A Challenge to “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother”

Laura Delano
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A reaction to Liza Long’s article from the Huffington Post Online, December 16th, 2012.

 ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation in America

As I write these words on a Monday evening, my spirit aches.  It aches with grief for the lives lost in Connecticut last week; it aches with dread for our collective American future in Sandy Hook’s aftermath; and it aches with love and empathy for Michael, a thirteen-year old boy whose once private life has, for the last day and a half, been on display for millions to see, exploited by a mother whose opinions are representative of America’s most pervasive mass delusion: that “mental illness” is a biologically-based condition requiring psychopharmaceutical “treatment” and “mental health care”, and that “the mentally ill” are a class of Other that threatens the safety, security, and health of America.

Since first reading this article yesterday, I’ve been restless.  I’ve felt it in my legs, in my hands, in my heart.  My mind has been full of racing thoughts, my stomach churning with anxiety like it used to on nights before a big game or test, back in my youth, when I owned the right to see myself as just another kid, however intense, angry, and passionate I may have been.  Back when I was stubbornly determined, and determinedly stubborn, and when I felt things so deeply that I just didn’t know what to do with it all other than to turn it into a vicious cycle of repression and explosion.  Back when the words “mental illness” were but a faint glimmer on my mind’s horizon, when I was still just Laura and when I still had the right to call myself a human, like everyone else, owning my name and any descriptors that came after it.  Back before the “mental health” system swallowed me whole, devouring all but the last scraps of my human spirit by giving me pill bottle after pill bottle, diagnosis after diagnosis, and a life-long sentence of  “treatment-resistant Bipolar disorder”.  From where I sit today, privileged and grateful to call myself free from that system, I feel compelled to challenge Liza Long’s flawed, degrading, dehumanizing, and destructive public plea, especially because it is written about someone who’s been stripped of his right to have a voice at all.

“We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael.”

If you haven’t read the article, the above statement sums it up.  When I first read it, I was brought right back to the beginning of the end for me, so to speak, when I was fourteen, just a year older than Michael, and full of anger and rage at myself, at my family, at my school, and at the world.  After my parents did their best to support me— they did what any responsible parent in today’s society would do, given the tragic American reality that the “mental health” system has a monopoly on human experience: they sent me to a “mental health” professional.  In my first session with a psychiatrist, I was told that something was “wrong” with me; indeed, my rage was a “symptom” of Bipolar disorder— I had a chemical imbalance and thus was broken, abnormal, and diseased.  Talk of lifelong “medication” and “treatment” came with this, and in the snap of a finger, psychiatry placed the locus of all the issues inside of me.

Unless a person has been labeled “mentally ill” him/herself, it is hard to wrap one’s mind around the self-fulfilling prophecy that this becomes— when I was told I was different than my peers and always would be due to my “condition”, I eventually started to act that way.  When I was told I was broken, I stopped seeing myself as a full human being with responsibilities and duties, and became increasingly self-absorbed and self-loathing (I’ve heard it put as ‘The egomaniac with an inferiority complex’, or ‘I hate myself but I’m all I think about’).  I forgot what it was like to be accountable to those around me, let alone myself.  I stopped treating my family and those around me with respect, because I forgot how to respect myself.   I stopped caring about anything and everything, from whether I showered in the morning to whether I lived or died, and I lost the ability to feel love, pride, and optimism, and instead felt mostly misery, self-pity, entitlement, and jealousy.  I began to communicate mostly through anger and rage, whether towards others or myself, because it was the only emotion intense enough to capture just how much pain I felt— pain that, until being labeled with “Bipolar disorder” and put on a slew of psychotropic drugs, I’d never come even remotely close to feeling.  And because psychiatry treated me as less than human, I began to act that way, until eventually, I forgot that I was human at all.

The “mental health” system is structured on the belief that those who are “mentally ill” have lost the right to own their lives— that it is reasonable to strip them of their most basic rights to own their bodies (hence chemical and physical restraints, forced “treatment”, and electroshock), their day-to-day freedom (hence locked wards and “Assisted Outpatient Treatment”), and their social acceptability (hence “the mentally ill” as a class of Other).  Indeed, the “mental health” system has implanted within the American collective consciousness the totally illogical, unscientific, and deeply divisive belief in human brokenness.  It is undeniable in Liza Long’s words that she sees her son as broken, and that she is increasingly giving up hope that he and all the other “potential Adam Lanzas” can be “fixed”.  She even speaks of his “underlying pathology”, which, again, is a belief based entirely on false science, on propaganda that’s been spread far and wide in order to legitimize the psychopharmacological “cure” (for can’t a “medication” only be legitimate if it’s treating a condition or disease?)  And just a day later, over a million people have read Liza Long’s post, and countless people have shared it, liked it, posted it, emailed it, promoted it, and commented on it because it makes it so appealingly easy for American society at large, especially in the aftermath of something like Sandy Hook, to project all of its fear, its confusion, its anger, its unease, its grief, and its insecurity on a target- “the mentally ill”, represented by Michael.

Although I acknowledge that I know nothing of the real Michael and have only a brief glimpse into his mother’s emotion-fueled description of him, which may or may not be based in any truth, I see so much of myself in the Michael that’s been described, despite the details of our stories being different.  I was brimming with anger and rage during my thirteen years in the “mental health” system because I felt completely disconnected from myself and everyone around me.  It wasn’t because of faulty brain chemistry or “underlying pathology”; it was, plain and simple, because of the deeply ingrained belief that I was “mentally ill”.  That I was innately different.  That I wasn’t an acceptable member of the human race.  Along with this belief came a long relationship to nineteen psychotropic drugs, which I took over a span of thirteen years, and which caused great harm to me physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  I cannot understate the damaging impact these “meds” had on me— I transformed into a completely different person, and am only now connecting to an authentic sense of Self after being a little over two years off of everything.

As the years passed in my “mentally ill” life, numerous pills coursing through my veins daily, the world around me became increasingly more foreign, until I reached a point at which I seriously wondered whether I was actually an alien living in an otherwise completely interconnected and united human race.  For years, any and all evidence of typical, “normal” life perplexed me, whether it was Dove soap bar ads (How could I ever be like those people who take care of and love themselves and their bodies?), or walking past restaurants (Just how is it that a group of people could go out for dinner and have fun together?  What does that feel like?), or even observing my own family, from whom I’d disconnected myself in so many ways.  Before I entered the “mental health” system, I was a healthy, intense, passionate, driven kid in the midst of a healthy, intense, passionate, driven childhood and adolescence.  Even in the midst of all the pain of life on life’s terms, I was totally OK, although I didn’t feel so at the time, until I entered the “mental health” system.  It was the “treatment”, and the “mentally ill” identity, that turned me into a “chronic”, “treatment-resistant” Bipolar patient.  That turned me angry, and isolated, and numb, and hopeless.  That brought me to the point at which killing myself— becoming violent against myself— was the only thing that made sense.

After reading Liza Long’s piece, I am left with several questions to pose to her:

  • Do you know what it’s like to believe you’re broken, or that something is “wrong” with you, and to be told that you’ll be this way for the rest of your life?
  • How would you act if you were threatened on a regular basis with the police?  Would you be able to trust anyone around you, and if not, would you be able to stay calm and not defend yourself in the best way you could, even if that meant making threats yourself?
  • How would you feel if, as a young girl, you were “wrestled” down by “three burly police officers”, forcibly restrained, and taken against your will to a locked psych ward?
  • What would it be like as a young girl to have a “slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals” forced into you— drugs that are documented to have particularly devastating side effects to children?
  • How would you feel if your family saw you as a criminal, and had met about you behind your back to put a “safety plan” in place because they were scared to be in the same room as you?
  • Would you have any desire to treat your mother with respect, with love, with dignity, if you knew that she’d written an exploitative piece to the entire world stating that she saw you no differently than she did a mass murderer?

 

Liza Long pleads for a nation-wide conversation on “mental health”.  Since the mass murder, headlines are talking about America’s dire need for more “mental health services”, more “mental health screenings”, more “mental health treatment”.  It was often said to me— hell, for a long time, I believed myself— that I was in dire need of more, more, more.  More therapy.  More “meds”.  More hospitalizations.  More dependence, reliance, subservience, obedience on the system.  Although I didn’t realize it until the very end, the more I got, the less I was alive.

