Disability and Representation

Changing the Cultural Conversation

No, You Are Not Adam Lanza’s Mother and Yes, Your Kid’s Privacy Matters

Yesterday, I came across the article I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother, an article that has gone viral over the past 24 hours.

The article was written by a woman with a brilliant but violent 13-year-old son — a child who has clearly been failed by the mental health system. The article first appeared on her blog anonymously, but when it was picked up by the Huffington Post, Gawker, the Washington Post, NBC’s TODAY Moms, and other outlets, it appeared with her name, the area she lives in, and in a number of cases, a photograph of her son. She used a pseudonym for her son’s name, but not for her own. In other words, anyone who knows who she is will know who she’s talking about.

Why does it matter? Because in the article, she says the following:

“I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother.”

That’s right. She is comparing her child to mass murderers. In public. Under her own name. On the Internet. For the world to see.

Her 13-year-old son.

I’m not even going to speak to the issues that the article raises about the mental health system. I can’t even get that far because I’m so appalled that any mother, a day after 20 children are killed, would use her own name to write about her 13-year-old son and suggest that her son is like the person who killed them. There isn’t any moment when it’s appropriate to compromise a child’s privacy in that way. But when people are raw, and hurting, and scared, that’s a moment when it ought to be perfectly obvious that you don’t do it.

I’m even more appalled that so very few adults seem to care about the potential impact on her son. She is either getting kudos all around for being so brave, so honest, so real, or she is being called out for being retrograde in her attitudes about mental illness and violence. But very few have commented about the effect on her son. It’s as though they’ve written him off. He’s just a talking point. A springboard for discussion. An avatar of people’s worst fears.

But not a child struggling.

He will know about his mother’s post. So will everyone who knows his mother: his teachers, his schoolmates, his friends, his neighbors, his community members. So will millions of strangers. How exactly does this article enhance her son’s functioning? His mental state? His sense of safety? His ability to navigate the world?

It pains me to imagine how he must feel right now to have his private conversations and actions broadcast on the Internet for all to see. It pains me to imagine how he must feel to read some of the horrendous things that people are saying about him.

And yes, his feelings matter. His feelings matter quite a lot. Because he is a child who needs help, and for that help to matter, he has to feel safe, and he has to feel respected, and he has to feel that his private life has boundaries around it.

The words are out there now. They can’t be taken back. They will hang over him like a shadow.

I can understand the exhaustion and the helplessness that his mother feels; I can even understand harboring fear for the future in her own heart. Fear is fear; it can’t be argued with. But if you’re going to write about something so personal, so wrenching, so frightening, so painful that involves your minor child, common sense dictates that you use pseudonyms — not just for the child, but for yourself and for everyone else concerned. And for the love of God, you do not use a photo.

I’m speaking here as a mother. I am fierce about protecting my kid’s privacy. I don’t post anything that has my kid’s name in it without getting my kid’s approval, and if that approval doesn’t come, the post doesn’t go up.

I’ve been bothered for a long time about the extent to which people talk about their children without protecting their anonymity. I write under my own name, because I’m an adult and I make a conscious decision to share information about my life. I don’t share everything; I share what I’m comfortable sharing. But I would not make that decision for my kid. Not now. And not ever.

So many people seem to have lost all sense of privacy and common sense. I don’t know why that is. But I do know that a conversation about mental health, or a blog piece about the pain and suffering in one’s life, should never come at the expense of a child’s privacy. I don’t care who the child is and I don’t care what the child has done.

We’re adults. That’s our responsibility. We should know better.

References

The Huffington Post. “‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother': A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother-mental-illness-conversation_n_2311009.html. December 16, 2012. Accessed December 16, 2012.

