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JANUARY 2, 2013 1:27AM

What's A Mother To Do

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It’s been over two weeks since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and the two most frustrating questions remain unanswered: why did it happen and could it have been prevented?  

We may never know.  Adam Lanza, the shooter, is dead.   He also killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, most likely the person who knew her 20-year-old son best. It’s been reported he may have snapped because he knew she was looking into having him committed to a psychiatric facility against his will although that hasn’t been confirmed.

But suppose it’s true.  Suppose Adam knew what his mother was planning and he was angry about it.  Maybe he was so furious he fought with her and called her names and threatened to kill himself or her.  Or both.  And then she blogged about it.  Could putting it out there have made a difference?     

Another mother desperately hopes so.  Liza Long has four children including a mentally ill teenaged son. She blogs at

“Michael” (not his real name) is only 13.  He’s angry and unpredictable to the point where the family has a safety plan in place when he threatens violence: the younger kids know to jump in the car and lock the doors.  They had to do this recently because when Long asked him to return some overdue library books, he pulled a knife on her and threatened to kill them both. 

After hearing about Sandy Hook she posted the following which she referred to as a cry for help; she titled it “Thinking the Unthinkable”:

She doesn’t mince words when she describes what it’s like to live with a mentally ill child.  She admits she loves him but he also terrifies her.  She worries he could be the next mass killer. In it she states, I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother.  I am Dylan Klebold’s mother.  I am Eric Harris’s mother.  I am James Holmes’s mother.  I am Jared Loughner’s mother.  I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother.   

It’s painful to read.  But the saddest part is, no one knows what’s wrong with Michael.  Labels have been tossed around by various health care professionals but there’s been no official diagnosis.  He’s been on a number of drugs, none of which, she says, have helped.  What are her options?  According to her son’s social worker, she should have Michael charged with a crime.  “No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges,” the social worker said.

Her post went viral.  Gawker and Huffington Post picked it up and changed the name to “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother”.  Then there was the predictable backlash, started by another blogger, who took Long to task for exploiting her child’s privacy, among other things.

Raising kids is hard work.  I can’t imagine what it’s like when you throw in mental illness.  Add violence and it could be enough to make parents wish they’d remained childless. 

We don't know if Nancy Lanza had any idea of what her son was capable of or if she was suffering in silence.  But if it’s true she was investigating psychiatric facilities, she was aware something was seriously wrong.  Liza Long already knows something’s wrong.  She’s scared and she’s told the world about it with her courageous essay.  She’d like to prevent another Sandy Hook or Columbine. But can she?

I’m sure if Nancy Lanza had been afraid for herself or others she’d have tried to act more quickly; involuntary hospitalization of an adult isn’t automatic or easy.  If she feared for her safety surely she’d have gotten rid of the guns.  And if she was really scared, if she’d written a widely read piece like Long’s, expressing worry and frustration about Adam, might the massacre he instigated have been prevented?

I don’t think so. 

We can and should have stricter gun control laws.  Mental health research and treatment should be at least as well-funded and publicized as say, breast cancer.  Liza Long should have better options for her boy than having him charged with a crime. No one should have to feel unsafe in a school or at a theater or in any public place. 

And people with violent tendencies, whether mentally ill or not, should be taken seriously and not have access to any kind of weapon. 

But without a crystal ball - or at least a stated threat - some things cannot be predicted or headed off, no matter how vigilant and worried a parent is.

It sounds like Liza Long is doing everything she possibly can. So how can she keep herself from being known as “ ‘Michael’ Long’s mother”, if he someday decides to shoot up a school? 

The answer is, she can’t. 





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It is no great surprise that a few of the children raised in a totally un-sane society go off the deep end. In today's A$M$E$R$I$C$A if you're not a dollar bill, no one can even see you.......;-(

Not sure what you mean; this doesn't have anything to do with money.

It has EVERYTHING to do with money!

Why do you think zillions are spent on making war and pennies spent on mental health. Do you not recognize that almost everyone in America places money ahead of ALL other considerations; do you think that is the hallmark of a healthy society?

If a psychiatrist (non-American) looks at American society in the same way he looks at a patient, he'd judge it sick, sick, sick! Money is an obsession with Americans. They live for it and they die for it. It rules the lives of those without it and the lives of those with it. It buys everything and everyone. The "Golden Rule" in the US reads, "He who has the gold, makes the rules."

The stresses generated by this insane social obsession with money play a large role in the mental health of the people. It effects children as much as it effects adults. And no one can even guess how it effects the mentally unstable. Needless to say, there are few, if any, funds allocated for research into this. There's never a shortage of money for research into newer and more effective weapons,though, is there?

Nobody can predict when, where or even if someone will snap. Hind sight is 20/20. None of it makes sense, probably never will.


Either you completely missed the point I attempted to make or I completely missed the mark.
I thought the essence of this blog was neatly summed up when you said......