I am grateful to say that the stars aligned differently for me and I ended up heading in the exact opposite direction— to less, less, less, and then, to none.  I can state in all honesty that every ounce of growth I’ve made in the last few years— my reclaiming of Self, of my dignity, of my sense of rightness with the world— has come from leaving the “mental health” system behind.  From getting off psychotropic drugs, and from leaving behind the “mentally ill” identity, despite being told year after year that I would spend the rest of my life having to work hard to manage my “serious mental illness”, and that I should adjust my expectations accordingly.  It was when I woke up to utter insanity in all of this, not when I got into more “treatment”, that I was able to grow into the responsible, accountable, productive, healthy, contended and grateful member of the human family that I am becoming today.

I no longer feel anger the way I used to.  I no longer see myself as different from everyone around me, let alone broken or abnormal or diseased.  In fact, I love that I am just like everyone else— no better, no worse.  I no longer feel disconnected from myself, from my family, and from the world around me.  I no longer feel suicidal, hopeless, desperate for relief, or stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage and self-destruction.  I am no longer scared of my emotions, and have taught myself to coexist with them, and with the pain of life on life’s terms.  My heart is open to love others and to fight for what I believe in.  I have self-respect and respect for those around me.  My family no longer has to worry about whether or not I’ll be alive tomorrow, or on my way to another locked psych ward, or to another ER.  Although I have a lifetime of growth and evolution ahead of me, I am proud of who I am today and can look at myself in the mirror and truly know, in a way deeper than any label or category or word could capture, who I am.  It is only because I escaped the “mental health” system that I have any of this.

All along, I had everything I needed to live life on life’s terms, and to figure out how to be in my skin and in the world in a loving, accepting, meaningful way.  It didn’t lie in the hands of any “mental health” “expert”, “provider”, or bottle of pills.  I can say with confidence that I am not alone in this experience.

 

“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”

-Michel Foucault

 

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Laura Delano
Journeying Back To Self: Laura Delano is an ex-mental patient who writes about her thirteen years of psychiatric indoctrination, how she woke up in 2010, and what it's been like to come off psychiatric drugs, leave the "mentally ill" identity behind, and rediscover an authentic connection to self and world.

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119 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Laura,

    Thanks for taking on the I Am Adam’s Mother piece. I had the same reaction to her story. I recently wrote on my blog about a possible motive for the Newtown tragedy. I speculated that the mother/son relationship was stressed to the breaking point because real help for this family in learning how to interact in a loving and empathetic way has been crowded out by widespread acceptance of the biochemical model of the “illness.” The biochemical model of the illness stigmatizes, which leads to anger, anxiety, and social isolation.

    “The problem, it seems to me, began with widespread acceptance of the biochemical model of mental illnesses as “brain diseases” that changed how parents think about and interact with their diagnosed child.”

    “Once again I turn to the Mehta/Farina Auburn University study which found that stigma is increased if people think you have a mental illness caused by a biochemical imbalance as opposed to a mental illness resulting from understandable events in a person’s life. People treat you harsher if they think you have a biochemical imbalance of the brain. They think they are doing it “for your own good.” People include parents, even the most well-intentioned and kind ones. Stigma practiced by parents increases feelings of isolation and anxiety in the child.”

    “The biochemical model is an essentially a model that robs people of hope. It is run by the medical profession and has been the “correct” way of thinking about the underlying behavior and thought processes for decades. Unquestioning acceptance of the biochemical model has blocked any widespread introduction and teaching of empowerment models. For parents, whether or not we embrace or resist medications for our child, there is little knowledge of what is available in coaching that will help us learn how to appreciate our relative for their many gifts, to resist the urge to criticize, to feel embarrassed about them, to patronize them. “It’s a biochemical problem” can be an excuse for fear of examining our day to day dynamics surrounding how we interact with our child.”

    • Laura and Rossa, thank you both for your courageous response to the confusion around what kind of dialogue we need to have. Clearly, Adam Lanza’s mother needed better support as does the mother of the blog you are both responding to. And we do need a national and international conversation, rather than talking ABOUT mental illness what if we talked TO each other about how to help each other heal, outside systems and labels, and inside communities, families and our own hearts? That’s a conversation I’d love to join!

      Laura, it is a blessing to know you. You are a clear and compassionate voice in this life-saving dialogue…

    • Dear Mrs Forbes,

      I am sorry to disagree with your political agenda and altostrata’s but Asperger’s syndrome persons are born with a lot of good qualities and social challenges and often they are diagnosed at an adult age after having being treated wrongly in psychiatry.They do not need psychiatric drugs when physical exercice, good diet and healthy living can relieve their anxiety!

      You are just blinded by simplistic political activism which -to my mind and heart- is not better than the silly monoaminergis theories of mental illnesses!

      I wish the know it all, live it all british commentator could benefit from a conference by David Horton a bright and brave young man and Asperger’s syndrome activistof sort who wants to raise awareness of mistakes and help professionals to take better care of asperger’s syndrome young people.

      From Pr Mitzi Waltz:///I am writing in response to David Horton’s request for a recommendation as a speaker, as I understand that you are considering asking him to present again at UB.

      David provided a one-hour presentation followed by a Q&A session for my undergraduate class at the University of Birmingham last year. He covered aspects of his life at school and in adulthood, including further education and employment, and issues with anxiety. He spoke well, and also answered questions well. His presentation was singled out as a highlight of the module by several students in their evaluation.(..)///

      This is taken from an antipsychiatrist-to my mind- but pro psychaitric drugs anonymous psychologist and neuroscientists, “neuroskeptic”:

      Since I prefer not to let aspie read the awfull insensitive political stuff in some comments – many aspies are diffciult to raise but they often love their parents and are taking better care of them in their old age that your average neurotipical is when they do not receive a proper diagnosis and proper help – to the best of my knowledge can pretend tha tthe autisms are due to need a special needs education and support only a diagnostic by an honest clinican can provide since anyone would want his own child to get a lot of special attention

      http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.fr/2012/11/exercise-and-depression-revisited.html
      Anonymous said…
      My name is David Horton and I am grateful to Dr Ivana Fulli for being a psychiatrist listening to me in a considerate manner she is also very honest with you. I do not object to receiving help from professionals it is just the typ of help that professionals give that causes me concern.

      There are many different treatments for Asperger’s syndrome and I welcome the desire to ameliorate its negative effects. However all treatments for a problem depend on the practitioners knowledge. If Doctors, Psychiatrists and other professionals do not administer these treatments in the correct manner they can case the patient additional problems, instead of helping them to become fulfilled productive members of society they can increase the individuals dysfunctional behaviours.

      The text Dr Fulli posted is taken from a collaborative work between her and I : an abstract that has being written from the point of view of someone who has suffered as a result of such treatments and hopes to play a small part in preventing others being similarly damaged.

      Exercise helped me a great deal.

      7 November 2012 16:17
      Ivana Fulli MD said…

      David,

      Here the text I posted this morning but was just a transient comment. It must have been thought spammage by neuroskeptic ‘s ptotection system – or whatever:

      ///(…)Once I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome I was told about the problems I would have with the condition. Problems with socialising, problems with work and the other problems that we are all familiar with.

      It made me feel powerless, I felt like I had no ability to affect the world or other people around me in any way. The impression of Asperger’s Syndrome that I got was completely negative and that would affect me for the rest of my life.

      I was very negatively affected by the advice from the professionals. I never heard anything positive or encouraging from them.

      I decided that since there was nothing positive about Asperger’s Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome was part of me that I needed to dispense with myself in order to be successful in life.

      I decided that all of my feelings and emotions were unnecessary and should be ignored and supressed.(…)

      I studied GCSE’s and all of the proceeding subjects as well as outdoor walks (which I hated) and I left with only mediocre GCSE’S.

      I then went on to college and enjoyed myself but never achieved a great deal. After that I went to University College Worcester. University College Worcester gave me a chance to live away from home for the first time. I studied A Business and Information technology HND there and passed. When I went on to study a degree I could not cope and decided to drop out.

      After dropping out of University I spent several years on my own trying to find a job and failing. (…)
      I was not used to living on my own and went a little stir crazy, I once stayed in my flat for three days without leaving.

      I decided to correct this by taking a walk every day. (…)
      I also mearted to get involved in disability politics. It was good for me and helped me to become more assertive.

      In Birmingham I spent a long time working on my physical Fitness.

      I also worked on my anxiety levels over the period of about a year and a half.

      I could feel great changes being made.

      I decided that the time had come to go back to university.

      I felt that I had changed enough to be able to cope with the environment. The first grade I got was 86 Per cent considering that in the past I had only go mediocre grades at best this was a great achievement for me. I am now in my second year and hoping for similar success(…)///
      7 November 2012 16:58

      Of course listening to a person with Asperger’s syndrome is not on your political agenda!

