I Refuse to be Adam Lanza’s Mother

Susan Resko, The Balanced Mind Parent Network Executive Director

Please also see Adam Lanza Part 2 and From Heartache to Hope , written in response to your comments.

by Susan Resko, The Balanced Mind Parent Network Executive Director

During this unspeakable national tragedy, our hearts go out to the families whose lives were changed last Friday in Connecticut.

Liza Long’s perspective entitled, I am Adam Lanza’s mom, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother-mental-... has been cyber-flying through the parent network of The Balanced Mind Parent Network, a national advocacy group which educates, empowers and ends the stigma of mood disorders in children, teens and young adults.

Millions of parents can relate to Ms. Long’s pain, anguish and the horrific actions of her son. However, Liza Long need NOT be the mother of a mentally ill child who grows up to commit unspeakable crimes. In fact, people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of crime than to commit crimes themselves.

Ms. Long sounds like an educated and empowered mom; one that does not take her child’s illness lightly. She is willing to do anything to get him proper treatment, even call the police to arrest him, if it comes to that. She followed through on her vow to admit him to a psychiatric unit when he threatened to harm her and himself. She advocated for his placement in a more restrictive school environment. That takes guts, determination and an iron will.

Early intervention can prevent children from growing up to be an Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris. Yet, our society vilifies parents and doctors for treating these very children with one of the best treatments we have today-- medication. Yes, medications can be sedating, and can cause enormous weight gains. Yes, we need more research and better options.

As a mom of a son with major depression, which began at age 5, I wrestled with these messages society sent me for two years. I remember crying myself to sleep when medication was recommended. It broke my heart when my son ballooned from 55 to 95 pounds in a matter of months. But, there were no alternatives. Unless you count jail, or watching your child grow into an Adam Lanza. These were no alternatives for me.

I refused to be “Adam Lanza’s mom.” I chose medication, therapeutic day schools, hospitalizations, residential treatment centers, and every kind of therapy known to man. I fought like a fierce mother bear for my son. Even though society told me that I was a “horrible mom” for medicating my son, I only had to look into his beautiful blue eyes and see the light returning, to know that the medication was working. Yes, it took eight years to find the right medication, and he experienced side effects. But, he has been free of his illness for years. He holds a great job, he’s getting As in college, and he helped build a school in Haiti. He made me belly laugh just this morning and I am blessed to be his mom. Early intervention worked for my son. We are among the lucky ones, and I am grateful every day.

Help us connect more parents to life saving resources before its too late. Help us support the parents who are desperately trying to help their children. www.thebalancedmind.org/donate. Out of the terrible tragedy in Connecticut, make a donation in memory of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary so that society will finally learn that early intervention can save lives.

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i'm not sure why others refuse to be Adam Lanza’s mother, as well, others also would like to become as Adam Lanza’s mother. each one as their own reasons but the only thing i can say is that if ever Adam Lanza’s mother needs therapeutic care then all Adam Lanza’s mother do is go to orthopedic surgeon in fort myers

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This is a comment for Tigers mom. I really feel your pain. I was a practicing clinician and professor when my daughter began acting out. She is bipolar with anxiety disorder and her brother who is much older has bipolar with often severe psychosis. I had to quit my jobs so I could be home and available after I was interrupted too many times at my office and when I had to cancel several well paying clients when the school would call me to come get my child who was barely out of toddler hood. In her teens there were multiple visits to psych hospitals, many different kindsof medication regimes, she self injured, she would attack us etc, Our income took a major dive, which continues to this day as now I have a hard time finding work simply due to my age I think, which is sad because as a clinician who specializes in pediatric bipolar you would think I would be in demand, but I digress. The word I want you to hear is this, My step son who has had many, many psych hospital visits all over the world, and has been on the national news when his psychosis was really out of control is now sucessfully medicated and working and living independantly. My beautiful bipolar daughter has been medication free for 2 years is in college in nursing school, she hasn't had an episode in nearly 3 years and with the exception of her anxiety disorder which seems to be controlled with medical marijuana she has been syptom free. The message is this your children may wind up living successful lives without having to live with you. The loss of income is a bitter pill, I suggest you find a creative outlet, maybe even one that you can earn money with that will help you get through the tough stuff.

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April Redbird Licensed New Mexico Social Worker- Mom of bipolar kids-

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I don't think your article could have had a more controversial title. There is enough judgement in the world. We all have to find what works for our children and I think that there are miles to go in research on mental illness and treatments both, especially for children.

But I wanted to point out that in reference to your comment about they have to pay for it if its the most appropriate placement. If you have ever had to deal with a school system in a big city especially, you know that getting the most appropriate services and placements for your child is near to impossible. They will fight you tooth and nail. And unless you have the money to hire an experienced advocate (I put everything I had towards this) you are not winning that war. And even then, sometimes you need to also hire a lawyer. So folks with little income and folks who are not able to advocate for their children effectively (which some cannot for multiple reasons) they are at a huge disadvantage.

I also want to say that we have NO FACTS about this Lanza family and what was actually happening. So it is really a shame that we keep dragging this poor deceased woman's name into this battle.

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I had read Adam's mom had a lot of alimony money coming in (didn't verify) to treat her son, but the problem remains for many of the battles for treatment and the daily struggle. I am a special education teacher who has a son that has gone through years of mistreatment for ADD (of coarse it had to be my older son is ADD). They are different fathers and I knew he wasn't, but as a rule... had to dismiss first. His biological father and his father before him have been deemed disabled due to severity of there illness. Have been in treatment hospitols or prisons thier whole life (even with Lithium and other treament). My son started treatment when he was 6 or 7.....now almost 12 haven't been able to get/ or afford good treatment. The school will not deliver any services, only at Middle school for 1/2 year, grades fine, and only two contacts of "inappropriate behavior" left us with no services. We struggle at home with extreme anger (physical and verbal), meanness, immaturity....flipping with silly highs and over emotional rebounds. My family doos not support our situation with disbelief or useless judgements. My husband lost insurance...which effects the treatment, I have reached out to County Mental health.....which has been worse for us, however they did rule out ADD will not medicate for bipolar, still charge alot for treatment, and wants us to do weekly counseling but I owe them more than I can pay now. I am awaiting a diagnosis from our local unniversity who completed a full evaluation. I had to resign from my teaching position a while ago to help my son, all this is too demanding and stressful. I can see my son being dangerous if he doesn't get the treatment now. I wish our mental health care provided better care for the children, family, and for our community...BECAUSE IT CAB EFFECT A WHOLE COMMUNITY!
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Jennifer R.

