Read this now: “I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother…”

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

Read this eloquent and heart-breaking story from a mom whose 13 year old son is mentally ill. She writes:

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.

mental health
Read this eloquent and heart-breaking story and then print a half-dozen copies, put them in envelopes and mail them to your Congress critters (three copies), your governor and state legislators (three copies).

In 1975, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (based on the 1962 novel) cast a glaring light on the state of mental institutions.

Then in 1980, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 (House vote, 277-15; Senate vote, 93-3).

It came on the heels of four years of hearings and a presidential task force benefiting from First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s active involvement. Philosophically it affirmed Pres. John F. Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Centers, an attempt to thwart hospitalizations. It fit into the safety-net values championed by Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson with the passage of Medicaid and Medicare.

We began the journey to where we are today the very next year, with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 which repealed (pdf) Carter’s signature bill:

[I]n 1981 the Reagan administration orchestrated the repeal of the Mental Health Systems Act, consolidated the categorical mental health programs into a block grant, and cut spending on those programs about 25 percent.1 The vision of an organized, community-based, and dedicated mental health system ended.

If you’re old enough to remember the Reagan years, this may also ring a bell:

Reagan’s social policy is best seen as an abdication. Reagan’s economic policy was to adjust government regulation so that it favored business once again, and social policy was merely an outgrowth of this larger issue… As for the mentally ill, certain changes that their families and practitioners wanted were gained… All in all, business interests were served. Families and doctors were appeased. Patients were forgotten.

President George W Bush picked up the pieces, created a commission and pushed for reform.

Despite endorsement by the administration and many legislators, parity legislation has been stalled
for years, because the Republican chairmen of the relevant committees and the party’s congressional leadership have not pressed for its enactment. (New England Journal of Medicine, 2004, pdf)

Conservatives again refuse to talk about guns. Will they continue to also boycott discussions about mental health? Not if enough people raise hell.

So go raise some hell.

Flickr photo, Cover of a 1969 Mental Health magazine from the UK : used with Creative Commons License

I posted this on my Facebook past Saturday night. I should have posted it here then, too.