      • Please read:

        Persons with Asperger’s syndrome- when they do not receive a proper diagnosis and proper help – do not fulfill their potential as very special contributors to society and very loyal and honest and caring people.
        To the best of my knowledge, no honest person can pretend that the autisms are due to the lack of love or inadequate parenting as so many political activists like Mrs Delano want to believe and make believe to her admirors.

        NB: Everyone is free to have their own beliefs but not their own facts.

        If dear chaplain Stephen wants to think the earth is flat with Jesus having rode dinausors on its flat surface, he is very welcome.

        Anyone like the French childpsychaitrist claiming that Asperger’s syndrome is due to bad parenting and bad mother is a scinetific fraud;

        Some Asper’s syndrome kids need a very intense special needs education and support very fexw families can afford and I can’t see how societycan provide it at the task payer money without a diagnostic by an honest and trained clinican using the best of his abilities since anyone would want his own child to get a lot of special attention and education at school.

        People are born autistic -with very good qualities and challenges but Western society nowadays increase the challenge when any teenager has to have a long list of friends on a facebook page to fit in and when often to excel at something intelectual hating sport is not seen as cool…

  2. On MIA, it is OK to attack on a full post a suffering mother who put her face and suffering known to the world asking for the USA society to help families to deal with violent children but not to answer to the attack.

    Idem for comments like:

    ///The mother in the blog (divorced with four children) that Laura writes about, strikes me as someone who has poor parenting skills. (…) she’s dealing with him in a low level assinine way./// ?

    To deny the sad reality of single divorced mothers left to deal alone in fear and despair with very difficult behavior of a child with little help from society is OK and encouraged de facto by moderator.

    It is always interesting to see politics talk loud in any field…

    • Hi, Ivana,

      We who live in Europe tend to focus on the horrors of American life re mass killings and over-medicalization of mental health problems. My observation is that in continental Europe, society is, in general, more cohesive, less consumer oriented, and less focused on being “normal” and fitting in than what the original “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” describes. But, it strikes me that continental Europe is also more authoritarian re how children should behave. However, since you are a psychiatrist, I would have thought that you would try to advocate for the child’s position, rather than the parent’s position. It sounds from what you have written that you believe in something called the mentally ill child, but are ready to excuse parent’s bad choices that may have earned the child the label.
      … Rossa

      • Well, I think the “poor parenting skills” and the “low level asinine way” can be read as an attack, if ripped out of the context both are written in: “The mother is the one who needs help here to learn to handle her son more intelligently.” Seen in their proper context, both are observations — which I, too, made — that hardly can be avoided, if we really want to help kids like Michael.

        Reading Liza Long’s piece, I got the very strong impression of somebody, who, probably out of helplessness, would do whatever it takes, if it is putting very personal details about her son known to the world — something I would have had a very hard time forgiving had my parents done this –, to make herself appear blameless, the perfect mother, the victim whose helplessness is alone the fault of her son/-s “mental illness”. The fact that she goes as far as she does in this attempt, and obviously feels she needs to (ab)use somebody else, her son, to make her own star shine even brighter, somehow has me sense the abysmal extent of self-loathing that got her to write this piece in the first place. Self-loathing doesn’t make for good parenting skills. But sure as hell it can buy you your 15 minutes of the world’s sympathy, if you manage to project whatever you hate about yourself on somebody else and make you their victim. It’s just that 15 minutes are only 15 minutes, and what then? What’s next?

  3. Ivana,
    In answer to part of what you wrote, about blaming the mother, keep in mind that the mother, especially a divorced mother with custody, is the person who interacts the most with their child. It is fitting to question what that daily interaction might be like and to hold the mother, as the adult in charge, more responsible than the child. With these kind of challenges, the home life is a war zone. If the child has a mental health issue, parents shold learn how to de-escalate the tension in the household. Is psychiatristry teaching parents how to change their own behavior to help the children get better control? Some are, but parents have to be willing to accept their share of responsibility. Many parents don’t want to look in the mirror, so will not seek out the kind of help they need. The mother in the blog (divorced with four children) that Laura writes about, strikes me as someone who has poor parenting skills. She’s got a highly intelligent troubled kid who needs very skillful handling, but she’s dealing with him in a low level assinine way. “I’m grounding you, I’m taking away your privileges, no you can’t have your video games back.” The mother is the one who needs help here to learn to handle her son more intelligently. There is no mention in the blog that she has sought parenting help.
    Best regards,
    Rossa

  4. Laura, Thank you so much for voicing your perspective. I agree with you that it is wrong to jerk a young person from their home, and everything they know, tell them they are broken, drug them, incarcerate them, then expect them to overcome the troubles that took them there in the first place.
    I say troubles because, even at 14, you seemed to have trouble dealing with your passions and emotions. I don’t know how old you are now, but an adolescent’s brain is still growing and connecting and doesn’t, always, have the capacity to overcome…that same capacity that you found and tapped into, later, to help yourself out of the mental health world.
    I have worked with teens in schools, the juvenile justice system, the Boys and Girls Clubs and in churches. I am a certified parenting instructor. Additionally, I work through hypnotherapy to help people achieve their dreams, whatever they are. I came from a family where my mother had a chemical imbalance (un-medicated), was verbally, mentally and emotionally abused from 6 months until I could stop it in my 30s; a brother who could have used mental health care but turned to 40 years of heroine, instead; and 4 other siblings who have had various bouts with mental health issues. Personally, I went through 12 years of psychotherapy, to deal with a drugged (street) and violent life, prior to finding hypnotherapy (which became my most valuable tool in my healing.)
    Here’s the way I see it, coming from both sides of the fence…yes, the mother clearly shows difficulty with parenting and relationships (or choosing the right relationship for herself.) She could, definitely, use some tools to help parent a boy with as much “passion and energy” as Michael has. But, Michael, himself, could use some help and some tools, too. Any teenager who pulls knives out and threatens the well-being of his family members NEEDS help finding ways to control himself. As you know, when we don’t control ourselves, we leave it open for others to control us.
    Thinking that Michael has the capacity to control himself without the help of mental health professionals (when his mother and schools don’t have the necessary tools) is foolish. The problem is NOT referring our children to mental health professionals. The problem is a broken mental health system and an archaic way of thinking about mental health, in the first place.
    What if, when you got help at 14 years old, someone told you that you were NOT broken. That you were, instead, a unique, creative, passionate thinker and that you needed some tools to help you feel more comfortable in your life. What if they didn’t put you on drugs but looked, instead, at your nutritional levels FIRST? You still needed to go to school and fit into a family and community…you needed tools…tools that you were fortunate enough to find later, through your own searching.
    What if your family and community, your school, and your friends, supported you learning those tools, trying them out and, sometimes, failing? Yet, they still loved you and held you in their hearts.
    What if you had been supported by those mental health professionals with love and compassion…and, when needed, tough love, expectations, responsibility for actions and self-directed discipline when you just weren’t willing to control yourself?
    If that had been your experience, it may have been different for you and you may have found self-control just a little sooner.
    Yes, our mental health system is broken and, as Ms. Long says, it needs to be looked into, reviewed and, even, expanded. We all know that it is broken. But there is a need for a mental health “system.” And suggesting that parents steer clear of the system, when they have no other recourse, is dangerous. Instead, spend your time and energy helping (as someone who as been inside) to revamp and refocus the entire system. THAT is where you passion and energy is needed! Why else would you have had the experiences you had? Why else would you have been passionately shaking when you read Ms. Long’s letter? You are a great communicator…use it to change a much needed system rather than leaving our children to their own misguided choices. You are uniquely qualified to help make changes to the system so that more passionate and highly creative children, with unqualified, uncaring, confused, or frustrated parents can get the support they need to become fully passionate, happy, creative and successful adults.
    I wish you the best as you continue to grow into your strength. Think about the true needs of others and how they can, best, be served…then find a place to stand and move the world.
    With love, clwisehart

    • Dear clwiseheart,

      I’m not sure I read from Laura’s post that she didn’t think children needed support when they were suffering. But I did hear her questioning what kind of support is helpful, respectful and ultimately healing. Also the notion that the problem lies within one individual (which is not an excuse to lay the blame on another individual either, ie. the mother). What if the system that needs fixing is the unique field of relationships, perhaps, in many cases, there is so much to explore in this field that you might not need a mental health system. Churches, boys and girls clubs (wonderful that you are involved!), teachers, extra curricular activities, aunts, trusted adults that are not related.

