Every time there is gun violence, and innocent people are killed, the police search for a “motive”. I always find myself yelling at the TV that there probably is no motive, at least one we can understand. If you speak to the shooter (if they are still alive) their explanation makes sense only to them. I’m not talking about a family dispute–I’m talking about random, mass killings of total strangers. In the case of the Sandy Hook shootings, I was just as horrified as the next person, and my heart ached for those beautiful children and their families, but I couldn’t help wonder what sort of grief and shame Adam Lanza’s family felt too. I do place lots of blame on his mother for making poor choices with her decision to buy him an assault weapon. When you hear that he had his windows blacked out and only communicated with Mom by email, I am sickened. I ask myself “why did she not get him help?”, and I don’t really know. Maybe she was doing the best she could, and maybe she did try over and over to get him hospitalized. That I do not know, and her decision to give her mentally disturbed son guns may have been her way to connect with him. Unfortunately that cost her her life as well as twenty-six innocent people. What I do know from my own experience is that it is amazingly difficult to get a loved one mental health care, no less hospitalized. It is a travesty that after entering a psychiatric unit, a patient is summarily dumped out in the street to fend for themselves, to wander homeless. The shrinks give them a cursory interview and if they are shrewd–like most paranoid schizophrenics are–and appear “normal”, they are released. This happens over and over. So, who’s to say that this woman did not try to get him help?
It amazes me how really ignorant the average person is about mental illness. Unfortunately school shootings, mall shootings, movie theatre shootings, etc. has become the norm rather than the exception. The people who perpetrate the violence are most certainly mentally ill, but people don’t realize that the majority of mentally ill people are NOT violent. In the case of the movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Co, I knew immediately that James Holmes was most certainly suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, based on what he did and his overall dazed appearance. I am not condoning what he did, and my heart breaks for the victims, but I couldn’t help but feel sorrow for him as well–especially his parents. I can’t help but cringe when I hear the comments from bystanders that are frankly born out of shear ignorance. One woman commented that he could not have been mentally ill because of the elaborate planning that went into the ultimate shooting. They just don’t know that the hallmark of paranoid schizophrenia is the appearance of normalcy and the ability to carry out complicated plans. I know this first hand from my son. There are many different types of schizophrenia—some, where the person does appear disordered and unable to carry out basic life skills. But, paranoid schizophrenics often appear “normal” and unless you know them personally, you may miss the signs. Often their inner demons of persecution and their personal torture is well hidden, except during a psychotic break. Unfortunately, there is so much misinformation and prejudice concerning the mentally ill, that people are often characterized as “evil” when in reality they are suffering, running from non-existent enemies, fearing for their very life.