Reconsidering Mental Health in Newtown's Wake

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Newtown, Conn., town hall, near the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Newtown, Conn., town hall, near the Sandy Hook Elementary School. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The tragedy in Newtown has raised questions about the state of mental health treatment in the U.S., especially among children. Nadine Kaslow, psychologist, professor and vice chair at Emory University, and president-elect designate of the American Psychological Association, and Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access, Inc., explain the difficulty in treating mental illness in children, and what changes to policy could make it easier.


Steve Coe and Nadine Kaslow

Comments [74]

Leslie from Manhattan

Excellent and important conversation to have. Thanks Brian Lehrer Show.

Dec. 21 2012 01:12 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

Next, we need national and state and or local town halls to hear and have the mentally ill, with their families, to say what challenges they face socially, professionally, economically, etc; and what solutions they think would work. Finally, at the federal level, fund current and make more necessary programs, by way of the US Department of Health and Human Services, that will help the state or local governments with their mental health programs. For the state/local/territories levels to maintain their mental health agencies, programs and funding. Seek federal funding for outreach, counseling, treatment, research, etc. This is at least a start.

Dec. 18 2012 08:46 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

I recommend first, a comprehensive education campaign for both the American public and the mental health community. For the community to better understand the public when communicating to them to be understood. The American Public, who do not have medical training or experience, need to know more about conditions, symptoms, interacting with, and being sensitive to both the mentally ill and their families; because we don’t know we just don’t know. This includes first responders, politicians, teachers, etc.

Dec. 18 2012 08:45 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

“Whack-job, nut-jobs.” I don’t want people to think that I’m crazy. Don’t fire that person, she or he might come back and kill us all. Don’t get her or him angry. It’s always the quiet ones. I talk to myself because I am thinking out loud. He/she is talking out loud they’re definitely crazy! Get away from my child, you Whacko!” These are all examples of stereotypes and insults that people have said about the mentally ill. This stigma has got to go. As long as there is this fear, persecution, and stigma the country will switch subway cars, cross the street, to avoid “the problem” instead of facing it and reaching a solution, which is what all of us deserve. Thank you.

Dec. 18 2012 08:44 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

People are afraid that if they act “crazy” they will be treated like another “crazy person.” This fear has got to go. Anyone can have or know someone who has a mental illness. It could be your coworker, cousin, spouse, your proud veteran daughter, or even yourself. This fear of weakness, isolation, or of “what’s wrong with you” fuels the fear that mental illness will ruining your or your loved ones’ life. He may lose his job, or that promotion she has been waiting for, or have all those conversations stop when you walk down the hallway and then be about your “gossip-fueled case of depression” after you’ve walked on. While this does not happen everywhere or by everyone in America, this pain of loneliness and lack of understanding shows the status quo as a chasm between healing & understanding and fear & ignorance.

Dec. 18 2012 08:43 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

What turns me off from listening is when PhD.s, Master Degrees, counselors, or other “experts” are on the media talk shows and say: “let’s not call ‘them crazy’ we prefer ‘mentally ill, special needs’, etc.” They seem to think as if these terms are going to be used because non-MD citizens will understand why we should use them. These terms don’t work because of the reality that I and the rest of the public see and hear from the media, reports about the “20 children killed, 10 dead, 14 wounded, 18 ‘gunned-down ' shot, killed, by a ‘crazed’ gunman, a mad man, in a massacre, shooting, bloodbath;” over and over and over again from different mass shootings and numerous stations,websites and tweets. This is how we are “informed” about the mentally ill. Not from stories that educate us about their conditions, challenges from trying to “fit-in” to our world, research into treatments and or medications to help them live.

Dec. 18 2012 08:42 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

We have to deal with the stigma of mental illness. This is the biggest problem with the public dealing with the mentally ill., it has been this stigma that prevents the general American public from reaching out, listening, and helping those whose “conditions” lie in the mind.

Dec. 18 2012 08:40 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

Because of this and so many other tragedies, I am calling for an Empire State, NYC, and all other localities; Commission on the State of our Mentally Ill and System. What is the current state of the NY Mental Health Care System? What are we doing right and wrong? What should we keep and what should we stop and change? Budgeting, is the current budget underfunded? By how much? How much more does it need? What do our mentally ill need? What are the roles for the cities, towns, villages, counties, etc; in administrating the programs and outreach? What does the private sector, charities, etc; say has and has not worked in giving their care? What are their dealings with NY State government and local agencies; regarding funding, information and other help? What would the agencies, charities, etc; the mentally ill, and their families, all to have to say that they are being “supported” by each other? These are some of the questions awaiting answers. Good day.

Dec. 18 2012 08:39 PM
Michael Villacres from Queens, NY

About 14 years ago a mentally ill man pushed an innocent woman onto the subway tracks in mid-town, killing her, in order to get the help he wasn’t getting from the NY State Mental Health System.