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I had read Adam's mom had a lot of alimony money coming in (didn't verify) to treat her son, but the problem remains for many of the battles for treatment and the daily struggle. I am a special education teacher who has a son that has gone through years of mistreatment for ADD (of coarse it had to be my older son is ADD). They are different fathers and I knew he wasn't, but as a rule... had to dismiss first. His biological father and his father before him have been deemed disabled due to severity of there illness. Have been in treatment hospitols or prisons thier whole life (even with Lithium and other treament). My son started treatment when he was 6 or 7.....now almost 12 haven't been able to get/ or afford good treatment. The school will not deliver any services, only at Middle school for 1/2 year, grades fine, and only two contacts of "inappropriate behavior" left us with no services. We struggle at home with extreme anger (physical and verbal), meanness, immaturity....flipping with silly highs and over emotional rebounds. My family doos not support our situation with disbelief or useless judgements. My husband lost insurance...which effects the treatment, I have reached out to County Mental health.....which has been worse for us, however they did rule out ADD will not medicate for bipolar, still charge alot for treatment, and wants us to do weekly counseling but I owe them more than I can pay now. I am awaiting a diagnosis from our local unniversity who completed a full evaluation. I had to resign from my teaching position a while ago to help my son, all this is too demanding and stressful. I can see my son being dangerous if he doesn't get the treatment now. I wish our mental health care provided better care for the children, family, and for our community...BECAUSE IT CAB EFFECT A WHOLE COMMUNITY!
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Jennifer R.

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I have been a mother battling for years to get my son the help he needs with several misdiagnosis and wrong medications. We struggle everyday with home life and school. I continue this battle and will until we get the answers and proper treatment he needs. I have been having him evaluated since he was 4 yrs old, we now have another evaluation tomorrow and he is now 12 yrs old. I believe that he is Bipolar but trying to get a child that diagnosis is not an easy task. I finally have him in the behavioral program at school where he is doing good grade wise but just this year he has threatened a teacher in a moment of a rage blackout...we are now dealing with court because of a situation at a school dance recently with alcohol. I have him in several appointments a week trying to get him everything that he needs and he also has 2 other siblings in the house. I work full time and have a very supportive husband, family and friends but I am at a loss lately. I am just hoping that this appointment tomorrow will finally give us the answers and help that we need!

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Melissa Perry

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Melissa
I could have written your post! At 14 after 12 years of trying to get someone to listen to me.....my son got diagnosed with PDD, the high functioning autism.
I finally found a psychiatrist who listened and a med is helping. But drugs and alcohol have too been involved. After the suggestion of the school sped Ed director, I asked my inlays to take him to live with them. My husband has AS and he is detrimental to any progress the son makes.

Keep at it...eventually, someone will listen. I almost threw in the towel a number of times.
I sleep on the couch, my son is happier and my NT son is happier too.
Email me if you have questions! Evaatthefarm@hotmail.com
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laurin

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Hi Melissa,
I hope that your appointment goes well tomorrow. If you ever need another parent to talk with who "gets it", feel free to reach out through one of our support resources. If you look under the Connect tab on our website, you'll see that we have Forums, Online Support Groups, and my team, The Family Helpline. Though it sounds like you have the support of your family and friends, it can sometimes help to hear from other families who might be going through similar things. If you have a particular question or would like to talk over the phone, I can have one of the Helpline volunteers contact you.

Best wishes to you and your family,
Karen

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Karen
volunteer, family helpline
dd, born 1988, SAD and Anxiety, lamictal and therapy, graduating this December from college
dd, born 1990, bp, lamictal, welbutrin, neurontin, zyprexa, lithium; graduating (hopefully) in Aug from college

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Thank you so much Karen!

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Melissa Perry

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I sat during my break, reading this article in tears. I thought I was the only parent that felt that my chid was capable of these kind of behaviours. Is it bad that I actually felt relief?
I have been advocating for my son since he was in second grade. Fighting the school to get an IEP. Fighting to keep him in school. Moving and changing school districts to get him more help because there is more money in the district to get him the help he needs. Trying to enroll him in theraputic schools only to be told he doesn't have the right diagnosis to get into their school, it's all funding they say. Changing counselors so many times that I've lost count and not really getting anywhere with any of them.
Exhaustion. Frustration. Overwhelming sadness for both self and child. Wondering if we will every find a solution or a "perfect" cocktail of medications so my son can live a more normal life. Yes he didn't go through puberity normally, yes he rapidly gained weight, but I'd do it all again because once in a while I get to see a glimpse of what my son would be like without these terrible diseases.
I miss my child. He is intelligent, funny, loving and full of life. I love my child. He is irreational, defensive, depressed, manic, full of rage. Where do we go from here without our government stepping in. They are truly the reason, in the State of Ohio, that we do not have the funding that we need. They only want to make changes when these tradegies happen. Unfortunatelly there are many victims and the forgotten ones are the families of the guilty.
Get our children, our families help NOW President Obama. Gun control is important but mental health is even more so. Save our children!
Sorry for the rambling....I just needed to vent today.