""Mental health research and treatment should be at least as well-funded and publicized as say, breast cancer. Liza Long should have better options for her boy than having him charged with a crime.""


""........some things cannot be predicted or headed off, no matter how vigilant and worried a parent is.""


""It sounds like Liza Long is doing everything she possibly can. So how can she keep herself from being known as “ ‘Michael’ Long’s mother”, if he someday decides to shoot up a school?

The answer is, she can’t. ""

Given these points that you made, is not funding for mental health a needed priority? Would Liza not have more and better ideas of how to deal with her son if proper research could provide her with greater knowledge and understanding? Would there not be facilities for mentally troubled youth (and others) if the money spent on wars were turned to this (and other) good uses?

Contrary to what the religious believe, good, useable, workable, solid answers do not come to people from some mysterious sky pixie. We have to do the research. And research costs money and Good Research costs a lot! But it gets results; not in a moment or a day, but when we keep at it long enough and fund it well enough, we see the results.

If this does not address your point then please forgive me but I just don't get it. Perhaps you could elucidate.


We seem to be traveling on parallel tracks, addressing different aspects of the same issue. Except that you're riding multiple rails and I'm on just one.

My ONLY point was that, with regard to human nature, there will always be things that happen that can't be foreseen or avoided.

Sky, if I were a better writer or a heavier thinker or had a better understanding of psychology and philosophy and other things that mostly start with a p - and if I were writing a longer piece for something other than a half dead site that no one reads, and also if I had more time, I would have delved deeply into other aspects of this: like free will and social conditioning and media influence and how much responsibility the parent should bear when the offspring turns out to be horribly flawed. And how much the mother will be blamed and where was the father (Liza Long is divorced as was Nancy Lanza) and family dynamics, etc.

I'd also look more closely at mental illness and how much of a role it plays in things like mass shootings because from what I know, most people who go to trial for this aren't considered mentally ill.

Depending on what the guidelines were, I might even go so far as to compare a mass shooting such as what happened in Newtown to something bigger. like an earthquake that was long overdue, based on geological history of an area. Are things like this to be expected, products of of a society that's broken in some way, just like say the Dust Bowl was a product of poor farming techniques?

Of course mental illness should be a priority and in a perfect world spending money on mental illness and cures or treatments for it would exceed what's spent on guns and war and all kinds of other useless things. I'm in total agreement with you there.

But what does that have to do with what Adam Lanza did? It's a whole other subject.

Sometimes bad things are going to happen regardless of the best preparations to head them off. Or how much money is invested in preventing them. Or how quickly a mother can get her son committed to a psychiatric hospital.

That is my point, Sky.

Let me ask you something: how do you prevent this from happening again? Pretend you have unlimited funds, because you say it's all about money. Pretend you have a kid like Liza Long's 13 year old "Michael." You're worried. You have the spending power of Bill Gates, you can send him anywhere you like, see the tops docs in the world and have access to any kind of meds. You don't get to buy a crystal ball though, or the services of a mysterious sky pixie. What would you do?

If you're asking me what I'd do that would guarantee that the 13 year old kid would never do anything like what happened in Newtown, obviously I can't give that kind of guarantee for one specific kid.

There are however, programs that can educate his mother - no, my dear, "love"isn't enough, no matter what mothers think - as well as programs and private institutions that can certainly lessen the chances that the boy would act out in this manner. Money can buy his way into them.

As far as lessening the chances of this happening on a broader scale, I suppose that buying the necessary votes in government to get appropriations for mental health increased to a useful level might be a good use of my money - it wouldn't hurt me to contribute some of that money either.

Now, I'm no Bill Gates, but I retired with a few dollars and one of my "pet projects" as far as funding is concerned is one being done by the YWCA in a neighbouring province. It is for parents who are being abused by children just like that - and worse!

It, like any such program, cannot claim 100% success, but it CAN claim that it has effectively helped a number of both mothers and their children. But then Canada seems to have a lot more of such things than the US on a per capita basis. Is it just a coincidence that Canada also has a far lower rate of people who go off the deep end, per capita, than the US? Perhaps - perhaps not.

I wasn't trying to get into a war with you, Margaret, I just popped in an innocent comment that I thought was supportive of your blog. I wasn't aware that I was supposed to keep within the narrow confines of your material.

I'll restrict myself to the usual "pats on the head" from now on.
You know Margaret... they say she was getting ready to place him somewhere. She seemed like she loved her son but knew he was out of control. He was angry and took it out on the kids she loved do much at school and her. We may never know but I understand being a mother with a son with issues. It is scary and sometimes love is not enough.

I wasn't looking for a fight - or a pat on the head. So please don't restrict yourself; comments like yours not only expand the discussion but cause me (and hopefully anyone else who wanders by) to think harder about the topic. I appreciate your POV and would be very disappointed with anything less.

