No one knows for sure what role mental illness may have played in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
But one mother, whose 13-year-old son suffers from an unknown condition, has taken this opportunity to draw attention to the hardships of parenting a mentally ill child who does act out violently.
In an essay, titled “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” writer Liza Long empathizes with the mother of the suspected Sandy Hook shooter, as well as the mothers of gunmen in several other mass shootings.
“[T]hese boys—and their mothers—need help,” Long wrote in the essay, posted on Gawker.
But as The Globe’s Simon Houpt reports, the suggestion that the suspected gunman suffered specifically from Asperger’s has prompted plenty of discussion, with an emphasis that Asperger’s and other forms of autism should not be linked with such violence.
The Autism Society, based in Bethesda, Md., issued a statement, noting: “There is absolutely no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a linkage between autism and planned violence. To imply or suggest that some linkage exists is wrong and is harmful to more than 1.5 million law abiding, non-violent and wonderful individuals who live with autism each day.”
In her essay, Long describes her fear and frustrations dealing with her son. A few weeks ago, he pulled a knife and threatened to kill her and himself, she says, explaining that the medical system was unable to help, while a social worker advised that her only option was to get him charged with a crime.
“I don’t believe my son belongs in jail,” Long says. “…But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people.”
In a heartbreaking admission, she writes: “I love my son. But he terrifies me.”
Long’s essay has prompted a wide range of responses.
Some parents, teachers and family members of individuals who lash out violently have identified with Long, expressing that they feel similarly helpless. Some commenters opine that for the safety of everyone around him, Long should “get this boy locked up.”
Others, however, criticize Long for comparing her son to a suspected mass killer and for contributing to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“You have to have some serious issues of your own Ms. Long. Your son is clearly struggling with a severe mental illness and yet you've already assigned him to the category of ‘soon to be killer.’ You should be ashamed of yourself and your disgustingly selfish response,” one commenter wrote on Gawker. “You are not Adam Lanza's mother…. You are the mother of your son, a troubled child with mental health issues. You don't need any help, he does.”