NYTimes story about the attack-

NYTimes story about him and the system-

Dec. 18 2012 08:39 PM
R.Atkinson from Yorkville UES

As I wrote to my senator last Sunday:

These repeated senseless slaughters have became intolerable. Diane Feinstein is right. The rights of a few don't outweigh the safety of the majority. If gun owners don't concede to major increases in mental health care funding in exchange for allowing guns such free circulation, then they will have to give up allowing so many weapons to freely circulate in society.

As a small financial supporter of you and, in the last election cycle, many of your friends, I expect your and their support of the bill Diane will introduce in response to the senseless slaughter in Newtown.

Dec. 18 2012 08:38 PM
S. Cook from Ocean Twp, NJ

A Gap in Mental Healthcare That Affects Millions

Many of the comments both on the show and included in these posts are very salient. I agree that eliminating the availability of military style weapons and auto/semi-auto fed ammunition clips/ magazines along with thorough background checks for anyone who has any access to any firearm must be the highest priority.

However, in listening during this morning’s show and reading the comments on line particularly regarding mental and emotional issues, there was little or no mention of available and affordable mental healthcare.

I personally am familiar with at least two cases of friends that have been diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar disease. In the instance of one of the individuals, he is a highly educated, creative and giving individual who has in the past been productive and a contributor to the community. For the last several years he was unable to work and often depicted each day’s simple, normal and common tasks as “a huge boulder in the way.” Many days are just too challenging to accomplish even getting out of bed. He is well aware he requires medical help and has indeed reached out to mental therapists within a twenty five -mile + radius of his central New Jersey home for help.

The results are to date: One psychiatrist, required for prescription medicines, was found after days of calling and research that will take new patients with Medicare insurance. All others require very costly out of pocket payments or high co- pays, if the patient has expensive insurance coverage. The same was true with psychologists needed for supportive talk therapy as recommended by all the psychiatrists contacted to be used in conjunction with the MD’s prescriptions.

All of the comments so far from the events that occurred in Connecticut last Friday talk about finding help for those with mental and or emotional issues. The questions that need to be addressed are: with very limited funds to live on when unemployed and on SSI (because of their condition) and Medicare, where is this affordable mental health professional help to be found?

Further complicating their situation is that even if the patient can push themselves to supplement their income to pay for medical co- pays, regulations prevent them from making even very minimal wages without losing their Medicare and SSI eligibility.
County mental services have been cut so severely that an appointment with professional therapist at any level is in reality at most 10-15 minutes every three months. Prescriptions are issued and a “see you next time” is the best patients can hope for.

Are we potentially grooming tragedies even with mentally ill individuals who are reaching out for help because of lack of affordable healthcare? By itself so very sad. And by extension, add easily available weapons and the results might again be heartbreaking and avoidable.

Dec. 18 2012 07:14 PM

I should also add to my previous post the following: that while core emotions such as rage, grief, joy, affection, and sadness are hard-wired into every human being, the kind of violent behavior we have been seeing is learned. In some homes, you don't have to play video games to learn it. Video games are essentially an outlet, even though they do cause agitation in the player that may last after the game has ended. A lot of violent behavior is learned from parents and from society in general. The "grownups" set the norms for what is acceptable and what is not. Is it also too farfetched to suggest that the kind of turmoil and rancor emanating out of Congress, the bile and disrespect toward the POTUS, is affecting our children as to what they are learning to expect from the world? As the saying goes, "Little pitchers have big ears."

Dec. 18 2012 06:32 PM
julia from Vermont

The term "mental health" connotes illness, so the discussion seems to be turning around autism, schizophrenia, etc. as we search for understanding about how these atrocities could happen in a peacetime society, and so shockingly unexpectedly. But although I'm no expert in psychology, my own life experiences and predilection for peoplewatching tell me that there is also a state of mind that usually is below the radar, and that is deep, deep, unhappiness, to the point of the kind of despair that the Aurora and the Newtown shooters demonstrated by their actions.
That deep, deep unhappiness isn't typically addressed because there is no handy label to attach to it. Yet in an immature mind, it takes root and fuels its concomitant mood, rage, whether directed internally toward oneself or externally toward someone who is held to blame in some way, whether rationally (i.e., they really are to blame) or irrationally (i.e., through projection, jealousy, etc.)
I have also developed a very unscientific theory about what I call "baby rage." That's the infant rage when the child's entire being is caught up in expressing rage through screaming, to the point of literally running out of breath. I suppose parenting fads say to ignore it, but in some kids it will just build and build, never satisfied, never assuaged, what they need never materializes, until as big strong adult children they finally latch onto a means to express it, and it is deadly.
So while we do need to pay more attention to mental health care and treatments, and while we do need to try to avoid stigmatizing the mentally ill through labels, avoidance, etc., we also need to understand that the child who is humiliated, physically or sexually abused, ignored when they need attention, incessantly pressured to be or do someone or something they can't be or do, whose world turns upside-down when parents die or divorce, or who develops a deep-seated belief that no one in the world loves them or ever could--that, I maintain, is the child who develops a murderous rage that can eventually be turned against himself or others, or, tragically, both.

