Edit: a post subsequent to the response to this one can be found here.
After this blog post was republished on Huffington Post, I thought it necessary to summarise the main reasons why it’s a terrible springboard for further conversation on the subject.
1) The suggestion that this woman’s son is of the same type of person who would or will commit a “rage murder”, without any real evidence to back up this suggestion.
2) The article doesn’t divulge, or even acknowledge, that its subject might have his own perspectives, beliefs and motivations that are worth mentioning. His mother’s perspective, mainly on his ‘evil eyes’ with their ‘calculated pupils’ is the only one given. Thus the child is presented solely as a problem, or at best, as a two-dimensional contradiction of his “behavioural problems” and his “intelligence” and not as a person with any more than shallow emotions. By reducing ‘mental illness’ to ‘outward behaviour’ the article dehumanises the mentally ill and completely glosses over the inner mental life and experiences of those with mental illness.
3) The article complains about mental illness stigma while reinforcing it by explicitly tying it to violence, and in particular, mass killings. The reality is that there is no such observed link: “after analysing a number of killers, Mullen concludes, ‘they had personality problems and were, to put it mildly, deeply troubled people.’ But he goes on to add: ‘Most perpetrators of autogenic massacres do not, however, appear to have active psychotic symptoms at the time and very few even have histories of prior contact with mental health services.’” And most people with mental illness are not violent, although they are far more likely to be victims of crime (see here, for instance).
4) The article, with this link established, implies a desire to stop violent crime allegedly perpetrated by those with mental illness should motivate better care and provision for those with mental illness, and not, say, the lower life expectancy, unemployment, isolation, suicidality, homelessness, victimization or in general the suffering endured by those with it. The continual disregard for this reality perpetuates stigma on all levels of society and further exposes those with mental illness to harm.
5) Antipsychotics and antidepressants are not designed for children and most of them are not indicated for disruptive behaviour in children. Zyprexa, the prescription given to the child in the article, is not indicated for disruptive behaviour or autism in the US. This sort of willy-nilly prescribing with little real knowledge of or regard for the long-term consequences, particularly for those whose brains are not fully developed yet, is potentially extremely damaging, and it’s not unlikely that a forever-changing cocktail of unwise psychotropic prescriptions contributes to worsening psychological problems. However, there is no criticism of psychiatric or pharmaceutical practice in the article: merely a cry for more of the same.
6) You are NOT Adam Lanza’s mother. The sort of quasi-solidarity expressed in “We are [oppressed people]” or “I am [dead person]” appropriates the experiences of people who are unheard, in this case the victim of a mass homicide, and uses that to bolster a narrative that doesn’t even attempt to discover or represent the experiences of those they claim to speak for. Don’t do that.