Thursday, January 13, 2011

Weighing in on the Tucson Tragedy

In all my reading of the sad news story this past week after the massacre in Tucson, one thing stands out to me: The fact that Loughner was mentally ill, and somehow fell through the cracks. He was kicked out of his college for erratic behavior, but that seems to be as far as any sort of intervention when on his behalf.

Was it because he was of legal age? Can a mentally ill person only be committed and get help if they commit themselves to medical care? (I think the answer to that is yes, unless they make a suicide attempt, or kill someone).

There as a clear line in the sand between sanity and insanity and this young man crossed it months ago. His community KNEW he crossed it.

And yet, the people nearest to him were unable to help him, I guess.

It is often very difficult for the people who are closest to a mentally ill person to really see what's going on. Sometimes it's glaringly obvious, when there is a crisis. But when the situation with that person is not a crisis, or has not yet reached a crisis point but has been subtly getting worse for a while, it's easy to be in denial, or to really not know what it going on. I think it's normal to want to withdraw, mentally, from the possibility. It's too much to contemplate or consider, or realize and ackknowledge.

I remember being out on a walk by myself, years ago...when B was only about 11, wondering if she were mentally ill. And worrying about it. And then having that withdrawal reaction. I was seeing the signs...the very beginnings of trouble brewing, but I did not know what to do with that information. So I shut down. But not completely. I did call a doctor and got her some help. The beginnings of help. But things got so much worse from there. But I digress-only to say that I know what it's like to be in the parents' seat.

But here is Laughner, spinning downward, out of control into sociopathic thinking. He was not being silent with his sociopathic thoughts, either. No, he was posting them on youtube and on myspace, etc.

And yet, it's always someone else's problem, isn't it?

Have we, as a society gotten to the point where we can't call someone to accountability when they are clearly sociopathic...until it's too late?


elizabeth said...

This is hard. Especially I think because so many of are so weighed down by our own problems / struggles that we don't know how to deal with one that we see 'out there'...


mamajuliana said...

We have come a long way in our society with many things, but when it comes to mental illness, I don't think that we 'cope' with it well.

I work in s system that is overburdened, so when a call comes in concerning a person with a mental illness the first question there a present crisis? If not the long waiting referals begin. Meanwhile the person might spiral out of control, or just become one of those folks who slip through the cracks--and disappear.

I can't tell you how many times I have talked to case workers and they say things like, 'they are from way back, but I haven't heard from them in a while.' Why NOT!?!?!?

Care is the needed word in this equation. ON GOING care should be the aim rather than crisis intervention.

Part of it is the system, part of it is society. IT is better to look the other way than to get involved with something messy. The MH system doesn't even like it when it gets messy, so you know those in society don't want to get involved!

Out total outlook of care and concern for those who have mental illness needs to be revamped. In order for this to take place we need to genuinely care for the person first. This is difficult because our society is not geared this way...much less the MH system.

Sorry to go off here, but working in 'the system' and having a son with MH issues can just...well, you know.

Athanasia said...

I don't know if the system failed my aunt, or if her brother (my father) did. What I do know is that the law permitted her to make all her own decisions when it came to treatment and medications. She could accept or refuse it all. Most often she refused. When she wandered the streets of the large city near us for two years, there was no recourse for my family. Her 'individual rights' superseded those of the family who wanted to help her and protect her. Each time she attempted suicide, 72 hours of involuntary commitment was all she would do and remain no longer, only to return to the street or home. Not until she attacked my sister, who was an adult at the time, did help occur. Why? Because my sister pressed charges and had her committed. The only one brave enough to do so.

It was and is a messy situation. One that was and is not easy. Fortunately, these events occurred late in my aunt's life. From her teens until menopause she lived a productive, full and fruitful life socializing with friends, dating, traveling to Europe, going on cruises and holding down a job with IBM.


Alana said...

Oh, please don't apologize! We need to tell each other our stories so that we are not so isolated.

Because that "crazy homeless person" is in actuality someone's aunt or...or father, or mother...for sure someone's daughter or son.

We don't spring up in this world from a cabbage patch, and yet the isolation that occurs as a result of our brokenness, and especially for those who are mentally ill, is so very very isolating.

And for the family members its a LONG HARD path to walk beside the person. And it's a commitment to take such a walk-with a broken heart that never heals.

Anonymous said...

The parents did not know what to do because they could not MAKE their child do anything as he was of legal age. Unless he's judged mentally dangerous he doesn't get evaluated properly; the hospital can simply let him go if he's judged of no immediate danger to himself or others and apparently one must be showing active signs of aggression to be 'held' for courts to intervene and 'submit' to evaluative procedures. Parents of the mentally insane suffer just as much as their children in this country, but in a different way. They know their child is not okay, but there is not a damn thing they can do about it unless the child (> 18 yrs old) agrees to treatment and how in hell can they make a legal binding decision when they're already insane. It's crazy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, for so much profanity in that last post. I cry my eyes out when I see me brilliant son suffer, and life pulls and tugs for him to go one way and then another and he doesn't know which way to go, but he wants to be brave and strong and show us that he is, but he is not, and meanwhile everyone despairs.

thegeekywife said...

It is all very sad.
I wish I could say more, but in truth I haven't the words.

Alana said...

Hugs to you, Anonymous, whoever you are. I am there, too, as a parent. So far my dd is still under 18 but I know that she is at very very high risk for discontinuing treatment when she is of legal age. And when she does, it will be bad.

Liz said...

This whole situation happened about a block from my home. I live in Tucson, very close to the Safeway where this whole thing happened and I am the same age as the shooter. It all hits very close to home for me, in numerous, frightening ways.

I was in the hospital when the whole thing happened- on hold because I was suicidal. Still am. I am currently undergoing electroconvulsive therapy. And yet, I am still suicidal, almost worst so than when I was being held in the psych. ward.

I have been to the Safeway where this all happened- there is a huge memorial there- and it is so humbling and overwhelming.

I hope that Laughner is getting the help he needs and I hope that it works, the same way that I hope my ECT will help me feel normal and not want to off myself. Because right now, I'm still pretty suicidal and it sucks. Rest assured, as much as I want to do myself in, I'm only out for myself. I'm not going to be at the root of the next Tucson Massacre.

Blessings to all of you. :-)