      What if instead of looking at a system to fix us, we consider building a loving web and safety net to hold us? What possibilities might we discover when we are legitimately at wits’ end?

      There are no easy answers. No quick fixes. And, perhaps, until then, there is a role for mental health systems. One day, it would be wonderful if we just had caring communities.

      I must confess that I am as uncomfortable with your making assumptions as to what would have helped Laura at 14, someone I’m assuming you do not know, as you are uncomfortable with her sharing from her own lived experience. But perhaps, I trust the latter more. Speaking from lived experience.

      In that spirit, I offer my own observations with recognition of my own biases. Meant for those for whom they are helpful, and left aside for those for whom they aren’t.

      With affection, Jen

  5. What an AWESOME eye you have, Laura. This is my favorite part: “makes it so appealingly easy for American society at large … to project all of its fear, its confusion, its anger, its unease, its grief, and its insecurity on a target- “the mentally ill”, represented by Michael.”

    Right on! Oh, wait. Americans have fear? They have confusion, anger, unease, grief and insecurity?

    Liza gives an example of a CONTROL issue:

    “missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

    “I can wear these pants,” …

    “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,” …

    “You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” … You’re grounded …”

    Liza isn’t the only mother showcasing her child.

    Introducing Amie and Jayden:

    Tantrum in the parking lot http://youtu.be/_Q5FdzHaOuE

    “I am the boss, you’re not the boss”, she tells 6 year old Jayden. In her description she writes: “This is the day after he was admitted to the hospital for a violent meltdown. Still being defiant.” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVjj4mv_Wyk

    Defiant? Boss?

    I don’t see mothering and parenting – only command and control, command and control.

    Even if either or both of these boys do have a real, biological, medical condition – the parenting style of these Moms is considerable.

    Lets take a look at some MATERNAL history:

    “The most important person in the family was not the father, but the mother. The Egyptian wife was called the ‘Ruler of the House.’”

    “The result of this new family arrangement was that mothers, grandmothers and aunts became all-powerful in the family, taking out their own enormous frustrations and abandonments by their husbands and their huge responsibilities for feeding and clothing their families by routinely killing their newborn, dominating them and calling them “sinful, greedy beasts” for needing them,7 tying them up in tight swaddling bands, battering and torturing them, handing them over to cruel nurses and adoptive parents for daily care, and giving them to neighboring men and teachers to rape. ”

    http://www.psychohistory.com/originsofwar/08_infanticide.html
    (pick through it, parts and pieces, to get a view of how “evolved” Humanity and Mothers are or aren’t. I can say that my own mother was like a monster, very much like the mothers described in the quote above. I was NOT ALLOWED to have “needs” and was often met with gnashed teeth and violent threats… )

    Jayden is being raised by an enormous TEAM of people:

    Amie Carter 5 days ago

    Yes, I am getting professional help for Jayden. I’m not only working with his teacher, last years teacher, his principal, school nurse, case manager, respite care lady, psychiatrist, pediatrician, therapist and I work at a psychology place. I’m also on the board for a non-profit organization call Inspiring Hearts for Autism. And you are very right, with the statement “Nothing can prepare you for Autism”. I like the statement “Whatever it takes” and “Be Strong” 🙂

    WHERE are these two boys learning the violence and THREATS of violence from?

    Does anyone see what I see?

    • Interesting that you point these things out. And then you have some people defending these mothers and putting the blame on the child. I think that’s kind of bass akwards. I do not believe that children are born defective. Things that happen to them as they grow send them over the edge and those things are perpetrated by people, usually family members. Children are not mentally ill but they sure do cry out for help and mercy and ask to be delivered from the trauma that they suffer. Adults usually don’t like these behaviors and blame the child rather than dealing with the issues causing the child harm.

  6. The article got quite a lot of coverage in the UK too, it appeared on my facebook page and got some confusing responses. Mine were:

    1 to point out that people with mental health diagnosis are slightly less likely to commit violent crimes that those that don’t have diagnosis but they are more likely to be victims.

    2 to point out that psyche drugs are related to violent outbursts but that they do make huge profits for drug companies

    3 to say that the mother might be grandstanding as the mass killing and her son’s anger might not be related

    4 that I agree she and her son needed support but not the type he was getting – very serious drugs and behavioural approaches (I’ll take away your game boy if you carry on being angry). That kind of crude behaviourism doesn’t work on me so why should it work for the boy in this story?

    5 what the boy probably needs is a friendly uncle figure to take him down the park a few times a week while the mother had someone to talk things over with

      • I don’t understand this comment. Can you explain it? I know of Temple Grandin’s work but I fail to see the relevance of her work to either this article or my comment.

        I guess you are saying the boys diagnosis has something to do with the difficulties he and his mother are having, where as I differ on that point of view. However that may not be relent to my comment, which basically points out that the mother was given similar treatment plans over and over again.

        You may also be saying that behavioural approaches work for some people but not others. I hope you are not saying it works for the stupid but not so well for the clever, but it might be that you are saying this.

        There is a quote from someone that says no matter what approach a therapist (or anyone else really), whether psychodnamic or behavioural or whatever it won’t be of much help unless offered with love. I believe that there is now some research that shows this to be true, although the research does not talk of love, it says the important factor is the relationship between the client and the therapist as assessed by the client. This is pretty much what happens in the rest of life, we learn from those who we respect and like, and not from those we don’t.

  7. Thank you so much for writing this. This is such an important message to deliver right now. I’m not sure which is worse, the voices of arrogant “experts” talking down to persons with lived experiences or the voices of those who believe they are “helpful” and think that somehow because they are family that somehow gives them permission and authority to speak about and FOR persons with lived experiences, or that somehow it makes threatening, intimidating and coercing such persons OK.

  8. A wonderful piece. It is worth adding that there are legions of licensed mental health clinicians who are very much in line with Ms. Delano’s perspective on mental Health as opposed to mental illness. These therapists are ready, and very much capable of offering corrective experiences for those who are unsure of how to make this sanity-filled journey on their own.

    • Dear Paul F,

      ///It is worth adding that there are legions of licensed mental health clinicians who are very much in line with Ms. Delano’s perspective on mental Health as opposed to mental illness. These therapists are ready, and very much capable of offering corrective experiences for those who are unsure of how to make this sanity-filled journey on their own. ///

      You seem ready to make a few dollars on the vaccum left by the disparition of psychiatry offering a “sanity-filled journey. Aren’t you?

      Mrs Delano mission on earth has not got space for money makers on her plans for the well-being of humanity.

      She will just suppress any need of therapist by some sort of wonderful new era for humanity.

      • Well, I myself would much rather have ANYTHING that Lsura offered in her “wonderful new era for humanity” than ANYTHING that the present so-called “mental health” system offers. At least Laura will give you a choice about whether you want what she offers or not, unlike the present system where the professionals absolutely “know” that they are the experts on your life and force you to follow what they decide for you, whether you like it or not.

  9. It seems to me that mother and son could benefit from “the open dialogue” approach and not psychiatric meds and labelling. These two don’t communicate.The mother is behaving just as badly as her son: all she does is antagonise him. He obviously will resent a mother who drags him to psychiatrists and treats him as “mentally” ill” I certainly would have in his shoes.

  10. Articulate as ever; thank you for your perspective Laura. Human emotions can be painful; I read the blog and felt pain for the mother’s lack of social support and especially for the child’s lack of social support. As you so eloquently state, the underlying assumption is wrong. Mental distress is natural emotional distress; it is not a biological dysfunction. The Us vs. Them is wrong, and causes most of our social problems. It is child abuse for a mother to broadcast a belief that her son is a future mass murderer.

  11. Thank you for this post. I know I am preaching to the choir, but here is my response to the conversation. We all need support and help: the victims, the victimizers, their parents, families, the helpers, and our communities. This is because, as we all know, our society is decaying and is sick. The help we all need though is not more of the traditional, legitimized mental ‘health’ system. Not a mental ‘health’ system that is hyper-individual and based on the medical-bio-chemical model of mental ‘illness’. Not a mental ‘health’ system with a goal of helping so called ‘broken’ people adjust to society with pills and diagnoses. We need more progressive, relationship-focused and humane treatments based on growth, development, building community and connection with one another.

  12. Hey, Laura!

    You know that I value your voice and wisdom as true gold in a tarnished world.

    I don’t think people quite understand how close this is for some people. It took me hours of facebook commenting to work out my thinking about the bigger picture.

    For the sake of transparency, I actually do have a political agenda.

    I’d very much like to see our cultures and public agencies promote health and healing.

    I’d like very much for people to be informed and empowered.