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Heidi B

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I am at a loss for words as to the "I refuse to be" I am glad that your child is doing well ....But you are not only misguided your missive was derogatory and insulting to say the least. Mental illness of this scale is for life. How dare you. Alicia

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Alicia (44)
Husband Dave (50)
Lukas (8) PPD NOS? but really after 5 years of different Drs I know he is BP. Just started Lamictal today ..8-27-12. (was on abilify .) still on prozac and Guanfacine. Previos meds include abilify , ritalin and risperdone.
Logan (11) no issues...had to see Dr. after nightmares about his brouther harming him other than that no worries

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As the parent of a child diagnosed with BP at age 5, I appreciate everyone's comments on this thread - and the original post. However, there is an elephant in the room. Would any one of us ever stockpile guns in our home? Can any one of us even imagine taking our mentally ill child to firing range with a semi-automatic weapon?
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Karen
daughter, 14, bp, lithobid, trileptal, seroquel

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I thought the same thing.....I REFUSE to even let my PDD son and NT son even have air soft guns....all their friends have them and I say Oh well!!
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laurin

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Liza Long's brave post creates tremendous opportunity for a dialogue and to let the world know that there are kids suffering out there like her son and her family. You basically went all Pollyanna and didn't address the issue at all. How many regular supporters and posters to your support groups felt after this tragedy, that could have been my kid and the outrage that sparked such violence could have been real or imagined but likely not something that a more typically resilient child or adolescent would respond to with such a virulent response. You have done a disservice. Further, too many reports are going into the fact that she did not shield her son's privacy. That is another double edged sword we all live with - hide our personal tragedies for privacy and fear of spreading stigma - or tell our tale in an effort to bring more resources and understanding. That alone could have been a fascinating component for you to spark a dialogue about.

I am disappointed by both the title and substance of your posting.

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Susan-Clyde@Miami

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One question I have not heard anyone ask is "What incredible and horrible suffering was Adam Lanza encountering that would cause him to take the lives of all those people, including himself?" Those of us who walk alongside someone who is mentally ill, go through much suffering and we live in daily fear. But sometimes, we forget that the torment of our loved one is so much greater. The ability to fix mental health is beyond all of us. God help us!

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Dottie
Daughter who suffered from Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, now deceased. Currently raising 2 grandchilren, ages 19 and 13, who cope with Bipolar and ADHD. Author of the book, "God Placed Her in My Path-Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.

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I am not offended, upset or "disturbed" by Ms. Resko's writing. I think she was merely trying to give a message of hope---sorely needed in these times. I think she was defending those of us that have been made to feel guilty for medicating our children---it happens a lot. Many of us have been made to feel guilty for our children's very legitimate diagnoses. I am happy to have an organization opening eyes to the real possibility of mental illness in children and young adults. I have never found this site to promote medications or diagnoses loosely. I think almost all of us have tried anything--Meds, no Meds, therapies out the ying-yang, diets, schools, parenting classes, etc. to help our suffering children and families. Do we really need to attack a message of hope and personal success? Sad.
I think those of us that have walked this grueling, long and sometimes endless road, should be the last ones to judge. Be it Ms. Lanza, Ms. Long or Ms. Resko. If I have learned anything on my 9 year journey to help my daughter, it is to not judge. I don't think any of these mothers deserve the heartache they endured---and I applaud that Ms. Resko's son is doing well. I read in her message that it IS possible. In no way did I interpret her message to be judgemental of Ms. Lanza.
I think we are highly sensitive to this terrible situation...and rightly so. I would like to think we can support each other. If we lose that....well....one more tragedy.
Frankly, I am horrified at what happened not far from where I grew up. Horrified.
I think if America opens it eyes, hearts and wallets to mental health then perhaps some good can come of this tragedy. I am glad we are least talking about mental health---agree or not. Perhaps mental health care can one day not be shrouded in secrecy, stigma, limited services and poor funding. Let's stop judging and continue the fight we all know all too well. Wishing you hope...

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I was not offended by what Susan wrote and am so confused that so many were. I took what she wrote to be this -

We need to get the word out about Mental Illness so that another tragedy does not happen. That we do not want to be the mother of a person who commits a terrible tragedy.

We are not saying that Adam's mother did not try. What we are saying is that the SYSTEM failed, the mental health system, the education system, etc. We must educate people, ask Congressional leaders for more funds, and encourage research for mental health.

My son, too, is not being helped by medication. He is 10, has been hospitalized 5 times, and is about to be placed in a therapeutic school. I am also looking to send him away to a residential setting for a few months to see if they can offer any answers.

But, I am not offended by Susan. Maybe I read it too flippantly. But what I read, was I REFUSE to allow more of these things to happen. I do not judge Nancy Lanza. I FEEL for her, I feel for the other mother, I feel for all of you.

We must stand together and get help for all of our children and ourselves. Do not judge each other. Do not get offended by each other. Work towards a common goal.

--

Tracy, 38
Husband - Terry, 40
Son - Bryce, 9, Adopted, Bipolar, ADHD, Provisional PDD, Anxiety, Meds keep changing
Son - Cole, 8, Adopted

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Personally I was rather offended by your stance while I am glad things have worked out so very well for your family I am surprised that you of all people would post something like this.

All the resources out there are NOT available to everyone no matter how hard they try, how great their insurance is or how much they spend out of pocket on lawyers doctors and therapist. There are not enough resources to go around and sometimes even the best resources do not help those exceptions.

When I was a member here I talked via the groups to people who did EVERYTHING in their power and were afraid that they someday would be in a position such as Adam Lanzas mother. Who fought for survival daily, who lived in fear of their child. I too have been there and while today things are not as bad as they once was there is still that possibility. I have been attacked by my own child who was wanting to kill me wanting to kill his brother wanting to destroy anyone who came in his path.

Early intervention? I started at age 2 I have faced multiple inpatient stays, residential, meds doctors therapist and more and we have exhausted everything to the point of financial problems. And as for the school paying for it you must be kidding! Legally of course they are supposed to realistically they dont and wont and since the money is in their favor its a battle that cannot be won. I have to watch him every minute of everyday to make sure, at least for now I am NOT Adam Lanzas mother but my day could come as it could come to many people who come to this site for help

So if they have tried everything are they a failure Ms Resko? Not doing enough? not doing the right thing?

I apologize for my tone but I am offended at the way your post came across. It seemed arrogant and condesending to someone who gave up everything to try to help my child and who hit their knees Friday night and thanked God this time it wasnt me and prayed if ever it was there might be more compassion than for Nancy Lanza

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Susan,

I also related to Liza Long's blog post- I lived her life for many years. I know the desperate feeling of trying to find help for your child. The horrible days and the terrifying nights. My family was so fortunate to find a wonderful boarding school where my son has been thriving for the last three years.

Interestingly, when he started, he was on a "cocktail" of 6 different meds. Now, NOTHING! He is med free and happy, regulated, on the honor roll and even popular! I am concerned that you call medication "one of the best treatments we have today."