Dec. 18 2012 06:12 PM

My concern with increased screening for depression is that it could turn out to be a boon for the pharmaceutical industry far beyond what is warranted.

Dec. 18 2012 05:43 PM
Chaim Ben Avraham

To take regulatory action means to regulate one or more of the following 3:

The guns.
The people
The context.

What I have seen to date focuses on the guns or the people. Looking at Israel, a country with a much wider distribution of guns and with people who know how to use them, plus people under constant stress and strain compared to the US, we find a lower rate of murder and other crimes with guns by several orders of magnitude. Perhaps we should learn from them how to develop the proper context.

Dec. 18 2012 12:52 PM
Ron from NYC from NYC

let us not forget that the second amendment referred to the explosive and the flint lock pistol. none of these equaled the assault weapons on the street now.I believe that the first step toward eliminating this danger is to get as many guns off the street. After all, every gun off the street is one less gun to kill with.

Dec. 18 2012 12:26 PM
Peter from Scarsdale, NY

Mental illness is very common. Bipolar, depression and schizophrenia combined afflicts 1 in 10 people. This is 20 times the number of people with any type of cancer! In other words, the number of people with just 3 major mental illnesses is 10% of the population, which is 30 million people. This is the number of people in the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago metropolitan areas combined. With so many people affected, there should be more research, education and support for mental illness.

Dec. 18 2012 12:24 PM

And if violence is learned then the hope and focus should be unlearning it where it is learned and teaching nonviolence as the basic societal/ moral value.

Dec. 18 2012 12:23 PM
marycatalina from manhattan

I believe that Brian should reread Liza Long's blog from beginning to end and get a better picture of who she is. While her observations about what is is like to live with the real potential for violence everyday ring true to me as the sister of a paranoid schizophrenic for 58 years, she has lost some of the boundaries needed to protect Micheal and her other children by putting their picture on the web. I believe it was removed this Monday night right after I read the blog. Also she may be more like Adam Lanza's mother than she realizes. Like most people , she seems to unconsciously believe in violence as a means to an end; check out the picture of icon of Che Guevara on her blog avatar/image of herself as an "anachchist soccer mom "and read well through that blog. She seems to me to embody the schizophrenic social messages that we are bombarded with daily about violence: thou shall not kill and its ok to kill criminals or people who don't believe what "we " do or ; "i love you and that is why i am hurting you by doing this" ad nauseum , fur coats and save the animals..........
The root of the problem is not mental illness or gun control but why do most people in this country believe that it is ok in CERTAIN instances to kill living things? Once violence/killing is condoned in any way it becomes open to interpretation by anyone.
And more importantly, it has been proved that violence is learned very early and usually in the home as a means to an end. This has nothing to do with mental illness:this has to do with the values of a society that are handed down through generations unconsciously. I thank God every day that my brother did not grow up on violent video games and the all access internet because he certainly would have been capable of greater violence than he has done. My other 3 brothers and him would watch the 3 Stooges back in the day and then when it was a commercial they would all run around the den trying to punch each others eyes out with the peace sign finger thing.
Buddha said it and pure logic cannot repute it: hatred cannot end hatred for only love can end hatred.

Dec. 18 2012 12:09 PM
Peter from Scarsdale, NY

We need more research and development of a simple diagnostic tool for mental illness. How can you screen for mental illness if you cannot even test whether a person has an illness?

One big issue with mental illness is the lack of diagnostic tools. A doctor cannot do a quick test (e.g., blood test, urine test, brain scan) to determine what is wrong with the patient, if the medicine is working, or if the patient is getting better.

Psychiatry is still in the medieval age. Try this, try that. Increase the dose of this medicine, decrease the dose of that medicine. Patients are treated like human guinea pigs. Diagnosis is based on checklists of symptoms (the DSM manual); yet the checklists for different illnesses overlap, resulting in misdiagnosis.

My brother-in-law was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and given the wrong medication for years. He is actually bipolar. He was given a range of medication with limited success. Finally, he has the right doctor and the right medication. He is once again the caring, loving soul we last saw 20 years ago. (For those of you caring for the mentally ill, I know it is extremely difficult, but keep the faith and keep up the hope.)

Dec. 18 2012 11:51 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

Not to mention that it's a 'hot button issue' for people who have hot fingers on cold triggers. (responding to the current caller)

Laws will never prohibit all violators from violating a given law ... do we still believe in having laws?

On the other hand, I do think that the core of the issue is our society's dysfunction. We are obsessed with appearance, materiality (from the iPhone to the assault weapon), money and so on, while the care for our community (on regional, national, and international levels), and one another, is only provoked when a tragedy occurs. We need to detox from materiality.