    I’d appreciate human rights being honored and upheld.

    All of these are both personal AND political interests. I don’t see where the line between the two realms is when I think about simply wanting the world to be a more compassionate, reasonable, and uplifting place.

    I do, after all, live here. It is my human responsibility to be concerned when our culture and practices are structured in such a way that children are routinely harmed in ways that are deep and lasting, and which do pose a threat to our society, because a lot of really brilliant, good-hearted and special people are getting lost.

    It is my human responsibility to care that, over the past fifty years, massive economic systems of great influence have created and enforced a normative culture that promotes violence, bullying, war, despair and cheap exploding plastic thrills.

    I keep waiting for something to give the world that big bright *a-ha* – the tipping point in the revolution of the human heart, where people look around and shake their heads and say, “Whoa! What the hell is going on around here? We are paying people to hurt our kids and we think it is the right thing to do? That’s crazy!”

    I wish that people would value the stories of the survivors more, and that they would, without debate or critique, receive the gifts we offer when we hope with all our hearts for the futures of all the kids that remind us of the kids we were.

    I want all those kids to survive, for the sake of their stories and so that their mothers would have better stories to share over coffee.

    When I first read the I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother piece, I felt very conflicted. I didn’t want to judge, but I was like, “Really!? Really! Oh, no…she didn’t really write that…” and I thought about all the reasons a mother might frame her child in such a way: fear caused by being misled, misinformation, stress, confusion, frustration, revenge…attention?

    I have to tell you, as a mom, I’ve noticed that there are some really peculiar social scenes that have arisen around pediatric psychiatry, mothers over coffee after the screaming preschool drop-off. “He finally got into so-and-so center. The appointment is 3 months out. Maybe they’ll be able to figure out a diagnosis.”

    Really, it’s like a subculture amongst middle/upper middle class mom’s. It’s great that the mothers support one another in talking about their children’s difficulties, trading behavior modification strategies and medication side effects, opinions about whether syrup or sprinkle-form are easier to administer.

    What are they supporting and why?

    Everyone loves a tragedy, to shake their heads and say how hard it all is…and it is hard.

    However, maybe we ought to be having a different conversation. Maybe we should be talking about just how hard it really is, and why, and how we all experience that struggle in different ways.

    It is hard to raise a deeply sensitive child, because the world is no place for sensitive children these days.

    Instead of trying to change kids, why don’t we try to change the world?

    There are so many bright, sensitive, brooding and thoughtful kids, with deep feelings and vivid dreams, a depth of fascination for the things that other people don’t notice and a unique way of making their own world to be in…kids who struggle to go out walking and talking and playing in the ways we wish they would, because we think that’s what it means to be happy, to be normal.

    What if they are happy, just being who they are? What if the reason they become angry, the reason they become depressed, is because someone isn’t letting them be who they are or refuses to help them to find ways to both be who they are and to be in the world as they are expected to be?

    It wrecks a kid to feel that their grown-ups don’t like them.

    Kids, especially little kids, don’t know anything about criteria or treatment goals, they just know that being held down is frightening and that they have to have shots or take pills to make them “sweet, so that you can go to school.”

    Thank you so much for devoting so much of your heart and wonderful mind to writing and working and living as an advocate.

    Much Love.

  13. Hi Laura, I’ve tended lately to shy away from debates that involve other peoples’ subjective perceptions and personal choices (I mean, we’re all so limited in our perception of others, anyway, I tend to stick to simply living my life my way, and leave it at that), but this paragraph toward the end really caught my attention. I do relate so completely with what you say here, and you express this so beautifully and clearly, that I feel compelled to re-print it. This is exactly what happened with me, as well, and I exactly how I feel. This could have easily come out of me, and in fact, I say the same thing in the film I made about healing, and whenever I share my story publically–

    <>

    Indeed, waking up to ‘the utter insanity in all of this’ is exactly what did the trick for me, also, allowing me to integrate after two decades of feeling emotionally and spiritually fragmented due to buying into the crap being doled out to me (and countless others).

    Thank you for sharing your truth so eloquently. This is what I hope to see more of, people shouting out about how getting AWAY from the mental health field–from that painfully academic, fear-based, and divisive perception of humanity–along with its terribly misguided brand of ‘healing,’ is what allows true heart, mind, and soul healing to occur.

    Warm regards,
    Alex.

    • Hmmm, not sure what happened there, the passage I lifted to quote didn’t make it in the reply! I’ll try again. This is the passage to which I refer above:

      “I am grateful to say that the stars aligned differently for me and I ended up heading in the exact opposite direction— to less, less, less, and then, to none. I can state in all honesty that every ounce of growth I’ve made in the last few years— my reclaiming of Self, of my dignity, of my sense of rightness with the world— has come from leaving the “mental health” system behind. From getting off psychotropic drugs, and from leaving behind the “mentally ill” identity, despite being told year after year that I would spend the rest of my life having to work hard to manage my “serious mental illness”, and that I should adjust my expectations accordingly. It was when I woke up to utter insanity in all of this, not when I got into more “treatment”, that I was able to grow into the responsible, accountable, productive, healthy, contended and grateful member of the human family that I am becoming today.”

  14. “I am grateful to say that the stars aligned differently for me and I ended up heading in the exact opposite direction— to less, less, less, and then, to none. I can state in all honesty that every ounce of growth I’ve made in the last few years— my reclaiming of Self, of my dignity, of my sense of rightness with the world— has come from leaving the “mental health” system behind.”

    I would really like to hear more about this journey. I’m sure it was no easy feat, but HOW does a person go about breaking away from the MH system? Do you have any suggestions for a person who would like to help a loved one break away and find a healthier approach to their issues than taking more and more mediactions that are obviously not helping the situation?

    Thank you so much for this piece and I pray your continued success and happiness on your life journey.

    ~Tommie~

  15. Almost four years ago my life had completely changed. Severe anxiety and depression. I didn’t know what hit me. Million of symptoms, panic attacks, FEAR. Fear of everything and powerful violent hallucitations, insomnia… Beyond all the loss of identity. The worst thing was lack of knowldege of what was going on. I went to see my doctor who told me I suffer from depression and that serotonin level is probably low and gave me the meds, benzos and an antidepressant. Ad she gave an advice to make better choices in future. So I went out of the office in a bigger fear and again without any explanation of what was going on. One day, I was reading an article. It was an article also about the shooting in USA, but the person who did it was described as a person who had anxiety issues. In the state of fear I was in I immediately BELIEVED that I will do it to, surely. But, happily, I had a therapist who understood well anxiety and depression, and I must say that he wasn’t from my country (Croatia) but from Canada. He told me, Zrinka people with anxiety issues are the last people on the world who would do it. It’s only fear. I understand what impact can have the articles, like the one we are all discussing about, on us who have the experience with different mental states. Pepole are afraid even when someone mentiones the mentall illness, they don’t want to talk about it and they lack of knowledge. That’s the biggest problem of all, lack of knowledge. Mentall illness has always had a bad reputation and a stigma attached to it. So when I saw on my facebook page different journalists (again from my country) putting this article, I went mad. I immediately reacted by telling them it is very dangerous tu put everything in the same basket and to label it mental illness and not to offer a different perspective. There are many possible reasons why he did it. It is already hard as it is, and they have to think about the consequences. But they didn’t react. There are only few newspapers who gave another perspective. The newspapers are interested in gaining more readers and such an article certainly has done that. And I’m sad about that that. And now a lot of people thinks that people with mental illness are violent. I’m mad at the newspapers and all the journalists who contributed in creating such an opinion. I’m speaking more than ever about it, and doing everything that I can in raising awareness of people around me that they don’t have to be afraid of people who are just different from them. In the end I’m free of meds for the past 2,5 years, and doing well by being different. English is not my native language, in case you encounter spelling mistakes :).

  16. Always enjoy reading you LD, even if I don’t totally agree. In reading the original essay, I felt compassion for a mother who feels she is in a desperate situation with a potentially dangerous child who she wants to help, but cannot understand. I certainly wouldn’t advocate pumping him full of thorazine or forcing him into a locked psych ward, but I feel this analysis is a little one-sided in not acknowledging the mother’s predicament and addressing the question of what society should do about the Adam Lanza’s out there. Maybe that’s been discussed elsewhere on this blog and I’m giving away my ignorance – but I certainly think that when there are warning signs, something should be done by the parents. But what? It seems to me that that discussion is the better jumping off place from the label of ‘mentally ill’.