Also the program at the YWCA you support sounds interesting and even ground-breaking. I've never heard of anything like it. Is that where it originated?


I've read the same thing. You can't help but wonder how different the outcome if only his mother had been successful in getting him placed somewhere sooner. I haven't read anything specific though about what his problems were, have you? Did he have anger issues? How troubled was he? I wonder if the brother and father will ever speak out; surely they can offer some insight.

One of the things I haven't come across is this: someone being quoted as saying, "I just knew something like this was going to happen - the guy was a time bomb." I almost wish you'd hear that more often.

I honestly don't know if it originated there or not. The woman who was directing it impressed me greatly. I usually don't support gender biased programs. I went with this one when it became apparent that her course was available to fathers as well as mothers of violent and troubled youth. It was just that, so far, no men had enrolled.

I haven't heard from her this year and this will be a good time for me to contact her to see if she is still doing this - your blog is a good reminder! I lose track of things in my dotage......;-)

If this idea interests you, I think I can find a copy of her course workbook. If you e-mail me at
I can send you it.
I think that some of it is certainly about money. Enough money means enough support, whether in terms of diagnosis, treatment, respite, whatever. I was the parent of a child with a disability and I spent most of his life on one Medicaid waiting list or other.

I don't think it has a great deal to do with the military except insofar as a double standard: We don't believe in throwing money at a problem unless it's a certain kind of problem.

I read the piece you're talking about, Margaret, and it really struck me. I think someone reprinted it in a blog. I really, really feel for her.

Can we prevent the next one? Maybe. Can we prevent all of them? No. So we try some things and hope that at least some of these are prevented because that's what we can do.

It might entail anything. It might entail more services for disturbed kids, including diagnosis, treatment, or other services, even monitoring services. It might entail more firearms training for people so they have enough sense to have their weapons locked up and locked up separately from their ammo which is also locked up. It might even entail the deterrent value of police in elementary schools. Attack it from enough different directions and maybe save a life or two or 26.

And, if you're unlucky enough to be the parent of a kid who is successfully responsible for something like this, feel the worst pain there is.
We really need to fix the mental health system in this country - situations like this need to have a solution, other than just waiting until someone goes off the deep end and commits a horrible crime.

It does interest me; I'll email you.


I'm in complete agreement with you on this: more money (properly allocated), better treatment options, earlier intervention, all of that, can only be a good thing.

I also think a society that can't get over its stubborn, misguided, selfish, infantile insistence on being allowed to own any kind and amount of weapons it wants to has to take some responsibility for creating Adam Lanzas.

If his mother (who took him to shooting ranges from what I've read so he knew his way around a gun) hadn't had all those weapons in the house, he wouldn't have been able to do this. If he hadn't been familiar with other incidents that set a precedent maybe he would've only only hurt himself.

Sky maintains American society is sick because of an obsession with money. I agree with the first part but not the second; we're not obsessed with money, we're obsessed with our own self-importance and feelings of entitlement. We seem to be under the impression we can have it our way, any way any time, under any circumstances whether that means the toppings on our custom made instaburger or sticking our very long noses in parts of the world where they don't belong or having our own in-house arsenals. It sends a message. You're really angry about something? Let everyone know, in a big way. Your way. Because you can.


A lot of work needs to be done but but if we make it a national priority it can happen. Thanks for reading.
We've always had guns and mental illness, but our movies used to go easy on overt depictions of violence. Here's a link to a poster that makes an interesting point: Einstein says

In it, the man who gave us the A-Bomb says, "Help me understand the logic of this: Watching two hours of violence in a movie has no influence on our behavior, but a 30-second Super Bowl ad is worth $3.8 million because it will make us run out and buy a product."
Mr. Ma~a^a`n,

You're right, kind of; we've always had mental illness, and guns and mental illness exist together. But we've only recently had the kind of guns and the quantity of guns and the easy access to those guns along with mental illness. And I'm not sure what movie violence has to do with guns and mental illness.

Re. the quote, it's highly unlikely AE said that since he died in 1955 and the first Super Bowl wasn't played until 1967.

Even if he were alive today, when the average Super Bowl ad costs $3.5 million, it's not likely he'd have said what's been attributed to him; it makes no sense. I'm no Einstein ha ha (I'm not even as clever as Blue on Blue's Clues) but even my dim faculties of perception recognize a nonsense statement. (I think there's a term for it but I don't know what it is so I'll make up my own: faux logic. It's tailor-made for politicians, military spokespeople and CEOs).

But let's take those two disparate theories separately:

1. watching movie violence causes the viewer to become violent;

2. spending nearly $4 million on a Super Bowl ad results in increased sales of the product.

Neither is true.
If anybody could speak to us from beyond the pale I'd put my money on Hairy Al. As to what $3.5 million can buy, well, I'll leave that to the folks who are willing and able to risk it on whatever they think it will buy.
CM: Your little rhyme made me cluck. :)