Dec. 18 2012 11:35 AM

First, the article " I am Adam Lanza's Mother..." Totally inappropriate. Sorry Brian, this is not a useful article at this point in time when people are trying to understand the why of the tragedy that has unfolded in Conn. Maybe useful at another time but not now. She is and was not Adam's mother and Nancy Lanza is not here to speak for herself or her son. From what I can glean from some of the disgustingly outrageous articles thinly disguised as journalism, Nancy was a mother who loved her son, and did not see him as a threat to herself or anyone else despite the disgusting article re: 'Babysitter was told Never turn Back On Adam'...

The airwaves are full now of all the mental health and gun talk. It's interesting though, that Adam's brother Adam as having a personality disorder and not suffering from mental illness. One very initial article quoted a student who knew Adam as describing him as someone who was quiet, and shy, who hung with the geeks but was not disturbed. Now of course we all know that he was a monster creeping in the shadows of the school hallways, a time bomb waiting to go off...
I have one question and one question only about Adam Lanza,and which will probably be swept away with the sensation tide: What pharmaceutical drugs were they giving to this poor kid. He didn't snap people. Don't drink the media Kool aide. He shot his mother four times in the head before he arrived at the school. This was a case of extreme aggression, extreme violence. The kind that is instigated by these psych. drugs and some informed Drs. know it!!! Who was Adam Lanza's Dr. and what drugs was he on??? This tragedy deserves at the least a hard look at this angle of this whole tragedy.And yes I am from gun control.

Dec. 18 2012 11:25 AM
kevin gallagher from Bellmore Long Island

Thank you for addressing the bottom line!!!!!!
I’m a teacher in New York State and I can attest to the fact that we are performing an injustice to our special education students.
We coddle then and shelter them and give them just enough information to pass state tests.
Very little if anything is taught to these students to prepare them for life.
We do not teach them any practical information to allow them to be employable.
The school districts push these students through the system and completely wash their hands of them after they graduate.
This is the bottom line!!!!!
Banning guns will not help anything and is just a knee jerk reaction that the media likes to build upon, because it sells papers, readdressing mental health issues or special education is boring to the media.
What have we become?????
Your program helps to educate the public on the real issues.
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you

Dec. 18 2012 11:21 AM
Gordon from Raleigh, NC

Did not hear the show, although I was a Peer Specialist in NC for four years until I moved on to more lucrative work. I find my struggles to start and end with support and personal responsibility. Everyone benefits from support and peer support has helped me stay out of the hospital for the last six years plus. I do not know the details of these conversation and only have seen people's opinions on fb, although I feel for me that supporting and being supported by peers helps me to remain well and that is my main objective as my happiness follows.

Dec. 18 2012 11:09 AM

Proper mental health care and a healthy approach and attitude toward it are critical, of course, and have been ignored by this society -- along with all other health issues -- for far too long. But why are people tying this so closely to guns??

Has everyone -- especially the guests -- forgotten the actual issue of who possessed these guns?
The Aurora shooter and many other mass shooters were already on medication -- they'd received at least some kind of mental health treatment, though probably grossly inadequate.
Aren't people skirting the REAL issues here????
Enough is enough.

Dec. 18 2012 11:01 AM
Paul from Glen Cove

Maybe I missed the conversation, but it's not about locking in students, or locking up disturbed people. The key is locking up firearms. And that should be part of the requirement of owning a firearm, not to mention changing the requirements of who can get a firearm.

Dec. 18 2012 10:56 AM
Abby from Brooklyn

Another important factor to consider in this mental health topic is diet. There is a lot of research out there about the chemical imbalances that processed foods cause in the body and mind. It seems there is still a disconnect in acknowledging that our health as a society is related to the food we eat. Obesity is not the only result of poor diet. We need to make the connection that poor diet also has a profound effect on child development and brain chemistry.

Dec. 18 2012 10:51 AM
John A.

I believe ine milestone for video games was passed about 4 years ago, the one where more money was spent on them than for (all) motion pictures. FPS could be 50% of all such games but I don't know that number. FPS stands for "First Person Shooter" or "You are the Shooter".

Dec. 18 2012 10:45 AM
Rob W from Long Island, NY

A caller made a comment that people on disability for mental illness should be required to take psychiatric medications. First they should realize how disturbing it is that the reason they are allowed to go one disability for mental health issues is because employers want the ability to fire someone because they are mentally ill. If employers won't hire people with mental illness, then the caller would essentially be dictating to the patient that no employer will hire you and the government won't pay you either therefore your only option to nourish yourself is to take medications -- which in many cases is overkill. Also, please remind the caller that many of these medication have schizomimetic affects on withdrawal (meaning a person who has a mild mental illness, if they miss several doses intentionally or accidentally, could potentially wind up more mentally ill and dangerous than they ever were without medication and hence realize medication is not a panacea or a solution to the problem. I believe, for example, the columbine shooters were on luvox, a psychiatric medication, which some say caused their problems in that incident. So medications do not necessarily solve these problems.

