Helping a loved one who is experiencing a severe mental illness, especially someone who may not realize they are sick, is one of the greatest gifts you can give. For some, it may mean the difference between life and tragedy. ~ Treatment Advocacy Center
I am writing in regard to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We are all trying to make some sense of this horrible tragedy. It is just unimaginable.
Yet, it is starting to be analyzed and in this analysis one seems to hear the same terms, that it was “evil’ and that the shooter was “demonic.” However, I feel that this tragedy should be put in a different perspective. This young man was not evil; he was confused, overwhelmed, and in a great deal of pain. He had a diagnosis of mental illness that singled him out like a scarlet letter and made it impossible for him to make friends and put him in a situation of ostracism and isolation.
I, myself, know because I walked in his shoes. I was diagnosed as being autistic when I was two. I was home tutored from the sixth grade on as there was no school that could meet my needs. Being different brings such a sense of insurmountable bitterness. Classmates laugh and make fun heedlessly and it chips away at one’s self-worth. That was my story. In my illness, I was just as tormented and angry as he probably was, and even though I now cringe at the memory, I grew up with fantasies of getting my schoolmates into the gym and splattering them with gunfire and putting a pistol to the heads of my antagonists and blowing up the principal’s office.
But, I have found a way back. My diagnosis has been changed to schizoaffective disorder and I am on a successful medication that has stabilized me and I am taking my life back and achieving some of my goals. If only this young man could have received the treatment, help and support that I found; how different this story might have been. There would be no grief or heartbreak on either side. But, his pain and anger unfortunately had the upper hand, and it drove him over the edge.
That is why this situation is a clarion call for the reassessment of our mental health system. There is too much laxity. Persons with symptoms of mental illness in all its forms need to be treated with successful, life-saving medications, hospital stays that are longer than three days, and institutions put in place for long-term care of those with threatening behavior, and uncontrolled symptoms, and most important treatment needs to be easier to access. Assisted outpatient treatment needs to be used in all the states.
Most of all, we need education about these illnesses that cut such a swathe through our society. Ostracism must be replaced with sensitivity and a helping hand extended to those who are suffering and their families. In this way, we can all minimize the possibility that a Sandy Hook will ever happen again.
BRANDON W. FITCH
Brandon Fitch is recovering from a serious mental illness and has received great help from the medication Clozaril (clozapine). He is the program annotator for the Cleveland Philharmonic and the Black River String Quartet. His interests are Russian and medieval history and classical music.