That wasn't the case for my son- antipsychotics made him psychotic, stimulants made him violent, mood stabilizers made him agitated and irritable. I am not anti-medication. If one pill would have taken away the horror of his behaviors and made him "normal," or even just functional, that would have been great. But once we added an additional med, and then another and another and another, it was a guessing game- and one we shouldn't be subjecting our children too.

Some kids- particularly explosive kids- can't get their needs met living in a family. Right now, my son has a better life away from home than at home. We stopped the endless hospitalization and aggression cycle and it wasn't from meds. I think we owe it to other families to let them know that there are alternatives.

Best,
Lucy Pritzker

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Hi Lucy,
I am a parent volunteer with The Balanced Mind Foundation's Family Helpline. I am so happy to hear that you have found a way to help your son find stability. You are right that there are alternatives to medication and that those alternatives work for some children. We have a Forum called Complementary and Alternative Medications (CAM) where parents who are looking for alternatives can share their thoughts and experiences.

I also wanted to let you know that I edited your post to remove your website from under your signature. We do not allow any advertising on our site, regardless of how well intended it might be.

Best wishes,

--

Karen
dd, born 1988, SAD and Anxiety, lamictal and therapy, graduating in a couple of days from college
dd, born 1990, bp, lamictal, welbutrin, neurontin, zyprexa, lithium; last year of college, continuing to have a lot of bad days

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Hello, I too am a mental health professional (LCSW) with over 28 years of experience in the mental health field AND I have a 12-year-old daughter with rage, mood swings, etc. I went back to reread what you wrote about your success story since I initially felt offended and somehow as though I had not done enough in comparison to your efforts. I felt this way because I have not had the same success, despite Herculean efforts. I then saw that you wrote you were one of the lucky ones. Good save! :-)

My daughter's intervention began at age 5. In spite of an ex-husband who attempted to thwart all of my efforts, having no tangible assistance in daily care of this daughter (and at that time, an infant), having no family in the area, living around those who judged (especially church members), I spent every moment in research, managed to get this child through Kindergarten at a tutorial program, quit my job to take this child out of school (where they threatened her with a paddle), tried meds and natural methods (at same time), tried Brain Music Therapy and neurofeedback, energy methods, parenting methods. I barely slept during this quest. My friend told me I lived on a tightrope with no safety net. Over 6 years later and I still feel like that, except I now have lost hope and any zest for finding resources.

After that first year in the tutorial program, I found a school 100 miles away. This is one of the best schools in the world. Despite my minimal income, I took the plunge, moved a 6 and 1 year old by myself, had no financial support from the dad nor from family. People saw this as unnecessary since schools are supposed to provide schooling. I consulted with 2 special Ed attorneys, both of whom told me I didn't have a case as I pulled my child out of school without a 10 day written notice. Unfortunately, when this child has reached her max tolerance, she goes straight to extreme traumatic reaction. There is no time to deal with school bureaucracy. With the financial award from this school, it cost me $18000 that first year. This was paid from retirement. The school had given me a packet of possible funding sources and foundations. I wrote to every single one of them with no success. I easily spent over 100 hours looking for financial support for this school. Somewhere in there, I had to care for the 1 year old, manage the meltdowns and work my part-time job. I took out a Sallie Mae loan to help and cannot even defer that, now that my income has dropped.

During that second year here, I went through a hideous divorce, with the ex making paranoid accusations against me. This set back the older girl as well, as there was a level of mind control going on. He also told her he was going to hurt me and swore her to secrecy. After I filed for divorce, he put deadbolts on all doors, covered a garage window with newspapers and had to be told 3 times by a Judge to allow me to get my things.

At the time of the move, we had SSI and Medicaid, which helped tremendously. Not being able to work full-time with the care of these 2 girls, I continued to spend down the retirement. I sold all gold and silver, managed to get Food Stamps for one year but couldn't find help with med co-pays. I eventually moved to a cheaper apartment with a serious roach problem. I have researched every sort of social program, med assistance (the dr.'s office did give me cards for 2 meds to reduce prices), housing assistance, etc. I lowered every bill possible, drive an old car with a cracked windshield and many other problems.

School has been a trial. There were 4 years of therapeutic day schools, followed by 5 months of public school, accompanied by an unraveling of all accomplished. I found a unique home school option and that involves minimal costs.

I have 2 wealthy siblings. However, there is a strong belief in my family that we are highly independent. My sister helped me a bit for a year after I had emergency eye surgery ( no insurance). If I purposely make less money to get benefits, I can't pay my bills.

In the past, my daughter was turned down to have a Big Sister since I mentioned her 1st doctor had diagnosed her with ADHD and then Bipolar. They said they couldn't help with dual diagnosis. I filled out paperwork for a CPS-run in-home mental health program. The workers came out and said they couldn't believe all the stuff I had done. We weren't "bad enough" for services. A year later, CPS was contacted by the little one's day care since there were handprint bruises on her arms (after dad's house). They never contacted me. The local child mental health program no longer does in-home services. I asked church people to take one or both girls for an hour on a weekend and it's happened once. Sometimes I have felt like an "untouchable", whereas I once was so social and like a people magnet.

There are hundreds of other efforts I've made to get help and all without people around me. I get some child support but nothing else. It has been my observation that those with great finances get great services. Those at my daughter's old school, which costs $36000/year at full cost, can pay for all sorts of nannies, therapies, etc.

Honestly, this poverty and not being able to pay for services has sucked me drier than the rages. Hard to believe. I am just weary. If this isn't going above and beyond, I don't know what is!

I know I have gone in at length. At the least, this situation has given us a chance to speak our frustrations. Thank you.

