'I live with a son who is mentally ill... he terrifies me'

Image posed by model.
Image posed by model. Photo: getty Images

In the wake of last week's horrific massacre in Connecticut, USA, questions are being asked not just about gun control, but about access to mental health services for troubled youth. There is no official word on what - if any - mental health diagnosis killer Adam Lanza had been given. There are reports though, that he was suffering from a personality disorder.

A US blogger called the Anarchist Soccer Mum has flagged what is it like living with a child who she fears could end up going down the same path. Her son Michael (name changed) displays violent and erratic behaviour, but despite medication and behavioiural plans, nothing seems to work. Here is an extract from her blog.

"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.”
“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”
“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.
We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. 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."

Micheal's mother wants him to receive ongoing treatment in a mental health hospital or state-run treatment centre. But she has been told that her best chance at the moment is to have her son charged with a crime so he goes to jail. With mental health funding in America cut by billions following the recent recession, jail is where more and more mentally ill Americans end up. She's says something has to be done to prevent another tragedy from happening.

"No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”
I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal."

Read the full blog post at the Anarchist Soccer Mum, and join the conversation on the Essential Kids forums.