    I would like to see a cohesive discussion – which I realize is outside the scope of MIA – on gun control, armed officers in schools, and mental health treatment & alternatives (I know MH isn’t a popular terms around here but I don’t know what else to call it) as ALL a part of the solution to avert these kinds of tragedies.

    • Hi, Adam,
      Yes, the mother was desperate, but nothing I read in what she wrote convinces me that her desperation was nothing more than not knowing how to get better results. Since she is prepared to go public to win our sympathies for the state she is in, she should be prepared to have people like me pass judgement on what she wrote. She hasn’t done of good job of convincing me that her son is deserving of a mental health label. What I see is a rules based mom – – an ultimate control freak who met her match – that came across loud and clear. I have known other mothers like her. They pick and choose their rules, and the rules are always changing. I’ve been guilty of the same zero sum game with one of my sons. What I see in her blog is a kid who doesn’t like being told what to do. That’s not a mental illness. He’s her match, but instead of her seeking help for herself, she wants more mental health services for him, as if that’s going to “fix” him. It often takes more than 14 years (the age of her son) to learn to live with someone in peace and harmony. She’s not doing her homework.
      …Rossa

      • That’s how I saw it Rosa. It looked like a mother who was trying to lay the law down to an intelligent child who wanted to discuss things and make up his own mind. I suspect I’m slightly more sympathetic to the mother for her situation though I was disgusted by the way this article went viral and linked a mass killing to a very angry child.

    • Justin,

      I am yet to met an adult with Asperger’s syndrome who has not been suffering at main stream schools and had not been bullied and abused.

      One very gentle adult man working as a shop assistant in UK told me that he was expelled from school for throwing a classmate through a window after months and month of bullying but after a small additional comment. Just an exemple and I am bo saying that Adam lanza had been an aspie.

      From Temple Grandin, an autistic very bright woman who got a very nice education in” Animals in translation”:

      Teasing hurts. the kids would tease me , so I’d get mad and smack ’em. That simple. They always started it, they like to see me react. My new school solved that problem The school had a stable and horses for kids to rid, and the teachers took away privileges if I smacked somebody. After i lost privileges enough times I learned just to cry when somebody did something bad to me. I’d cry and that would take away the aggression. I still cry when people are mean to me.///

      It is unfortunate that so many very bright autistic persons who haver so much for society do not get a speacil needs education.

      And by the way, the mother was acting right by suppression the ptivilege of videogame to try to make her son understand that his behavior has to change…

      The trouble with political agendas is that sometimes one just refuses to see the issues at stake.

      Not to mention anonymous Münchausen by internet who always provides some anonymous with lexible personnal stories to make their point, like having had a wonderful mother or a very bad one according to the need of the narrative…

      By the way, autistic persons and family do not want to be considered mentally ill but born different with a lot of good autistic qualities as well as social challenges.

      • I’m wondering what the term, “Political Agendas,” means?

        To me it sounds like you mean, “Any opinion that is different from mine,” but I may be wrong. An fuller explanation would help.

        Do you have peer reviewed studies that show that suppression of privileges is a successful approach compared to others? If not do you have other evidence? Personal experience for example?

        In my experience that sort of behavioural approach works with some children very well, but not with others. Also, it depends on who is administering it and with just how much conviction they do so. So it maybe that the mother in this situation did not have the personal conviction to make it effective or it maybe that it would not help this child. After all she said she had been given many other behavioural schedules before. So what ever she was doing it was not working and had not done so for quite a long time.

        There is a psychotherapist and children’s activist in the UK, Camila Batmanghelidjh, who says that punishment does not work with some children. She says they don’t learn from punishment but instead think that you hate them. It is a point of view from a respected therapist and activist.
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9709000/9709519.stm

        My experience of working in a school with a lot of behavioural problems is that it was the qualities of the teacher that was important rather than any behavioural policy that was in place.

  17. While I did not agree with the original article that has been circulating, I do not entirely agree with yours as well. I can undrestand your viewpoint, but I don’t feel that it is right to downgrade the entire mental health system. The feeling I got from your article was that you were ashamed to be labled as having a “mental illness”. Mental illness is a disease just like cancer and diabetes. Would you have felt that way if you had cancer? While I agree that the involuntary committment process does need to be “fined tuned” and changed for the better, the system that is in place is all that we have for the time being. Rather than ranting about how horrible it is, perhaps you could channel that energy into making some positive changes in it. I feel that all your article did was add to the stigma that surrounds mental illness and prevents people from seeking help. Perhaps I misunderstood…I hope I did. As a nation and as local communities, we need to educate ourselves about mental illness and not make a taboo subject that is something to be feared or ashamed of.

    • Are you talking to Laura? Channel that energy into making some positive change?

      LOL

      http://youtu.be/4Opu6dzVFqs
      Laura Delano – Occupy the APA – Oct 2012

      http://youtu.be/yj5wfS0WXrQ
      Laura Delano at Occupy the American Psychiatric Association, May 5, 2012, in Philadelphia
      (DO Notice the channel owner, Jim Gottstein, and you’ll find this message on his channel’s landing page:

      The PsychRights Channel is part of the public education program of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights exposing the truth about psychiatric practices. See, http://psychrights.org)

      Ashamed? Are YOU? Are you one of those people in society who want to have us all FORCEFULLY “treated” for our own good?

    • Hi Lesfleurs,

      It is so great that you found Laura’s piece somehow; from my experience before I knew where to look, it was very difficult to find good information outside of the mainstream accepted “mental health treatment” paradigm. So glad you did. I hope you’ll share it with others.

      I cannot speak for Laura of course, but I can say that there are many people who want to spread the word, increase scholarship, take action, do whatever it takes to show that the “mental health” system- for whatever it was once intended- does more harm than good, and that it is absolutely NOT all we have. We have each other. I used not to have faith in “each other”; I thought some System must be in place. But I can see so clearly now that the System has not done such a great job supplanted communities and families and friends, where I find my Real Support nowadays. The more and more I learn, the more I am convinced that people would be best off if they were encouraged to seek help among each other.

      Welcome! And keep reading! This site has a lot of good information. And read Robert Whitaker’s book if you have a chance! It’s fantastic.

    • It would be helpful if in future, Lesfleurs, you did some research preparatory to making such untenable analogies.

      You can’t compare cancer to “mental illness”. There is no evidence of histopathology that could be adduced in support of a claim that someone has “mental illness”. “Mental illness” is contingent upon cultural context; not so with cancer.

      One of the obvious differentials between psychiatric diagnoses (brown-standard diagnoses) and diagnoses made by mala fide medical professionals (gold standard diagnoses) is that conflict is not an important determining factor with the latter species of diagnosis.

      A diagnosis of cancer does not function in situations of conflict as a linguistic instrument employed in furtherance of ignoble interests. In an acrimonious dispute between two individuals or groups, people don’t assail each other with insults disguised as physical diagnoses like diabetes or cancer.

      As for your support of this vast pus-filled canker in the existential and biological decay of millions we call the “mental-health system”, if I want to slag off slavery, con-artistry, exploitation, hypocrisy and torture, then I will do so, and in good conscience.

      What we call the “mental-health system”, has grown out of soil fertilized with the blood of countless millions of people, and I couldn’t possibly support it without bartering my principles.

    • No, experiencing mental anguish is not like having cancer or diabetes. There is nothing biological about suffering from so-called “mental illness.” This is the same kind of argument that biopsychiatry pushes out to try and maintain its hold and power over people in the system.

      Laura is doing somehing postive to create a better system of care for those of us labeled as being mentally ill. I disagree totally with you when you state that her article increases the stigma of what we have to deal with on a daily basis. The present system is responsible for the deaths and the destruction of thousands of lives and it’s time for it to be put in its grave. By the way, if supposedly being mentally ill is like diabetes or cancer, why have thousands of people recovered their well being and health and moved on with their lives? Numerous psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and therapists were once described by psychiatry as being profoundly and incurably schizophrenic but they went on to become wonderful people helping us outside of the system.

      Look to your own advice and become better educated about what is referred to as being mentally ill. Stateing that is’t like cancer or diabetes is not a good way to begin a discussion on MIA.

