Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jared Loughner: What can we learn?

This post is totally off the topic of Family Preservation and adoption. But it is about family and parenting.

I have just finished reading details of the behavior of the Arizona shooter who killed six people, Jared Loughner during the last year or two, here which describe outburst after outburst in his classrooms and ramblings which made no sense at all such as:

"My instructor said he called a number 6 and I said 'I call it 18.'"

And this police report:

"He very slowly began telling me in a low and mumbled voice that under the Constitution, which had been written on the wall for all to see, he had the right to his 'freedom of thought' and whatever he thought in his head he could also put on paper. ... His teacher 'must be required to accept it' as a passing grade," the officer wrote.

Friends of Jared Loughner told The New York Times that his behavior had become increasingly erratic over the past year. He feared that two of his closest friends were planning to kill him, one of those friends told the Times on Tuesday.

“He did not have many friends,” Zane Gutierrez, 21, told the newspaper. “We stopped talking to him in March of 2010. He started getting weird.”
He said Loughner would call at 2 a.m. and ask, “Are you hanging out in front of the house, stalking me?”

“He thought we were plotting to kill him or steal his car or something,” Gutierrez said. “It got worse over time.”

I don't think anyone needs a psych degree to conclude that this was a classic case of a 22-year-old man becoming schizophrenic - out of touch with reality. It is a not uncommon occurrence at that age.

What is sad is that his parents did not recognize this for what it was and get him institutionalized. It's all to reminiscent of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot up Columbine High School more than a decade ago. Their parents failed to notice the pipe bomb construction going on in the family garage. Is it because as parents we do not want to think evil of our children? is there still a stigma on mental health issues that prevents us from seeking treatment for our loved ones as we would if they broke a bone or were bleeding from an open wound? Is it lack of health insurance coverage for mental health issues that prevents us from seeking help?

Susan Reimer, in The Baltimore Sun, asks:

"It could be that complex mental diseases such as those that surely afflicted Cho and Loughner are beyond the scope of these parents to comprehend or manage. Or that the mental health care system is too complex to navigate or too fraught with cultural taboos to be of any use to them....And finally, it could be that parents do not see the damage in their children because they are damaged themselves."

Loughner's relationship with his parents, with whom he lived, was described as "strained." He clashed with co-workers and police. And he couldn't follow the rules at an animal shelter where he spent some time.

In a written statement, his parents said:

"We don't understand why this happened. We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss."

Randy and Amy Loughner, the parents of Jared Lee Loughner, who is accused of shooting Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six others, are described as distraught with grief and shame. A neighbor says Randy Loughner idolized his 22-year-old son and that Amy Loughner is so devastated that she cannot speak without weeping and might need to be hospitalized.

Reimer writes that we shouldn't rush to blame the parents. It's the easy way out, she says.  I am not blaming, I am stating that it is sad that they ignored cries for help. and likewise hold equally culpable teachers, school officials and police.

Reimer reminds us:
When Seung Hui Cho killed 32 students and teachers and then himself at Virginia Tech, and we learned that his Korean immigrant parents considered their troubled son odd and therefore a failure and likely telegraphed that message to him, we knew who to blame for his frustration and his rage.

The journal of Wayne Harris reflects the fact that he believed his son Eric did not commit a series of vandalisms and was, in fact, being scapegoated.

An essay by Dylan Klebold's mother, Susan, in O magazine cast her son, the mastermind of the Columbine rampage, as a victim of suicide and offered suicide warning signs to other parents. A suicide? Really?
Despite pointing out the beer drinking of Mrs Loughner, Reimer ends her piece by saying:  "Sometimes good people have evil children" and tells us the parents are no more to blame than weak gun laws or political rhetoric.

If blame needs to be cast, I put it on the medical/psychological community for failing to properly educate the public on the signs and symptoms of serious mental disorders that can possibly lead to dangerous behaviors of self harm to harm to others. I think the public needs to be far more aware of signs and symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, and the fact that it often affects young adults who have been perfectly normal up until then.

We also need full medical coverage for young adult children over 18 still living at home.

We educate parents that sudden changes in behavior could indicate drug use, but we are ignoring this issue entirely. Let's remove the stigmas and fight mental health as we do cancer!

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