--

Diane Bates

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--I hope someone saw your post.....no one should have to live like that.
I am ready too for the wrath from my hopefully someday ex husband he has AS and has been abusive in a number of ways.
Why is it we are not bad enough to get help. The domestic violence center didn't even call me back.
Now my PDD son lives with my inlaws....I have the plague, my father called me mentally I'll because i sent the article to the family as a cry for help...I sleep on the couch .....and then I read your post.
I will pray that you get help.....the world is cruel....

laurin

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--I hope someone saw your post.....no one should have to live like that.
I am ready too for the wrath from my hopefully someday ex husband he has AS and has been abusive in a number of ways.
Why is it we are not bad enough to get help. The domestic violence center didn't even call me back.
Now my PDD son lives with my inlaws....I have the plague, my father called me mentally I'll because i sent the article to the family as a cry for help...I sleep on the couch .....and then I read your post.
I will pray that you get help.....the world is cruel....

laurin

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It sickens me to know our country still refuses to acknowledge the need for more funding for mental health. I hope I am not Adam Lanza's mother but I know I could be. My two sons have mental illness and I've been up and down the System searching for the right help. I too have been turned away from ER rooms because my son has learned the things to say to the Crisis Counselor who decides if he is admitted or turned away. He was admitted only once and turned away more than half a dozen times in a 12 month span. Mental Illness is hard to live with and hard to accept on a daily basis. I know I'm judged often by the professionals who fail to help us and refuse to admit they do not know what else to do but blame me - the Mom. I pray my kids find he right help. I still fight the System and I still question everyone we're involved with. My oldest wll soon be 18. I fear what happens at that point. I hope.....and I pray......but I don't know how to make our government take us to heart and provide the funding and adequate help so many of us families need.

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The fact is that simply refusing to be the mother of a child who commits a violent act may not be enough to make it so. Medication is working for your child and that is wonderful. It is working for mine as well. It doesn't work for many. Treatment is tricky- what works for a time may stop working. Medication is some cases actually leads to oppositional, violent behavior. Under certain causes and conditions any one of us with special needs children MAY be dealing with behavior and actions we *refused* to admit were possible. My heart breaks for every parent who faces the emotional, social and fiscal toll of not be able to care for their mentally ill child. Medication can be helpful. It isn't always a miracle.

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I find the tenor of this article disturbing. There is no "refusal" that can make this go away. Good for you, if that's what you want us to say. I fight the good fight as well, but I cannot ensure that all the things we fight for on a daily basis, all the hours of work I've missed, money we have lost, time we have spent, resources we have procured, special needs education that we get, is going to guarantee that my son will have a healthy future. I think it is wrong to use the term "I refuse" when it is not within your control.

As when with dealing with someone with an addiction, when you care for someone with a mental illness, you need to remember the three "c's": You didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it.

I do not stand in judgment of the parents whose children turned out to have a tragic life. There is NO road map for being the parent of someone who is mentally ill. And it should not come down to stubborn refusal to hear "no" to get a needy child services. Those who are inarticulate, uneducated, overworked, exhausted, scared and parenting a child such as this deserves to be helped, not browbeaten into fighting. If our society were right, there would be no fight. There would be only help.
--

Adoptive mom of a son and daughter whom I love more than anything in the world.

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Rachael Wurtman - as a parent in Massachusetts who just had both of my children's file closed by DMH because they had no appropriate services for my children... your comment is the most sensible thing I have read on the subject of mental health in the state of MA.

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Susan,
Many of us HAVE been seeking for answers for our children for over 20 years and we didn't and won't give up. My daughter's onset was age 3 (she's now 24). She has many challenges - mental health, spectrum, and learning disabilities, please don't make it seem like those of us who haven't found relief haven't been trying, or have given up. You know better than that.

I've been running support groups and education programs for parents through NAMI for over 15 years. Some of our children have been chronically ill and not responded well, in spite of many intervention. That doesn't mean we've given up or will give ever up.

Please show some compassion and understanding for those of us whose journey is longer (or heaven forbid, never-ending). What makes this long, arduous journey bearable is PEER supports from those who walk the walk and help us realize just how hard our children really are trying as well and to learn to separate the child from the horrific illness - all the while still searching tirelessly for solutions.

Please encourage parents to find supports for themselves as well, so they have the strength to make it through their journey, no matter long and painful theirs may be. NAMI, Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, Balanced Mind, are all good places to start. We need to be supportive of each other.
Alicia

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Alicia - It is increasingly difficult when you cannot find a treatment to which your child will respond. I have tried to help families find the treatment that I - after years of trying - have so far been able to find for my daughter, which - so far - seems to be helping. But I have come to learn that as difficult as it has been for me, it is even more difficult for many others. Legislation and resources vary state by state and case by case, and it seems impossible. It is horrible that we have to deal with the bureaucracy and break the the walls that exist around mental health care for our children.

Yes, Rachael's response was absolutely accurate and could apply to any state. This is an indication that more resources are needed. Additional measures that could so easily be taken by so many to help end the stigma of mental health could be exponentially helpful. I read another article called "I Am Adam Lanza's Psychiatrist" at the end of which, real, do-able suggestions are offered. People in the position to make these changes should take notice and take action. Mom's like you though, are exactly what our kids need - even more so when the treatments are so hard to find.

Refusing to be Adam Lanza’s mom, honestly we do not know what measures his mother may or may not have taken ... In that title, though, I saw a mother saying that no matter what – she will fight for her son because that’s what we do as mom’s and that is what you and I are doing too. Some battles take longer than others, some are never-ending. We never give up. There are countless families in a situation similar to ours. The options that are out there are not made available to every family in need. I am glad you have support and I applaud you for your dedication.

--

Shelle - 50 in SoCal
Single Mom to Rachel - 13
Diagnos: Bipolar (pending outcome of DSM-V designation) and Depression.
Lamictal 300mg, Seroquel 400mg, Lexapro 5mg
8th Grade/Started RTC in Utah on 3/27/12
We also have Birdie the love bird - she bites, and Pepper the kitty - she does too

Family Helpline Volunteer - shelle.barnes@hotmail.com
Moderator Los Angeles Group
The Balanced Mind Foundation - Bringing Hope Home
www.thebalancedmind.org

FROM TBMF: Do not start, stop, or change medications or other treatments for yourself or your child based on what you read on this Website or elsewhere on the Internet. Information presented here should not replace the considered judgement of a doctor who knows you or your child.

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Susan

Thank you so much for your words and the work Balanced Mind is doing.

Parents need to take courage in the face of these challenges. Kids with problems are emotional sponges.Often the best thing any parent can do is to support a sense of peace within the household. Try to lead an ordinary life, with a sense of routine, and a positive approach to what a child is achieving.

But as hard as it is, we must do what we must. One key family strength is our capacity to communicate with people we love when no one else can. We can have a face-to-face chat when it counts.

