilding of community, or an end to single-parent families, any of a number of other actions, might have helped avert the Newtown shootings. There is also a lot of conversation about how no one should exploit these shootings to advance any agenda.
And yet: without a serious health-care system that addresses mental health too, without stigma and without artificial limitations, we will be having this conversation again and again. (A personal note: I reserve particular concern for people who want us to know that single-parent families are at the heart of all sadness.)
Health care should be a right for all. Physical health, mental health. It’s time.
It’s not about the money.
“In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
“Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.
“’ I can wear these pants,’ he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
“ ‘They are navy blue,’ I told him. ‘Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.'”
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.