Sandy Hook and Mental Health

At this point, everyone knows exactly what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut this past week.  When I heard about it, I considered writing a post here linking back to my posts from several months ago talking about sociopaths in our culture.  After giving it some thought, I realized that those posts are entirely the wrong tone for what happened.  I decided not to post about what happened, and I wouldn’t have, had I not found two posts that say everything that I could ever hope to say and more.  These are posts by two authors whose books I have read and enjoyed, Dan Wells and Rob Wells:

Dan Wells post – Mental Health, Mass Murder, and So On

Rob Wells post – How Close are we to More Killings?

I hope you take the time to read those posts, they are excellently written and they say everything perfectly.  But there’s something from Dan’s post that I want to highlight for everyone:

Statistically speaking, everyone reading this post has at least one person with a mental disorder in their immediate family–it is a part of our lives that we need to embrace and study and deal with instead of sweeping under the rug.

Keeping in mind that Depression is counted among the mental disorders, it’s easy to see how easily that figure can be reached.  But remember that there are many other conditions that can be counted in there as well.  So here’s where I come in to this, and why both posts that I linked to affected me.  One person in every family, yep, that’s me.

I’ve not been clinically diagnosed, but I would self-diagnose myself with Paranoid Personality Disorder and Panic Attacks.  (Again, not professionally diagnosed, but I graduated from college with a BA in Psychology.)

About a month ago while I was at work, I was pulling an order where I had to count out 30 of a part for the pinsetters.  No big deal right?  Yes, until I thought I lost count the first time, and then was worried again that I had lost count and counted it incorrectly yet again, after counting the parts 4 or 5 times I finally had to tell myself that I had 30 of them, and that I needed to move on because I had other things to do.

And that should be the end of it, except now I’m walking around the rest of the day feeling like I’m going to cry because I’m still worried about the order that I had finished hours ago.

It’s not easy constantly asking myself if I locked my car door, or if I turned off my car lights, or did I remember to do this, that, or the other.  Stupid things that we all think about from time to time, but how many times do you feel like you have to go back out to your car to make sure that it’s locked?  And then once you’ve gone out to check, you’re still worried that it’s not locked.  How many times do you wonder if you forgot to do something at work?  How many times have you been laying awake at night unable to sleep because you’re worried about it until you drive back to work at 2:30 in the morning to make sure it was done?

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3 Comments

  1. Good on you for talking about it. While I have been lucky enough so far to avoid mental illness myself, people very close to me have been affected. It’s hard for everyone – including family and friends – to know how to help, much as we desperately want to. Sometimes I wish we could overcome the tangled web of language, with all its innuendos and implications, to just be able to see into other people’s heads, and know how they are feeling and thinking.

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  2. Great post, Adam, thank you. I don’t know the statistical correlation, but I’d be willing to bet the explosion of California’s prison population began about the time when then Governor Reagan closed a number of our mental health facilities. Those who cannot conform to minimum cultural norms *for whatever reason* now wind up in prison because there is nowhere else for them to go (and because it’s profitable for the “prison industries” but that is another topic).

    The perpetrators of violence like that in Connecticut, are capable of systematic planning – “higher functioning” – and thus slip through the net. I don’t expect any renaissance of care for mental disorders in our current economy, but let us hope that legislators will recognize a need to include widening mental health services along with setting some limits on weapon availability.

    People in certain vocations have a “duty to warn” of persons who pose a credible threat to themselves or others. Could that be widened by allowing ordinary citizens to make a 5150 call without moving us toward a police state? Sadly I doubt it. It reminds me of when the late Senator Ted Kennedy found himself on a Homeland Security no-fly list.

    Here is a chance for both parties to begin a dialog, and let’s hope they do, for the one thing that is certain is that if nothing is done, nothing will change…

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