  18. Laura, Thanks for your powerful and eloquent statement. Whenever I read an article like Lisa Long’s I try to figure out what’s missing from this story—a lot (see below). What we do know is that her son is now launched upon a career as a chronic mental patient–and will be subject to the kind of horrors you describe.Unfortunately most subjected to that kind of conditioning never break out. The answers Long seeks are within the parameters of: “How can I fix Michael? “

    Shortly after I completed my doctorate in psychology in 1984 I discovered family therapy. It was burgeoning at that time and many of us thought it would replace psychoanalysis as the dominant paradigm. It was a radical alternative approach but it’s since been coopted by the mental health system. After I studied with the leading theorists/ practitioners– including Salvador Minuchin and Jay Haley– I thought my future was wide open in a seemingly growing field.It wasn’t. Within a couple years due to my position on psychiatric drugs I was unemployable.(Unless I wanted to sell out.) The drugs as MIA readers know are harmful, but it should also be noted that as long as persons take them they are locked in the role of chronic patient. Thus I agree with you Laura in looking forward to a future in which the “mental health” system no longer exists. I believe family therapy originally had extraordinary potential, but it is a threat to the drug industry so it will not be used. The experts today may bring in “family therapists” but they will not be applying the original “systemic” paradigm.

    What was revolutionary about family therapy as originally conceived was it rejected the idea of mental illness; in fact the act of defining a person in the family as “mentally ill,” as a patient, reflects the dysfunctionality of the family, and perpetuates it. The therapist is supposed to break this cycle. She does this by 1) understanding the situation through the use of a revolutionary “non-linear” “systemic” epistemology in which “symptomatic behavior” is viewed within the context of all the relationships that constitute the family and 2) making therapeutic interventions based upon her non-linear understanding. If the therapist does not do this, if for example she accepts the family myth that the “identified patient” (IP) is really a patient, she has become coopted into a destructive system. The victim is the person labeled mentally ill. As I have saw once in the system it is impossible to break out, every act the IP commits is seen as proof of her illness or her badness. Within the system the IP’s life, as you chronicled, becomes a living hell.

    I look at Lisa Long’s story and try to find out a clue to the family dynamics that leads her son to act out. My premise is that everyone in the family system has an impact upon Michael. That is a systemic analysis. Who is his father? Does he have one that is known? What role, if any, does he play in his son’s life? Why is he not even mentioned? Was Michael adopted? It is not uncommon for parents locked in an adversarial relationship to drive their child crazy even if (or I should say especially if) they rarely see each other. Lisa does not even consider it relevant to mention the nature of her son’s relationship with his father, or the fact that he has no relationship—that tells us something about her, and her understanding of “psychology.”
    Also we know that Michael’s younger siblings are in the role of protecting their mother from their brother. That is an inappropriate role for Michael’s siblings and it is a humiliating situation for Michael to be in. For family therapist it is a factor in the dysfunctionality of this family.

    Lisa writes, “We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael.” The MIA reader will of course notice the premise that the problem lies within Michael—and that to Lisa an acceptable “answer” must accept this premise. But notice also the pronoun. After Michael exhibited odd behavior at school, it is decided to transfer him: “We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program.” Who is this missing “we”? Is it a therapist? A boyfriend or girlfriend? The father and ex-husband? Whoever he or she is, he/she plays a critical role in Long’s life (even if absent) and thus in Michael’s life. These are the kind of question a genuine family therapist, i.e., one with a systemic paradigm, would ask. The fact that the missing “We” slips into the text accidentally tells us something about the nature of the family system:It’s dysfunctional and Michael has become the scapegoat.

    The scapegoating process—as R. D. Laing showed in his books on the family—can often be insidious. The more Michael resists the more he confirms the family worst fears. The difference between today and the era when drugs were restricted to a small group of the so called mentally ill is that the therapist play an active role in confirming that identified patient is a real patient. When Michael misbehaves he is taken to a total institution in which he is treated punitively and given the message that he is BOTH bad and mad.So Michael’s place in his family is not secure—any time he misbehaves he is shipped away.

    Back in the 1980s I thought family therapy would be a way of extricating young people and particularly “schizophrenics” from the role of IP. Today the typical family therapist is brought in to discuss how we can get Michael to behave and to take his medication. He is an adopted member of a dysfunctional family. Like Laura I look forward “a future in which the “mental health” system no longer exists [and] the phrase “mental health” is no longer in our vocabulary.”
    Seth Farber, Ph.D.

    • My brother did some very disruptive acting out and I can tell you it was because of the intense dysfunction in my family. All of the children were scarred in different ways.

      I don’t mean to blame the mother in these situations, either, but I agree with Seth Farber, there’s probably something gone awry with the family dynamics. “What’s wrong with Michael?” is likely something he can’t voice without implicating both of his parents.

    • Laura, Faith, and Seth

      The combination of your three contributions in this particular blog thread have raised the level of this discussion to new heights.

      Laura once again in her profound writing style has used her own experience to indict Biological Psychiatry and their entire system of so-called mental health treatment in this country. She has raised a powerful defense of the millions of young “Michaels” in this country being preyed upon by the medical model of treatment.

      Faith, your overall analysis and especially your statement “Instead of trying to change kids, why don’t we try to change the world?” literally jumped off my computer monitor. You are so right – there is nothing wrong with having a “political agenda” if that agenda will in fact help make the world into a better place. It reminds me of those on the “right” that criticize “political correctness.” What the hell is wrong with being “correct!” There are truths in this world that can be discovered and understood and then applied to transform our reality in a more humane direction. Racism, sexism, and the oppression of those labeled “mentally ill”, together with all the language that supports these type of problems, are both harmful and wrong and it is correct to oppose them. We all have much work to do to find the correct political agenda to advance our struggle.

      Seth, your penetrating and critical analysis of that woman’s essay on her son, Michael, brought back all my past exposure to family systems work and reminded me how much Biological Psychiatry has buried this approach to understanding what’s really going on in the family dynamic and how to work towards helping people find their own family solutions. On a broader societal scale this system, in response to this tragedy, will continue to scapegoat Adam Lanza, his parents, and other so-called caregivers as having failed us. They will only target the symptoms of much larger problems and direct our attention away from a truly diseased and sick way of treating those people in our society who are experiencing extreme states of psychological distress. And they will divert our attention away from all the oppressive institutions in our society that create enormous stressors on daily basis for millions of people.

      It is only by speaking out with such powerful words and ideas (that you three have so eloquately done) that we can counter the backward summations and proposals likely to come forward in the coming months. Great job; let’s find a way to spread these words far and wide.

      Richard

    • Well Seth, that made me think. It’ll keep me thinking for hours to come and I might even come back and read it again.

      The comments about Michael’s siblings protecting the mother and how they might experience this was especially interesting (chilling? enlightening?) but the other comments are also food for thought on this Christmas Eve.

  19. So much deep heart wounding and rage embedded in these discussions around the current state of mental health–probably because carrying these around is what most adversely affects our mental health and creates division–both, intrapsychically and in society. My question would be how to heal rage before it escalates into internal or external violence, either emotional or physical?

  20. What saddens me as I’ve come to the end of the responses to Laura’s article is that fact that the wider world will not read her eloquent article nor will it see all of the informative discussion from you all. Why is it that an article written by Michael’s mother will go viral while something that’s adds intelligence to the discussion about Adam Lanza’s actions, like Laura’s response, will probably get very little attention outside of MIA. It’s just another indication that our society has huge issues that we must contend with and solve.

      • Okay. First of all; I am not a chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, I am a peer worker. You probably already know this but peer workers are people working in the mental health system who have a history of being in the system. In my training as a chaplain I did my clinical pastoral training in a medical hospital and in the largest psych hospital on the Gulf Coast here in America. Before I was a hospital and nursing home chaplain I was a high school teacher and was the head of my department. Before that I was in the seminary training to be a Roman Catholic priest. I decided against that because of the refusal of the Church to move into the modern world and decided I could do more good outside of the Church rather than inside of it. All of my training and work history is for the service of others. I haven’t always done my work perfectly but I’ve tried to do the best I could at that particular time.

        I was thinking about the indicdent that I shared with you about my sister attacking my mother. All of a sudden I remembered that this incident was the third time that my sister had attacked my mother. For some reason I’d blocked out the other two incidents. Anyway, the first time my sister tried to strangle my mother. The second time she tried to use a butcher knife on her. The third time both my sister and her boyfried were holding my mother down on the ground and were chocking her. To protect herself she had to go after them once she got loose, to make them leave the area. This is what I refer to as “beating the whoops out of them.” I think I would have done much worse to my sister than she did but that’s neither here nor there. Frankly, if it had been me, by the third time I’d have had my sister carted off to the psych hospital but I was not an “enlightened” person at that time. I had to get into the system and experience it for myself to realize what a complete and dangerous mess it is. Anyway, my point remains that my mother never held any of this against my sister and always loved her, no matter what. I don’t know how she did it and you’re very right, I’ve come to realize that my mother was very unique and that I can’t judge all mothers by her. She accepted no excuses, demanded only the best from her kids, and was always totally supportive and loving at all times.