Frankly, Sue, I am a recovery writer. I try to follow the strengths-based path. It's hard to work with risk and violence, but we all must face our world's real problems. There has been such neglect of the problem of violence connected with mental illness. Hopefully the time is coming when we can get it right.

--pk---
--

Paul Komarek
Author of Defying Mental Illness: Finding Recovery with Community Resources and Family Support
My blog is "Redesigning Mental Illness"

Here's a little script people can use to screen for trouble: Ask the following questions one at a time, in order. You are looking for tunnel-vision thinking, isolation, deep depression. Practice the questions out loud. Yes, this is awkward. You can use your own words, but follow the pattern. Listen to the person's answer. People benefit simply by knowing they have been heard.

-- What have you accomplished since the last time we talked?
-- What are you facing?
-- Who are your allies?
-- What is your plan?

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Paul,

Thank you for your kind words about the work of The Balanced Mind. Your thoughts on a positive approach with face-to-face communication to screen for trouble are very helpful. We appreciate your taking the time to share your approach with our families.

All the best,
Julia
Parent Volunteer
Family Helpline
The Balanced Mind Foundation

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Susan - I had such a hard time reading your original post. You say your son has been "free from his Illness" for years now. Perhaps your son is not mentally ill? Perhaps you meant that your son is symptom free. I did not think you could medicate away a mental illness. To insinuate so is insulting to the parents on this board.

My son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 6. My husband and I have done EVERYTHING possible to help him learn to live with his illness, including many, many failed medication trials. He is now 20 years old and we can no longer press our wishes for treatment on him. He is violent and has been since he was in elementary school. We walk on a tightrope every single minute of every single day.

While I thought getting competent mental health services was hard when he was under 18, it is much harder now that he is an adult. It seems to me that this is the age (early 20's) that is the hardest for our kids. It's wonderful that your son is getting A's in school, but I don't think that I have done any less for my child than you did for yours, even though my son dropped out of college after a week.

I refuse to be Adam Lanza's mother, but I am afraid that I certainly could be. While the mentally ill can be positively effected by medication, therapy and vigilant parents, those things are not a "cure." No matter how hard you try, you can not remove mental illness from your child.

--

Amy - age 53, suffers from migraines and daily headaches.
Lee - son age 20, dx bp and adhd at age 7, dx diabetes type 1 age 8, Trileptal, HS grad, currently working full time
Bob - wonderful husband, age 55, married for 30 years.
Twiggy - our sweet boston terrier/beagle mix dog.
Living in sunny South FL
We are an adoptive family

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Amy,

Your post really touched me as I have always thought when I hear such a tragedy "there by the grace of God, go I". None of us are immune to such an awful thing happening. The truth is that it can happen to any of us. We can help reduce the risks by getting our kids help, of course and that is what we do. I also have a 17 yr old son with bipolar disorder and I applaud your efforts in continuing to try everything you can to help your son get better. No, you can't medicate away a mental illness, that is true. I think Susan meant that her son was now symptom free and so she was trying to say that it is possible to get your child healthy again (stable) so they can live as normal of a life as possible. I also believe, like you do, that the young adult years are the hardest for our kids with mental illness along with the adolescent years. And, our hands are tied more in terms of being able to help them once they become "adults".

You say that your son is violent --- to me that means that he is not stable. My son was violent when he was unstable. Do you have any contact with his doctor? Even though they don't have to listen to you, it is worth it to communicate with them your concerns. If they are a good doctor, they will listen to you. Your son may need another mood stabilizer and/or antipsychotic medication to even out his mood. Has he ever tried Intuniv? This is an adhd med that is not a stimulant and actually has a "calming effect". My son refers to this as his "anger meds", as he feels less angry on this medication. The doctor may have other med ideas, but I just wanted to give you a suggestion that you may want to bring up to the doctor.

Do you have a mobile crisis team in your area? This is good to know about in case you have a crisis -- they can come and help figure out if your son needs to go to the ER and if so, get him there. I have this phone number in my cell phone as a precaution. You can contact your local NAMI (www.nami.org) to ask them if there is this resource in your town. I agree that we have less control over them once they are 18, but we still have some things we can do and we need to know all the resources available to help us. We have to be even more vigilant and resourceful.

Are you in one of our online support groups? If not, I highly recommend you join one to help you. Go to: www.thebalancedmind.org/connect/support-groups

Amy --- you are a great mother to keep doing everything you can, to help your son ---- that is all any of us can do.

--

Nancy
ds, 17, bp, adhd, lamictal, trileptal, Intuniv

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I too am Adam Lanza's Mom. God only knows what hell she was living in that house, never knowing when her son was going to blow and constantly walking on eggshell. Her ex-husband and Adam's brother states that Adam had mental problems for a very long time. What if Adam's Mom was trying to get him committed and he found out? I have been dealing with my son's mental illness since he was 4 years old. I have been his biggest advocate since then. He has been hospitalized 17 times, ER I have lost count, 3 Residential placements, every type of psychotropic medication mix, and now we have 4 days a week home visits and only 2.5 hours of school. My son is 6'1" and 340 pounds, and there is not a chance in hell I could control him if he got out of control. We now have 4 home visits a week with therapy and behavior modification and monthly psychiatric visits. He will more than likely wind up in a group home when he turns 18 because I cannot do it by myself anymore.
So many of us parents try everything we can to help our children, yet are consistently let down by the mental health system or (lack of) proper funding. It took me a year to get into the program he is now in, and in SC this agency only takes the most severely disturbed kids out there. How about the others that also need help?
I almost had to give up my parental rights to the State because I could not get my son placed in an RTF. I begged, pleaded,even the hospital where he was staying wrote letters to mental health stating that my son could not be sent home but it fell on deaf ears. Finally they apporved his placement and I didnt have to do the unthinkable of letting him be placed in states custody.
Many of us have had to make life changing job changes, have exhausted any of our financial resources, and cannot afford pricey lengthy long term stays for our children. I work from home at a job that permits me to work when I can around my child but it gives me no insurance at all. Please do not judge me or anyone else. We have been doing what we can to survive and keep our sick kids relatively stable. I am sure that Adam Lanza's Mom was also trying to do the same thing.
This last ER visit 2 weeks ago was because my son had flipped out at home and tore my kitchen apart. I thought he was going to hurt hijmself or me. I called 911 and they took him to the ER. Being the expert at knowing what to say to the professionals my son was discharged after 4 hours and I was told to come and pick him up.

