Making Sense of the Senseless

Posted by Phil Cardenas on Jan 01, 2013

by Janet Singer

Mental illness stigma and seeking help

I, like everyone else, am still trying to somehow make sense of the horrific massacre that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We want to know why, because if we know why, then we have something to focus on, something to fix. Once we do that we can move on, confident that nothing like this will ever happen again.

Oh, if only it were that easy.  But it rarely is, especially in this unimaginable scenario we are dealing with. Easy answers? No. Any answers? Who knows? At this writing, little is known about the killer’s issues, except for the fact that he might have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Basically, that tells us nothing. Children and adults with Asperger’s are no more likely than the general population to inflict harm on others.

Reaching out for help

But still we speculate. Certainly, nobody is his “right mind” would commit such a heinous crime. Did he have a mental illness, or was he just plain evil? We don’t know, and we may never know. But the truth is those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators of them, so even if Adam Lanza did have a mental illness, that’s not the issue here.  The issue, to me, is why was he holed up in his home with an overly-stressed mother (and guns, but that’s a whole ‘nother post), who felt she had to “go it alone” with her son? Had she ever sought help for him? Had the stigma of mental illness prevented her from doing so? I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, but I do know there are many families out there who feel the shame and embarrassment of mental illness, and for that reason, don’t seek appropriate help for their loved ones or themselves. And then there are those who do reach out for assistance, only to find woefully inadequate treatment options available to them.

Be the vehicle of care and nurturing

We need to work toward having good mental health care available to every single person in our country, something we don’t have now. But I think there is something else we all need to do as well. We need to care for each other. We are all familiar with the policeman in New York who bought shoes for the barefoot, homeless man. This was a selfless act of kindness, and the video went viral. This type of behavior touches us all deeply, and yet it should be the norm. While most of us have families and friends for whom we would do anything, it is the people who are alone, who have no support system, that likely need us the most. You know a mom with a hard-to-handle child? Invite her out for coffee and see where the conversation goes. That child at school who is always sitting by himself and has no friends?  Make sure he is invited to your child’s next birthday party. Ignoring the pain and suffering of others will hurt all of us in the long run, while paying closer attention, and caring, may do more good than we could ever imagine.

As we know all too well, what happened in Newtown can happen anywhere. Before our nation has to come together to mourn yet again, let’s come together to care and nurture each other instead.

Beyond OCD has a wealth of resources and support for those who come in contact with sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Guide an educator, a clergy member or a friend in need to these pages and help be a vehicle for positive change.

Janet Singer, an advocate for OCD awareness, is published regularly on various mental health web sites. She explores all topics related to OCD and shares what helped and what hurt in her son Dan’s recovery from this devastating disorder.  While there were many lessons learned along the way, Janet feels the most powerful one of all is that there is always hope. She is committed to getting the word out that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. You can read more about Dan’s story and follow her personal blog at: Janet uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy.


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