        I appreciate your love, loyalty, and intense dedication to people who are labeled as people with Asberger’s. I’ve probably misspelled it. I don’t think anyone is attacking these people nor are they denying that they are very unique. Of all places, I can’t see people who post here discriminating against anyone, especially these people that you seem to care so much about. I’ve never met Laura but have come to respcet her for her writing and her intelligence and for her willingness to move into recovery and well being when she could very easily have stayed in the system until it killed her.

  21. Hi Laura, thank you for sharing your very personal experience. I agree that people should stay away from anything resembling psychiatry. I too am just over 2 and a half years free from psychotropic medication and can only describe my recent and ongoing experiences as torture. If you hadn’t lived it, you wouldn’t believe it is all that I can say. But you are absolutely spot on about everything and have such a way with words that couldn’t help but plant doubt about psychiatry’s ‘treatments’, in even the most sceptical doctor. Thank you.

  22. I’ve wondered for awhile now if this site counts a single click per IP address or if it simply counts all clicks so I just rapidly opened about 40 tabs of one page and check the view count and it had risen accordingly. So, instead of perhaps 10,000 people reading this post, it is more likely that 1,000 people read it ten times.

  23. Many, many kudos for such a beautifully-written and necessary article. It’s richly but tragically ironic that Ms. Long’s thoughtless comments will end up only hurting more children. I am seeing more people jumping on the ‘my child will hurt/kill’ bandwagon, with no thought to the types of healing that really works. It seems like in America we only think about solving problems when tragedy happens, and then, we try the quickest, knee-jerk ‘solutions.’

  24. Looks like I’m a bit late to the party. I wish I’d seen this article sooner. I’ve spent nearly my entire professional life working with “difficult” genius children as well as their families. I chose this career primarily because of my own experiences while growing up as a high IQ child with average IQ parents. Though thankfully, this was in the days before “mental illness” had been invented and introduced to the mainstream of society and medical practise. God knows what I would have become had I been born 2-3 decades later.

    Laura, you are very brave to have come forward with your story. It is a story I have heard far too many times from kids all over the nation who were labeled with one (or two or three or ten!) of these so-called “mental illnesses” and then suffocated, dehumanized and often ultimately destroyed by the system supposedly designed to “help” them. The world desperately needs more people like you to share their stories publicly and help to expose our mental “health” system for what it truly is.

    Marian Goldstein makes a great point regarding Liza Long and parents like her. Very often, these parents are incredibly insecure about themselves as a result of their child’s superior intellectual capabilities (in Liza Long’s case, we don’t need to look any further than her blogger.com screen name to see her insecurity and “veiled” narcissistic nature). These parents become obsessed with building up their own reputation so much that it essentially becomes a pathology. A true pathology. These parents will go to any lengths necessary to have those in their social circle (and sometimes the whole world) believe that they are the world’s greatest parents, even if this means sacrificing the actual well being of their child.

    Yes, single divorced mother’s have a tough life. This does not give them the right nor an excuse to exploit their children and use them as mere tools to garner sympathy for themselves and their own personal shortcomings. The people who hail Liza Long as “brave” or a “hero” make me sick. The brave ones and heroes are the VICTIMS of parents like her and our corrupt, dysfunctional mental “health” system who have decided to come forward, share their stories and demand that the REAL problems be dealt with.

    In the case of people like Ivana Fulli – it is only natural for these “experts” to respond with attitudes of hostility and defensiveness toward people who bring forward the true facts about our mental “health” system, as these “professionals” will be out of work once these so-called “illnesses” and “treatment” systems as well as the individuals behind them are exposed to the world for what they truly are.

    Most “professionals” will always defend the parents in cases like Liza Long’s, because it is these parents’ blind faith in the “wisdom” of psychiatry that allow the psychiatrists to continue running their evil practise. Likewise, it is the “expert’s” defense of these parents which allows the parents to continue self-soothing in their fantasy world where they are victims and their child is simply a “bad egg”, preventing them from even considering trying to understand the true issues behind their child’s “problems” (which is very often the parent themselves).

    Asperger’s syndrome, as is the case with all other so-called “mental illnesses” that children like Liza Long’s son are so often “diagnosed” with – has a diagnostic criteria based upon nothing more than the psychiatrist’s personal opinion. There is no science behind it whatsoever. It is “diagnosed” using a checklist of “symptoms” whereby if a child meets enough of them, he/she can then be labeled an “Aspie”. It’s really that simple. Furthermore, this checklist continues to have new “symptoms” added year after year, making it so that today, even the slightest childhood “quirks” which these children may possess (very often a result in some way or another of their superior intelligence) can now be considered “symptoms”.

    Yes, people and especially highly intelligent children can be socially awkward at times. Yes, people can sometimes have anxiety issues as well. People can also have personality traits which differ from society’s accepted definition of “normalcy”. Each of these “issues” can stem from a variety of different factors. It does not mean that people who exhibit any of these characteristics are “afflicted” with “Asperger’s Syndrome” or any other type of “mental illness”.

    I have met with over 100 children diagnosed with this “Asperger’s Syndrome” throughout the course of my career. Whenever I met one who was “proud to be born autistic”, I would then ask them a series of questions in order to determine what caused them to feel this way. Among questions I normally asked were: at what age were they diagnosed, how long after the diagnosis did they decide to “accept” or be “proud” of it, if they had ever been bullied in school, and how their parents treated them at home.

    Although their answers varied in specifics, the children would always describe some form of treatment which in fact would lead to them simply being brainwashed. Nearly all of them had been bullied in school, some so severely that they had come to believe it was their own fault – that they had to have done something wrong which lead to them to be treated this way, and were willing to accept any explanation by the time they first heard the word “Asperger’s”.

    ALL of these children had also been abused by their parents, constantly telling them that they were “mentally ill”, “disabled”, “not like the rest of us”, etc, while masking this abuse with remarks such as “we love you”, “we only want what’s best for you”, etc. Also telling the children stories of Albert Einstein, Glenn Gould, Abraham Lincoln, Elvis, Bill Gates and others who were “believed” to have had the same “illness” as a way to manipulate them into believing that this “disability” was some sort of “gift”.

    It’s also interesting to note how nearly all of the highly successful individuals used by promoters “experts” on this “illness” as propaganda “examples of famous Aspies” had in fact lived or at least grown up before the actual diagnosis existed – therefore could only be “believed” or “suspected” to have suffered from the “illness” since they were never “officially diagnosed”. Had the diagnosis existed in their times, there is a good chance that each of these amazing individuals would have been subjected to the very same treatment as the “difficult” genius children of today and ended up simply fading into oblivion after a lifetime of ridicule, druggings and institutionalizations, rather than becoming the iconic, legendary figures we know them as today.

    In short, no child is “proud to be born autistic”. They are proud to have explanations for their differences and difficulties. It’s time we started giving them and the rest of society the correct answers and explanations about “mental illness”. The children labeled as “mentally ill” are the victims. Their parents and the mental “health” system are the one’s that need fixing. Period. No ifs ands or buts. End of discussion.

    By the way I have written a blog of my own as well about the truth behind “mental illness” and the true cause of “illnesses” in highly intelligent children. Please give it a read and share it with others if you can. Blogs like this one and mine are the ones that need to be seen by the world. We can effectively silence people like Liza Long and her followers by continuing to raise awareness of the truth.

    Best regards,
    Henry

  25. Thank you so much for posting this. I too have lived with the label mentally ill and felt its damage. This year, at 41 years old, I told my family that I wasn’t mentally ill – that I wouldn’t be the only one whose perception could be faulty. This label, at the hands of parents who refuse to accept responsibility for their part in their child’s behavior is a form of child abuse. We are in love with diagnoses in this country more than we are interested in exploring interpersonal dynamic. Longs blog was driving me nuts as it appeared again and again on Facebook. Thank you for speaking out for Michael in a way that only the “labeled” can.

  26. Thank you so much for this post. I admit that my first response to the mother’s story about her son was one of compassion. However, I grew uncomfortable with it over time for the exact reasons you describe in this post. I, like you, have been that boy at times in my life. Even though my journey through the mental health system started at a later age, I have been there. I have been stripped of nearly everything in a hospital psych ward, and then left with no choice that I could even imagine – except to take mind and body-numbing medications – only to be spewed back into life with no tools to actually live that life . . . except more shit from the mental health system. Reading your story softens my anger a bit, and gives me hope that I can move beyond the massive setback I have experienced as a result of being entrenched in the mental health system.