A heartfelt, searing blog post by a 40-year-old mother about her mentally ill son has made many parents and grandparents wonder how they would handle a child with frighteningly violent outbursts.
Idaho mother Liza Long, who writes The Anarchist Soccer Mom blog, published her painfully honest post about her 13-year-old son soon after the horrific shooting of schoolchildren by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Her post - with the provocative phrase "I am Adam Lanza's mother" - went online Friday and was quickly picked up by other media sites. From there it went viral, viewed by millions, with thousands adding comments in support or to describe their own untenable situations. Some also criticized her for invading her son's privacy with her "cruel posts."
Long's point was not about gun control, as most of the discussion now seems to be, but about mental illness and how families with seriously disturbed members have been all but abandoned by society and the health care system.
The fact that the young man who was the shooter first killed his mother before opening fire at the school sent a chill through Long. Her own son, during one of his sudden rages, often threatens her as well as himself. The outbursts are so frightening, her three other children know to run into the car and lock the doors when he explodes, she told CNN.
"I love my son. But he terrifies me," she wrote, saying she felt a kinship with the mothers of other tragically violent young men involved in mass shootings. "I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza's mother. I am Dylan Klebold's and Eric Harris's mother. I am James Holmes's mother. I am Jared Loughner's mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho's mother. And these boys - and their mothers - need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it's easy to talk about guns. But it's time to talk about mental illness," Long wrote.
She recently had her son committed to an acute-care psychiatric institution, though it's only a temporary solution under Idaho law. After that, her son's social worker told her, her only option is have her son charged with a crime and jailed. There are no state-run mental-treatment centers or hospitals to take care of him.
Obviously, sending a 13-year-old to jail is a terrible solution. But, as Long writes, our country's "broken healthcare system" provides families with few options. And when "another tortured soul" shoots people in a movie theater or elementary school, "we wring our hands and say, 'Something must be done.' "
It's time, she added, "for a meaningful, nationwide conversation about mental health. That's the only way our nation can ever truly heal."
Photo: Rob Lee/ flickr