Disclaimer: I am mentally ill. I am on disability. And i do take medications (an antispychotic and a mood stabilizer, and if you really want to know, a heartburn pill).

Dec. 18 2012 10:43 AM
Karen Gormandy from NYC

I absolutely agree that screening should be established in colleges. But these illnesses manifest early, in pre adolescence, high school age if not earlier. The symptoms of withhdrawal and rebellion can often be misunderstood as typical teenage behavior. Education not only for school professionals but for children as they recognize the behavior in themselves, loved ones and peers. It is a public health issue!

Dec. 18 2012 10:42 AM
Joel Hubbard


Sharing this information can save lives!

Dec. 18 2012 10:42 AM

was young adam bullied because he was different?

Dec. 18 2012 10:42 AM
Rivka Steinberg from Highland Park, NJ

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked with children and adolescents for many years. Tragedies such as this most recent one certainly make us think, and wonder and question reasons for such violence. It is good to finally hear some helpful discussion about mental illness and violence but there is one point I must clarify--as your guests stress: a 'diagnosis' of Asperger's or ADHD or intermittent explosive disorder can't be used to explain away the violence. What parents, schools, even school mental health personnel OFTEN don't either notice or understand are the deeper feelings within the troubled individual. A child with ADHD or some other diagnosis can be angry and anger being a secondary emotion really means there is emotional pain in that child's life. Our job is to FIGURE IT OUT!! The pain can stem from feelings of shame, betrayal, marginalization, learned helplessness, numbness (strongly associated with depression), absence of self-validation or as Doctor Rabbi Abraham Twersky states: absence of feelings of USEFULNESS. Unfortunately, many of us do not understand this. So we medicate, search for 'better' diagnoses, search for 'better' professionals who often don't get it either. One unfortunate result often is many power struggles between the child and adult which the adult can't really win. It makes me frustrated because it's really not that hard to validate a child's pain and really listen. It's difficult to write about this without sounding simplistic but I did my best. Thanks.
I would love to hear from you, Brian.

Dec. 18 2012 10:42 AM
hk from manhattan

To the caller that said treatment should be mandatory— I'm speaking about my twin brother who has been treated for many mental conditions. Many times medication makes him terribly sick, turns him into a drone or completely changes his personality, and many times he suffers from rehabilitating depression while on certain medications. I don't think it is fair to force this on anyone, we don't know enough about treatment or even the disorders to mandate any treatment.

Dec. 18 2012 10:41 AM
Judy from Manhattan

Most people probably don't realize that there are NO in-patient psych units in Manhattan. The last one (at Cornell Weill) closed this spring. Teens and young people have to go to Westchester for in-patient psychiatric care. I found this out when my child was hospitalized last spring. I think this in unbelievable -- in Manhattan -- the land of shrinks!

Dec. 18 2012 10:41 AM
Amy from Manhattan

How can we work to destigmatize mental illnesses? If people weren't ashamed to have a mental illness or to have a mentally ill family member, they'd be more likely to feel that's it's OK to look for help. Yes, we need to change policy so the help is there when they need it, but we also need to change the culture. When even Brian Lehrer says prison is often the only option for mentally ill people, it's evident that the image of mental illness as being associated with violence is too widespread, & I'm glad Prof. Kaslow corrected him. I've been saying "mental illnesses" in the plural because there are many different ones, & few of them are connected with violence. In fact, someone who has a mental illness is much more likely to be a victim of violence than to commit it.

So how can this stereotype be countered? Public service announcements on TV, radio, websites, & billboards can be part of it, but I think the portrayal of mental illnesses in the media is a major problem, & that may be harder to change.

Dec. 18 2012 10:41 AM
RJ from prospect hts

What's the difference between policy in the U.S. and other 1st world countries where these episodes are not routine? Could it be universal health care? See Tom Zoellner's book, A Safeway in Arizona, about the lack of availability in Arizona for the Gabby Gifford's shooter, despite the number of people who saw symptoms, especially in the few years before the shooting.

Dec. 18 2012 10:41 AM
Nathan from Hoboken, NJ

I dont think as many kids have mental illness as we are being told they do, I think something is wrong with the context in which they exist and it is shame we are not examining that context instead we near criminally pump them full of drugs and forever alter their frontal/neo cortexes in the name of making them "normal". And normal is really awful, normal watch 8 hours of TV a day, normal owes more on a home than it can afford, normal is 30lbs overweight, normal doesn't eat any real vegetables, etc...there is a hell of a lot wrong with normal

Something is more wrong than this, why are there so many more problems with children than there used to be? I hate to sound like my grandfather, but is is because we don't work them in the fields any more? I guess what I am trying to say is I question the idea that these kids have mental problems, instead something is wrong with the external classification and contextual system that prevents them from moving past it or something we are doing to them is creating these "problems" at a higher rate. The fake food? The video games? The lack of physical outlets for fluctuating testosterone? The ridiculousness of "zero tolerance" ? The immoral overuse of strongly psychoactive medications on the forming neo/cerebral cortex? The decline of morality in our nation that causes a overwhelming sense of despair? I reject the notion that something is vastly more wrong with kids than it used to has to be something else.

