Mass killing; I watched the News with horror about yet another rampage from a severely mentally ill young man. A father of one of the victims gave an emotionally charged interview and said, “When will this stop? When will we say enough is enough?” My answer to him was, “Probably never.” Welcome to the 21st Century, where mass killing has become almost commonplace; where we barely blink an eye when we hear; where once the dead are mourned, it becomes business as usual. It seems that every other week there is another mass killing. Then the News agencies have a field day, trying to come up with a motive, and rehashing it over and over. Yet, nothing changes, regarding gun laws or the available treatment for the mentally ill. I don’t know what the answer is because unless you can keep someone in a hospital for a period of time, against their will, they will not get the help they need. In this case, this 22 year old was a child of privilege, who had been receiving mental health care since age 8. But I know that unless someone is actually self-aware and admits that they are mentally ill (which most people will not) and is compliant, they will not take their meds, or even seek treatment, which is key. When someone is an adult, they are not obliged to continue their treatment and so often refuse and go off their meds. In all the recent cases of mass shootings, the news media always plays Monday morning quarterback, analyzing over and over how all the “warning signs” were missed. Then they all discuss how the mental health care system is broken, and needs to be fixed by identifying when someone is in trouble and potentially violent. But, since mental health care is a low priority in our society, violent people often fall through the cracks. The problem with the mental health care system is such that when a severely disturbed person is sent to the ER and “evaluated” by an overworked psychiatrist, the “red flags” are often missed because they are often very adept at “acting” their way out of staying. They know all the right words to say in order to appear “normal”, and voila, they are magically sent back out in the world. I know that if they don’t appear out of it, or disoriented, they will be released within an hour. It is a shame when a disturbed individual is a danger to themselves, but even worse when they are potentially violent. I know that deputies interviewed this young man and without real proper training or checking his house, deemed him not to be a threat. Yet, the fact that his parents were so alarmed to even call the police should have been reason enough to take him in. But, true to form, he put on the “act” and seemed contrite, polite, and even shy. It is a shame that family members’ hands are tied because of the HIPPA laws. Once your child is an adult, you may know for sure that he is in trouble, or even headed for a violent outburst, but you cannot do anything about it other than send the cops out, who are not trained in that capacity. I do know for sure that there is so much prejudice and misinformation out there, and maybe education is the answer. People equate violence with mental illness, when the fact remains that most mentally ill people are NOT violent and more often than not, they are the victims. The tragic fact remains that this young man, who had a powder keg working, fell through the cracks and 26 innocent lives were snuffed from this earth. However, I feel such sympathy for this young man’s parents who I know are totally devastated and probably did everything possible to help him. But, the problem is that you can only do so much for an adult child and anyone with a mentally ill loved one can relate to the anguish of his parents.
When I go upstairs, and I open up the closet, I see pieces of my son’s life in his clothes, his shoes, his slippers. I venture into the small bathroom, and open the drawers, I see remnants of a dream and hope—-his shaving supplies, his toothbrush, soap. All these were left hastily when he ran from my home back in December 2011. When I go back into his room, I see pictures of happier times—-a framed picture of him with his son, Aaron, a bible. I still see snippets of a life that could have been but is now in shambles, thanks to mental illness. It is so easy to play the wishing, and “if only” game. “If only” this had happened or that had not happened, then all would be right with the world again. But, I quickly realize that I cannot turn the clock back to a particular time and preserve what sanity there was. I live in a treadmill world, where I am walking and walking, getting nowhere fast. It is a roller coaster where one minute things look promising and people are congratulating me (to which I say that I am cautiously optimistic) and next I have been catapulted back to the starting gate. It is hard to accept that this seems to be his life, and is now my life. I must separate myself from this nightmare and not think about this 24 hours a day. I read an article on line yesterday how the mental health system has improved in NJ. I beg to differ. It is a shame that a “civilized” country like the US can have such a deplorable mental health care system. Their idea of helping is to keep a patient for about a week or two, adjust their medications, and then dump (yes that is what it is) them out into the streets. They say they don’t want to release someone without a place to go but a homeless shelter does not, at least in my eyes, qualify as a suitable place. It seems that you cannot get your loved one into a group home without greasing someone’s palm. So, here I wait yet again, for some word from my son who was released (dumped) out with others two days ago. I have no idea where the hell he is. I called the two friends he has left, his father (who did hear from him, thankfully), but no contact via text or phone. I have repeatedly texted him to no avail. He has pulled this on me before and no matter how much I ask him to please not go missing on me and to please keep in touch, he still doesn’t seem to understand the torture he puts me through when he disappears. At this point, the most I can do is wait and pray and go about my business. I do believe in the power of prayers and hopefully they will pull him through. I must have a positive attitude and hope but sometimes I am hopeless. Hope is everything and when that is lost, everything is lost.