A blog post by Liza Long (not her real name), a mother of four children from Boise, Idaho, titled "I am Adam Lanza's Mother," in which she opens up, describing the challenges of raising her mentally disturbed son has gone viral online.
The blog post comes while the media speculate about the connection between Adam Lanza's shooting crime at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, Conn., and his alleged mental illness.
Long's article was originally published on the blog The Anarchist Soccer Mom, and later syndicated on Gawker, where it has received more than 2.5 million views.
It was written on the day Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School, and killed 20 children. According to Long, she was prompted to write the blog post about her 13-year-old son's mental illness because her fears about him heightened after the Newtown elementary school tragedy. With media speculations about the mental condition of Adam Lanza, Long fears her son could one day also commit a similar crime.
Long writes that she is "terrified" of her son "Michael" (not his real name). She writes that a few weeks before, Michael pulled a knife when she asked him to return overdue library books:
"Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan - they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me."
The conflict ended with three burly officers and a paramedic wrestling the boy onto a gurney followed by an "expensive ambulance ride" to a local ER. She writes: "The mental hospital didn't have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist."
"I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. 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."
According to Long, her son is a "highly gifted math and science student," who will "gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who."
While Long expresses fears about her son, she also decries the lack of care and support for children with mental disabilities. She writes: "In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, in an exclusive interview on NBC's Today show on Monday Morning, she said: "Every time I hear about a mass shooting, I think about my son. And I wonder if someday, I'll be that mom."
Long explains that in spite of consultations with probation officers, social workers, counselors, teacher, school administrators, psychologists and psychiatrists, a firm diagnosis of Michael's mental condition has not been established. She writes:
"Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings... He's been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood-altering pharmaceuticals...
"At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he's in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He's in a good mood most of the time. But when he's not, watch out. And it's impossible to predict what will set him off."
"When I asked my son's social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. 'If he's back in the system, they'll create a paper trail,' he said. 'That's the only way you're ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you've got charges."
She makes her argument against the system:
"...it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise... With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—
"No one wants to send a 13-year old genius... to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. [But when] another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom... we wring our hands and say, "Something must be done."Controversy
Long has received support from other parents who also contributed their experiences. The blog article has received thousands of comments. The Daily Mail reports that one mother wrote: "I am moved to tears because this is my story, too.
"My son has threatened to kill me and commit suicide. He has waved knives and threatened to jump off the roof... My greatest fear is that he will do something like a mass shooting or some other public violent act. I am screaming for help and it is as if there is no one to hear it."
Another commenter, Robert, wrote: "We have a son with mental illness. Now that he is an 'adult' in the eyes of the law, he's decided he does not want to pursue any sort of treatment. Our hands are tied. There needs to be a discussion about how to strike a balance between protecting the rights of adults with mental illness and protecting the general public. Until we do, incidents like Newtown will happen again."
However, some readers have attempted to blame Long for her child's illness.
On her personal blog, a writer Sarah Kendzior, in a viral post of her own, accuses Long of a history of "vindictive and cruel posts about her children in which she fantasizes about beating them, locking them up and giving them away. In most posts, her allegedly insane and violent son is portrayed as a normal boy who incites her wrath by being messy, buying too many Apple products and supporting Obama."
Kendzior continues her indictment of Long: " I feel uncomfortable speculating about someone’s private life based on a blog. But since these children are likely to be the object of enormous media attention, someone should be paying close attention to the words of their mother.
"These children could be in real danger if her goal was to capitalize on the Newtown tragedy by creating a media campaign designed to give her sympathy. If I am wrong about this, I truly apologize. But there is a 13-year-old boy who has already had his reputation destroyed and who may be facing serious harm."
Sarah Kendzior refers to a blog post in which Long writes: "I quit! Let the state take care of you and your compulsive inability to stop poking people.” Kendzior also notes that Long and her husband had been involved in a messy divorce which does not portray the circumstances of Michael's upbringing in a favorable light. Kendzior adds sarcastically: "This 'national conversation' on mental illness needs to include the mental illness of mothers and the online privacy of their children. According to the blog, Liza Long is going through a bitter divorce and has violent and paranoid fantasies about her family. The father of the children is also portrayed as abusive."
Kendzior reacted to criticism from Long's supporters with the comment that she thinks "a child does not deserve to have his mother embark on a media tour promoting him as a future mass murderer."
However, after a brief altercation between the two women, they released a joint statement, stressing the need "for a respectful national conversation on mental health." The statement said:
"Whatever disagreements we have had, we both believe that the stigma attached to mental illness needs to end. We need to provide affordable, quality mental health care for families. We need to provide support for families who have a relative who is struggling. We both agree that privacy for family members, especially children, is important. Neither of us anticipated the viral response to our posts. We love our children and hope you will respect their privacy."
The statement concluded: "We are not interested in being part of a ‘mommy war.’ We are interested in opening a serious conversation on what can be done for families in need. Let’s work together and make our country better.”