Then I come back to this we need people who are "odd" and the extending of "mental health" issues to them is really just not ok, is it?

Dec. 18 2012 10:39 AM
Jennifer Bartlett from brooklyn

Willowbrook wasn't for mentally ill folks. It was for developmentally delayed folks, and many people with merely physical, not mental disabilities, were put there due to encouragement from the medical establishment and societies need to hide disabled people.

Dec. 18 2012 10:38 AM
Karen from NYC

Can we refocus the conversation to discuss violent teens and young men? Why so many? What are the causes? What can parents do? That is what i took from the Mom's article.

Dec. 18 2012 10:38 AM
Clyde from Westchester

I have found it interesting and also disturbing that there has been no mention of health or medical professional relationships that the suspect may have had. Although I realize there are privacy restrictions, there seemingly has not been anyone coming forward to indicate that they have been involved in care; forgive if I missed something.

Dec. 18 2012 10:37 AM
Tasneem from Long island

Dr Doris Rapp, an environmental allergist, has written several books that suggest it's the toxins in our environment that cause many health problems, including mental health problems. Food allergies can also cause people to become violent. Many autistic kids are on gluten free and casein free diets to assist with their neurological issues. So diets are another factor that should be seriously considered.

Dec. 18 2012 10:37 AM
Jf from ny

Our leaders kill scores of children.stop ignoring this. They are insane. We don't ever. Ever talk about this. Its okay to kill children if they live in Pakistan and you use a only the lone wierdo is insane. If you can think of a justification and censor the media its okay to killover 150 children. If I was president this would not happen. But you prefer our leaders to be mass murders.

Dec. 18 2012 10:35 AM

Another comment mentioned the very disturbing and thought-provoking book, "The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing (followed by "Ben", likewise important.)

How about transition housing? I worked at a boys' home in Baltimore, and the mentoring by the adults (including men) was visibly positive for the young men there. Granted, they were not suffering from a mental disability, but the safety and supervision by professionals gave a secure base for the kids.

I do believe there should be major support for families. In my own family, there is a person who is a serious danger to himself - and to us. He's now in his thirties, and upon hearing some of the stories I told him, my psychiatrist said "This is the kind of guy who winds up in the headlines."

Dec. 18 2012 10:35 AM
Frank Tuesday from NYC

Simple. Armed school safety officers. Locked classroom doors. Not all of the ill are on the radar. The guns are everywhere.

Dec. 18 2012 10:35 AM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

There have been lots of wonderful comments and perspectives, making it seem like the best target is to address them all at once, rather than one at a time.

We just need to live in a less violent society, and that doesn't persistently push people till they break, surrounded by images of violence as a way to act out your frustrations.

Half our popular movies seem to be about what amounts to frustrated guys taking the law in their own hands to create some sort of vast assault weapons mayhem. Wow, what great cultural icons. You don't have to look far for where kids with twisted minds might get the idea!

Dec. 18 2012 10:34 AM

What about the current trend of coving up problems with Ritalin. My nephew grew up on Ritalin. he’s 30 now and still a mess.
schools love pulling kids on Ritalin. so does big pharma

Dec. 18 2012 10:33 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

... and what about the culture of violence not only with the proliferation of guns, but in our media? Movies, video games -- all horrifically graphic, and gratuitous.

You say it doesn't affect our humanity? It doesn't have an impact on some if not all children? Then what does?

If, as the behavioral sciences are finally realizing that both nature AND nurture affect whom we ultimately become, then ALL inputs into our lives, particularly our young lives, and especially when so much time is spent to the point of obsession -- who's to say that this doesn't produce disaffected, non-socialized youth?

But no one is screaming for that part of our society -- a for-profit part of our society, to stop cynically making money at the expense of our social fabric.

Dec. 18 2012 10:32 AM
Samin Shehab from Brooklyn

What about Osteopathic medical care providers? How do the fit into the access to mental health care in the U.S.?

Dec. 18 2012 10:31 AM
Mark H from NJ

I am a retired psychiatric nurse who has worked on locked inpatient units. I found this type of confinement for mostly docile patients to be unconscionable.

I was part of a People to People delegation of nurses who toured and observed mental health facilities in Cuba. We concluded that the Cuban mental health care system, which as presented to us did not maintain locked units, was more humane than the system in the United States.

The most agitated patients were engaged in work and in arts groups. We were entertained by an orchestra and chorus, members of which showed symptoms associated with the side effects an antipsychotic medications which are in short supply in Cuba. The mentally ill appear to be more included in Cuban society.