--

Luana Rath
Son- 17. BP1-GAD-ODD. Risperidone, Lamictal, Celexa, Trazedone, Clonidine,

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I pray I won't be Adam Lanza's mother. We have lived in an area that had very poor mental health services. I have lived in 3 states in the southeast, and the services are just not there.

Now that my son is 22, I have no control over whether he takes his meds or not. I can't even force him to go to the doctor, short of throwing him out of the house, and I cringe to think what would happen then.

He has been on meds of one kind or another since age 7, but has refused to be compliant with them since turning 18. I tried having him committed, but am told he is not "bad enough" to be committed, as he says (to them) he does not have any thoughts of hurting himself or others. When he took an axe and threatened me and my other son, I thought sure they would do something. I called the sheriff, but when they asked him if he was calm and no longer wanted to hurt anyone, he said no. So, they left him with me. He didn't physically do anything, but for 24 hours he was in a screaming rage, calling me a f'ing b----, and a few other choice things. I don't know how much longer I can stand all this. I am 64, and worry about what will happen to him when I am gone. He is adopted, so I am not the usual parent age.
Evelyn

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Medication is not the only answer, and does not help everyone. However, when we hear in the media that treating children with medication is "an easy way out" or is for parents who "don't want to bother with the tough job of parenting," our society is sending mixed messages. Society vilifies those who try to treat their children, even thought the treatments aren't perfect, they work in a lot of cases. Yes, we desperately need more inpatient beds, more effective therapeutic interventions and more mental health facilities. We also need our society to stop vilifying those treatments which have shown to be effective for many.

--

Susan Resko
Executive Director

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Susan,
It is important as Executive Director for you to step back and LISTEN to what familes are saying here!!!! We appreciate what you have done with the Balanced Mind. It has been INCREDIBLE but..... it is inadequate to address the deep hole that most of us are attempting live within with one answer or one solution. This is not about YOU!! This should not be a threat to your EGO! LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and CARE! My son cannot take meds. He has an immune Disorder and they have caused LIFE THREATENING reactions. So it is not as simple as finding the RIGHT medication. I WORRY, I FRET. I FEAR!!! But he is still my son and I have to move forward to protect him, my family and my community. It is a HUGE CHARGE to take on.
--

Barbie
Mom 17 year old with Bipolar, Anxiety, Depression, ADD, ODD, SID, APD, Primary Immune Deficiency, Asthma

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I have a mentally ill son who was better managed as a child but now that he is an adult it takes something drastic in order to have him committed or to get preventive help. The criteria for intervention is not as it should be you literally have to wait until your loved one is completely out of touch with reality and is a threat to himself or others.

Affording the care and actually being able to have the professional medical team around is complex. Easier said than done.
--

MOMMAC

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Hi MOMMAC,
My name is Karen and I am a parent volunteer with TBMF's Family Helpline. You are right that it gets harder when our kids are "adults." I am lucky that my daughters (22 and 24) still agree to take their meds and see their doctors. Unfortunately, it is usually when our kids are most unstable that they become the least willing to accept help.

Have you heard of Advanced Directives? Advanced directives are legal documents that help assure that an individual's wishes are carried out even if they no longer are capable of making or communicating their decisions. There is an article titled "Your'e Not the Boss of Me: The Need for Advanced Directives" written by Susan Resko. You can access the article here: http://www.thebalancedmind.org/connect/blog/2010/09/you’re-not-the-boss-of-me-the-need-for-advance-directives. Resko addresses parental concerns regarding rights to information about their child's treatment and condition. Within the article there are links to the National Resource Center for Psychiatric Advanced Directives which can also be accessed here: http://www.nrc-pad.org/. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also has a helpful article about advanced directives which an be accessed here:

http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Legal/Advance_Directives.htm.

There is an organization that we often recommend to parents with adult children. It is called Bipolar Significant Others (www.bpso.org). You might find them helpful.

Thank you for your comments on Susan's blog.

Best wishes,
Karen

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Its not easy to find the care for our children. I often times wanted to give up. Please go to our find a professional resource to find help. It often takes years. http://www.thebalancedmind.org/connect/find. We are here to help you find the resources you need.
--

Susan Resko
Executive Director

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Susan,
I am so thankful your son responded to medication (even though it took many years). Many of our children don't respond sufficiently to medication, even after many, many years trying various ones. Even many forms of psycho-social interventions, including therapy don't give our children enough relief.

The situation Rachael describes in Massachusetts could be any state (even those of us with Children's Systems of Care). The problem with such Systems of Care is that they are bureaucracy heavy and filled with clinicians. Although touted to be Family-Friendly, they rarely come close.

The Sytems need to listen more to parents. We are good, caring, loving, dedicated moms and dads who love our troubled children in spite of the often-times horrific behavior. We try and keep trying, but we're getting tired.

No parent wishes to become Adam Lanza's mother and many of us NEVER give up, trying everything we know: medication, therapies (traditional and alternative), supportive services, and many more . . . and still our children struggle.

The hardest part of all this, other than watching our children being emotionally tortured from within, is the harsh, disdainful, even demonizing judgment from people who can't possibly know what's it's like to walk in these shoes . . . and I pray they never have to.

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I am so very disappointed that this was even posted. Medication is the answer to all?? You have got to be kidding me. Do you have any idea the number of medications we have tried for my daughter that have failed us? And those she's on now that are just a band-aid - what will we do when there's no other medication to try, no medication that works?? This problem extends well beyond a quick pill to fix. Horribly naive you are, horribly.

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Eemshwil,

Medication is not the answer for all. There is definitely a need for research that leads to more treatment options. Medication works for many children, but others like my own son trial more than 30 medications and see little improvement. They get better when they undergo intensive therapy, are placed in therapeutic schools or are exposed to other interventions. I believe Susan's point is that society shouldn't vilify parents for deciding to treat their children with medication. Early intervention, which may or may not include medication, makes a huge difference in the outcome of a child with a mental illness. Society shouldn't judge a parent for making that choice.

