I remember exactly when I found out he had been having homicidal fantasies. It was about a month after I found out he had been playing with razor blades and knives while we all were sleeping. I was sitting in a staff meeting—a meeting that includes everyone who works with him at the facility—and somebody mentioned it, as though I already knew this. As though I was already aware and had calmly accepted the fact that this mental illness that pervades him had taken him to this dark place. That I had given a nod and accepted defeat.
In the light of the shootings in Newtown Connecticut, I have lived in a combination of fear, denial, anger, and abject grief and sadness. Like much of the nation, I cannot begin to imagine how sick an individual would have to be to shoot a class of kindergartners, many of them multiple times. But from my perspective, any individual who would do such a thing—Dylan Kliebold, Eric Harris, the Aurora shooter—must be mentally ill. There should have been safeguards in place. Somebody should have been able to say, "There's something not right." Or the suspects themselves should have been able to reach out and receive mental health services that were not bogged down with red tape.
My anger stems from my own experiences—two years of beating my head bloody against a thick wall of red tape to get a sick child help—who went from anxiety, depression, and mild self-harm to suicidal and homicidal fantasies that included killing his family. It is exceptionally easy for me to see myself and my son in this same position ten years from now. Especially if his facility discharges him and washes their hands clean, as they have mentioned they might do.
Guns in this country are a huge problem. I am personally 100% for gun control and always have been. The research and numbers bear it out, as does logic—it's a lot harder to impulsively kill someone without a gun. Arguments such as bombs, screwdrivers, hammers, and knives being used to kill people are foolish to me. There will always be ways to kill other people. But guns make it quick, easy , and thoughtless. There is very little effort or thought that must go into killing someone with a gun.
However, I strongly believe that the mental health system in our country is broken, and addressing one venue without the other is going to leave a hole in our healing. We must provide more comprehensive services for those who need them, and make those services available. The two years the insurance company spent having us prove that our child needed inpatient care caused a decompensation to the extent that I don't know if we'll ever get him back. Psychological experts may or may not agree with me, but as an early childhood educator and someone who has studied mental health extensively, we all know an earlier intervention is a better intervention. This kid needed to be hospitalized a good eighteen months before he was...and he was sent home time and again.
So for now I pray for those families who have suffered such loss I cannot begin to comprehend; I pray for their peace and healing. And I pray that our nation can somehow figure out a way to ensure that this kind of tragedy is no longer a yearly event. And on a selfish note, I pray that I'm never facing the wrong end of my son's gun.