I think that much of the inclusion and more humane treatment that we observed is a phenomenon of Cuban culture and the influence of the extended family and community there. Unfortunately, we concluded that this was a foundation of humane treatment that could not be imported into the United States without major societal changes. Maybe viewers could suggest potential policy that might encourage maintenance of the extended family in our country.

Dec. 18 2012 10:31 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Mental illness -- an involuntary illness that, like any other, we can all fall victim to -- is the next social acceptance milestone.

Dec. 18 2012 10:29 AM
John A

Believe it or not, Sacriment of Reconciliation is (a resource for) mental health, and it's free. I have seen a few priests go away to get a degree in counciling for this purpose and that's from the Medical industry, not the Vatican. I'm not saying they all have the degree, but its there if you look.

Dec. 18 2012 10:29 AM
stefano giovannini from 11206

What about "duffel bag" Salvatore Perrone? He is been treated like a regular criminal when it is obvious he had delusions and behavioral issues?

Dec. 18 2012 10:26 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Lisa, many folks who are pointing to the problem with mental illness are not shills for the NRA; they see the problem as broader & deeper than simply trying to legislate gun ownership. In fact, I'd bet that overwhelmingly those who comment in that vein would strongly support much more restrictive gun laws (as do I.)

And I couldn't agree more with Dr. Sanjana's plea as stated in an earlier post:

Why do we in this country resist the wisdom of most other civilized countries of all plitical stripes share.... [about this issue, as well as several others -- all related.]

Dec. 18 2012 10:26 AM

Who is willing to pay more taxes to help the mentally ill?
Just added it to the list of stuff we don’t want to pay for

Dec. 18 2012 10:25 AM
Josh Karan from Washington Heights, northern Manhattan

One facet of this exploration that has gone unmentioned is the contribution that schools can make to a mentally healthier society when they incorporate programs such as the Resolving Conflict Creatively program of the Morningside Center For Teaching Social Responsibility (formerly Educators for Social Responsibility of Metro NY).

This program, along with ones which promote peer mediation, and anti-bullying, and violence prevention, are often referred to as part of of the rubric known as Social and Emotional Learning. It has been developed and deployed at schools for more than 30 years, to great acclaim, because of its success inculcating compassion, empathy, and cooperative attitudes and skills in young people. The flagship program is at PS 24 in Sunset Park, with a principal committed to viewing such character development as an integral part of what it means to educate young people. This program has helped transform the adult educators along with the children.

Such programs are rare. There is little consciousness of their importance in this competitive, high stakes testing-sorting society, increasingly focused on what it calls 'the basics", as if human decency to one another is not as basic as algebra. So generally there is no place made
in the school curricula/schedule for incorporation of the experiential-role playing examination of values, alongside the academic cultivation of "the intellect". And there is no money provided for training of teachers, products of the same American culture as their students and the parents of such students, in these skills and attitudes.

helped bring peer mediation programs of the Morningside Center to four District 6 middle schools in 2010-2011. This was made possible because of the existence of Federal Stimulus ARRA money from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act meant to combat the economic downturn caused by the 2008 financial crisis. This money lasted one year. Not coincidentally that was also how long the peer mediation programs lasted, as they cost tens of thousands of dollars to bring in skilled outside facilitators who have made this their life's work. Principals generally will not dedicate scarce dollars to do so.

As we ponder how to contend with this unthinkable tragedy, what is often derisively dismissed as a "soft frill" that detracts from preparing students for the ''hard real world" can help point the way to a different ethic which may enable a rethinking of whether guns are the way to resolve conflicts -- between individuals, groups, or nations.

Would that all of our schools view and adopt these programs as essential to their mission.

Dec. 18 2012 10:25 AM
tom from astoria

What about the socialization of boys which takes place in traditional societies. From men's groups or "village elders" boys of this age are put through initiation rites that scare them into channelling their energy into a direction that serves the community. THis strict control comes from no where in our society. THen it's too late.

Dec. 18 2012 10:24 AM
Cindy from Westchester

Your guest talked about looking out for signs. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ask your guest (Nadine) what to look for in young children. My 9 year old son is very short tempered and sometimes violent and talks about death a lot. It has worried me even from before CT. Is this a sign of something worse to come? How does a parent know and what do parents look for in their kids?

Dec. 18 2012 10:23 AM
Doris from nyc

There is a Doris Lessing Book called "The Fifth Child."
It's about a family who has a picture perfect home until the arrival of a very odd and somewhat scary 5th child - Ben.
This conversation reminds me of her book.

Dec. 18 2012 10:23 AM
Susan from Chelsea

Please discuss the very relevant op-ed piece in today's NY Times regarding the similarities between terrorist bombers and rampage shooters. It is an excellent point which can help find a lens by which to view these episodes, and it is important to consider.

Dec. 18 2012 10:22 AM
Norma Hege from Manhattan

PLEASE ask then if there is no causal relation between Mental Illness and violence, what are the causes of violence. Why those persons become violent?

