Remove stigma of mental illness, let parents seek help
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has broken our hearts.
I can't look away, yet, I can't hardly bear to look anymore as the details about each of the little lives that were lost are played over and over.
The fact that little Jack Pinto loved sports and was buried in a New York Giants jersey and Emilie Parker loved to draw pictures for her friends brings tears to my eyes and has caused me to want to be around children as much as possible since Friday.
I spent an hour in my son's class Monday morning and didn't want to leave, even when my mom-in-class job was over. Being around kids of early grade school age really forces you to focus on what's important in life.
It occurred to me that when one of those kids gets the flu, or strep throat, they go to the doctor. They get medicine and spend a few days at home. There's no stigma about being ill, it just happens.
Unless the illness is mental illness.
We treat those ill children differently. We stigmatize the illness and indirectly blame the parents. We talk behind their backs and exclude their children, because we don't know what to do with them.
The parents know this. They try to pretend that everything is okay, that their kid is just "a little different." They move them from school to school, or sometimes home school them. They make excuses for their kids' behavior and hope they will grow out of it. Sometimes they do.
Nancy Lanza kept her son's problems to herself. She probably felt like no one would understand. More than anything in the world, a parent wants her children to be happy and healthy, and Adam Lanza's mom was no different.
To be truthful, there isn't enough health care coverage or a big enough network of doctors for a parent who is brave enough to admit there is a problem and seek help. Nancy Lanza told a babysitter once not to turn his back on Adam, not for a minute. She home schooled him after the 10th grade, probably because she knew he didn't fit in. She tried to protect Adam from the world, and protect the world from Adam.
It proved to be too big a job for her. In a few awful minutes on Friday, he changed the lives of 26 people and those who love them forever.
We have to erase the stigma of mental illness so that families can ask for help and get it. Gun control is a big issue in this country, but our mental health is an even bigger one.