All the best,
Julia
Parent Volunteer
Family Helpline
The Balanced Mind Foundation

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I agree that the posting about REFUSING to be Adam Lanza's mother was far more upsetting. I do not think that the message was intended to judge his mom, but it certainly read that way to me. How do we know exactly what she did? Who are we to determine that her son might not have been "an Adam Lanza" if he had gotten better treatment? Furthermore, all the treatment in the world at an early age is sometimes not enough, not because of the parents' failure but because of the severity and complexity of the illness, the inadequacy of mental health care in our nation and the poor state of mental health research.

We do not get to CHOOSE who our child is. Early treatment is good and necessary but it is not always enough. I am the mother of a daughter who received early, intensive, comprehensive, expensive treatment -- from trying a long, long list of meds over the past 10 years to inpatient care to residential treatment- always bouncing around from one type of care to another. Not every story of early treatment is a happy one. Today my wonderful daughter continues to struggle with severe depression. Thankfully, there is no violence involved. But my point is that long-term intensive treatment has not been a great success after 10 years. Is that the mother's fault?

To refer to "an Adam Lanza" is to fall prey to the very worst type of stigmatizing and stereotyping...and that is exactly what the Balance Mind works against. So I hope those comments can be reframed so they aren' t misunderstood by readers of this blog.

Respectfully,
Kate Pravera

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I have to say that while the blog post " I am Adam Lanza's mother" was upsetting to me, this was by far, much more so.

As a mother of a son who is VERY similar to Michael I can tell you that I have done EVERYTHING in my power and then some to be sure that my son is treated. He has been medicated, hospitalized, in therapy for years and in national studies yet he STILL struggles. I am so very happy that your son's struggles were able to be dealt with and he is doing well, but that is not the case with every child as you certainly know, who struggles with mental illness.

We do not know the battles that Adam's mother fought for him, and your comments do the very thing that we fight so hard against as families who take care of the mentally ill, you assume that she did not do everything in her power to help him.

By stating .. I refused to be “Adam Lanza’s mom.” you imply that she did not fight, she did not medicate she did not do what she could. When my son rages and needs to be restrained in public I see that look on many faces, that I "allow" him to behave this way, that I am not doing my job. THIS is the stigma that we fight daily, with those who are not educated about mental health issues.

I AM Adam Lanza's mom, because I have a son with mental illness who was diagnosed as a a small child and who sometimes, in spite of everyone's best efforts is not ok. Who while even being treated, struggles.

I also need to point out, that mental illness is not something that some people can grow out of. Mental illness is serious and often life long so while early intervention is important it does not mean that there will not be lifelong issues.

Michele - MO
MicheleLFelton@aol.com

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I too am the mother of Michael or Adam. I too have done EVERYTHING to help my 14 year old son with PDD, Depression, SID, OCD....
I have been thrown up against walls, been pushed,hit, and shoved, called names that I cant write here, had to barricade myself in my room,
SLEPT in my car to avaid having more stuff thrown at me.
Yet SOCIETY, OUR OWN FAMILIES blame us as if we are the cause of their mental illness!
Did that theory get thrown out with the bathwater YEARS ago?As my mom told me this summer
"you didnt beat him enough", well I never beat him at all.!I just got an email from my father telling me I was the one who was mentally ILL!
I dont even have the energy to cry anymore!!
I sent my family an email yesterday,saying the same thing, you cannot wish Mental Illness away and I am doing a 120% with the hand I was dealt.
They think I am making all of this up!!! My mother in law laughed at me yesterday when I tried again to tell he that her own son has issues that he refuses to deal with.
Our lives are too much for people throwning the rocks at glass houses to comprehend!!!
My state has HORRIBLE services, so I have gone to another state to get help for my son.
My son has almost burned our house down and yesterday I found another switchblade under his bed.
I DO medicate my son, FINALLY, I too gave in for the safety of all involved. The earlier meds we tried were wrong, and the goofs who prescribed them didnt listen to me.
So I was "med shy" until I found a Psychiatrist I liked and could trust.
Meds help, but they are not the cure all. We need more services all around!
BETTER DIAGNOSIS, ACCESS TO TREATMENT, why dont we start with those discussions??
THERE IS NO CHOICE AS TO WHETHER OR NOT WE ARE ADAM LANZA'S MOM, EVERY MOM WHO IS DEALING WITH THIS IS DOING HER
BEST EACH AND EVERY DAY TO TRY TO PREVENT HER SON OR DAUGHTER FROM BEING THE ONE WHO CAUSES OTHERS GREIF!!!

a mom, a nurse and a woman trying to help both of her children become successful members of society

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You spoke my heart. I have heard so many many people misjudge Adam Lanza's mom and I know she tried everything she could. She loved him.
This is a terrible tragedy.--

MOMMAC

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I too have been "in the field" and also parent a child with significat mental health and physical health issues. We have spent the past 17 years looking for services. We have had multiple calls to police, visits to the ER but to this day we have NO Psychiatric Care because there is not ONE Psychiatirst that is available to see him in our community. We have no counseling because the state dropped our insurance accientally and left us with a large bill that we cannot pay. He has no Residential Treatment care because there has not been a bed available for over 8 years of looking for services. He will soon be an adult and I have NO CONTROL over what happens to him or to those in the socieity around me. I have NO WHERE to turn to even ask if I should be worried for others or even for myself. When he is well he is a sensitive Creative, Caring Wonderufl human being. When he is not I do not even KNOW what he might be capable of. I GRIEVE what COULD HAVE BEEN FOR MY SON but without care over a childhood we have gotten NOWHERE and I HAVE LOST HOPE!!!
--

Barbie
Mom 17 year old adopted son with Bipolar, Anxiety, Depression, ADD, ODD, SID, APD, Primary Immune Deficiency, Asthma

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Tigers Mom,

Its not an easy road. School districts can pay for the cost of therapeutic schools. If its the most appropriate placement, they must pay for it by law. Parents often have to fight for their children's educational rights. It can be exhausting, and overwhelming, but so worth it. Check out our Education Corner for Educational Advocacy tips, and our Find a Professional Resource for advocates in your area.

--

Susan Resko
Executive Director

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Does this group only do research? Or do they, also, help the individual?

--

MOM - Hear Me Roar?

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