Dec. 18 2012 10:21 AM
Pat from New York City

The commentary Brian and his guest are making on health care availability is perhaps a bit off target.

There is also the *stigma* of having a child that is 'off-kilter'. Consider that in the pro-choice arguments, one component is the stigma of being pregnant as a young teen.

We need to address the issue holistically. The family is integral in the solution.

Dec. 18 2012 10:18 AM

We keep hearing that lack of funding is a major part of the problem, but maybe excessive funding is actually part of the problem. First, I would say that fiscally, where will the money come from? As a nation we're facing the so called 'fiscal cliff' just trying to pay our current bills. Who should pay? And that is where I think excessive funding is partially the root of the problem. Maybe instead of the tab being picked up by everyone else to support dysfunctional individuals, we should switch to prenatal screening and encourage the pregnancy to be ended in these cases. If individuals don't want to abort the baby, they are of course welcome to have the child, but the bill shouldn't be picked up by everyone else.

Dec. 18 2012 10:18 AM

I wonder where a mental ill person would get these violent thoughts if not for the violent media we support in this country. the movies, the video games.
Why would a good parent teach their violent child to play with guns?
Why would you take a 5 year old to watch a batman movie?
This is the real culture of death.

Dec. 18 2012 10:18 AM
antonio from baySide

The media has erroneously reported a correlation with Aspergers and personality disorder. The fourth estate really needs to be regulated and held accountable.

Dec. 18 2012 10:17 AM
Adrian from Brooklyn

The news said Adam's mother took him to the gun range and taught him how to shoot guns and automatic rifles. Who the hell does this with a child who has a history of violent mental illness? What a bad decision on the part of the mother…. and btw… where the hell is the father of Adam?

Dec. 18 2012 10:17 AM
Jennifer Bartlett from Brooklyn

Thank you Brian. You are dealing with this well. There is a lot of room for ABLeism and prejudice here.
I am glad that Nadine fights that. How about we get rid of guns? All people in this country with mental illness deserve top health care. Whether aspergers is part of this is irrelevant!! All people with disabilities of any kind deserve health care.

Dec. 18 2012 10:16 AM
Pat from New York City

My spouse's brother and his wife have a child with a mental illness. This person has attacked the mother more than once and gone into rages on many occasions. Recently, he was found in his car, in a field after having apparently swerved off the road. The police found that there was a handgun in the car also.

After all of this history, neither of his parents are willing to actually do anything productive about this situation. This past Thanksgiving, under protest, we went to their house for dinner. I kept surveillance up all day long, watching this person for behavior that might lead me to believe they were dangerous.

I think this is probably the norm in our society. This kid spends time on the computer, has no social skills - even with his siblings that clearly love him. The ideas going thru his mind are his own, and have little bearing on a responsible society.

Dangerous. Maybe we need to educate parents better?

Dec. 18 2012 10:15 AM
sam from NYC

the mental health issue is so complex. not all mental health consumers are dangerous and not all people who are dangerous have mental health issues. the stigma issue is so relevant. I read the Liza Long blog and find it so sad that there is such a gap in the mental health services provided-- there is so much lacking-- too many suffering from acute mental health issues get put in psych units, are overmedicated, and not really treated for the issues at hand. Too many get "treated and streeted." THus, the bandaid gets put on and little is done to really help the person experiencing the actute episode.

Dec. 18 2012 10:14 AM
Lisa from Kentucky

The sudden focus on mental illness after this shooting is a disingenuous attempt to shift focus from the real problem -- the wild proliferation of extremely dangerous weapons in our society. "Guns don't kill, mentally ill people do" is just the latest NRA talking point.

Dec. 18 2012 10:13 AM

Re: I am Adam Lanza's Mother, be sure to look at the comments as well. It will give you a sense of how these parents treated by those who don't understand.

Dec. 18 2012 10:11 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

I couldn't agree with Dr. Sanjana more.

Dec. 18 2012 10:04 AM
Dr. Veeraf Sanjana

As a prapcticing physician, I find it extremely disturbing that so many people think that if we could address the "mental health issue", we could limit the number of tragedies inflicted by weapons in the hands of the mentally ill.

Most physicians know thaet the path ro a serious mental health diagnosis is frought with stumbling blocks, and takes a great amount of time, often several years, before an individual can be "certified" as mentally ill. Many issues of human rights are involved. Furthermore, even after a diagnosis is made, multiple confidentiality issues have to be taken ito cosideration and finally treatments are not black and white as is the case with physical ailments.

Why do we in this country resist the wisdom of most other civilized countries of all plitical stripes share: that the more guns available in the hands of ordinary people, the m ore the violent crime.

Dec. 18 2012 09:19 AM
Aldo from New Jersey

You should read this letter: I Am Adam Lanza's Mother

Very pertinent to the issue of mental health, violence, and societal inability to deal with the issue.

Dec. 18 2012 08:49 AM

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