© 2012 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

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  1. 12/17/2012 | 3:56 am Permalink

    someone who agrees with your article linked to it, but i have to say i do disagree. it took me some time to think critically towards why i feel defensive of the original article and i will admit that it is mostly a personal issue. i do suffer from a non-violent disability that my mom always discouraged when other figures in my life would bring it up. years after finally being diagnosed when i was struggling through my undergraduate degree, i found old correspondence between my mother and various teachers requesting that she have me tested for a variety of learning disabilities. my mom of course was proud of me, she wanted the best of me, believed in me, but because she rejected my ability i suffered for many years, and suffered more when being belatedly diagnosed and going through years of medical trials in my adult life. i don’t see any shame in the son by the original author. she may struggle, her son may struggle, but if no one speaks out about mental illness issues– especially when those who suffer cannot speak for themselves– how are we supposed to act critically to solve problems in the future? it should be okay to admit that we have problems. it should be okay for the mother to humanize her son amidst his violent turns. it should not be a sign of weakness. her son should not be a poster boy for violent personality disorders, i agree with you in that respect, but could you critically offer suggestions on how else she could have conveyed her story instead of simply admonishing her, and move us in the direction of constructive discourse about violent disability?

    • 12/17/2012 | 9:31 am Permalink

      rae, I did offer a suggestion, right there in my article: I said that she should have used a pseudonym for herself and everyone else in order to protect everyone’s privacy. My argument isn’t that she wrote the article. My argument is that she breached her kid’s privacy to do it.

      • 12/17/2012 | 12:04 pm Permalink

        You make a good point but I’m afraid not the one you are trying to make Rachel. In my mind you underscore a very dark societal norm that I think we need to do away with. She did give up personal information, it’s done…but if we were not such a negative society maybe we could hope someone and the right people would help her and her son not hate her for how she chose to advocate for those with mental illness. There is so much more we need to be looking at here. She’s reaching out. Your point of negativity is seriously bothersome. Her transparency is imporant and your point underscores that people should hide. Let’s turn this around and look with gentler hearts and those that cannot need to be directed by those of us who can.

        • 12/17/2012 | 5:48 pm Permalink

          You know what makes people with mental illness hide? Having mental illness and violence immediately linked after a tragedy. So someone writing about her son that she is Adam Lanza’s mother is not going to reduce the stigma of mental illness. It’s not going to bring people out of the closet. What reduces the stigma is for people to stop with the scare mongering, and to start looking at what we, as a society, are teaching our young men about what it means to be a man. Because all of these shooters have one thing in common: they are men. That is not a coincidence. We’re teaching our young men all the wrong things.

      • 12/17/2012 | 2:00 pm Permalink

        Rachel, how sure are you that she breached her son’s privacy? How sure are you that any of this article is based on fact whatsoever? Could it be possible that this piece is metaphorical and is not meant to be taken literally? After all, the title of the article is I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother and everyone reading the article instantly knows that to not be true. So is it possible that this is a fictional piece meant to display the plight of mother’s with mentally ill children? I think it’s possible, after all, nobody has spoken to Liza Long about it, including you.

        • 12/17/2012 | 3:47 pm Permalink

          Cory, please. She was interviewed by NBC. This isn’t fiction and it isn’t metaphor.

        • 12/17/2012 | 4:07 pm Permalink

          I wish that were the case. Unfortunately, many have now spoken to her, including, as Rachel pointed out, the Today show who had her prominently featured this morning, live and in person. There are so many vital issues here. Like Rachel, I believe they desperately need to be discussed. But also like Rachel, I am extremely concerned about the WAY in which this woman chose to start the conversation and the subsequent effect it will have on her very real child.

        • 12/17/2012 | 6:13 pm Permalink

          A minor cannot legally give consent to this.

        • 12/17/2012 | 7:07 pm Permalink

          what Rachel, Jess and Lizzy said.
          times ten.

    • 12/17/2012 | 11:15 am Permalink

      I found the original article very compelling, but was disturbed by just the point you make. The implications of identifying herself and posting the picture are huge for her son, and perhaps for her as well. Beyond that, though, I felt the piece was really a cry for help and that perhaps fatigue, desperation and hopelessness led to this slip of judgement.

      The problem is there’s no way to call that stuff back, not really.

      Sometimes I yearn for the days of gatekeepers, editors, proofreaders to save us from ourselves. Over-sharing can be annoying, or it can be downright destructive.

      • 12/17/2012 | 1:32 pm Permalink

        You bring up an excellent point… I too am doing some yearning for editors and proofreaders at this moment… Too much haste, too little thought! Sometimes a little arbitration can be a good thing (for all of us).

        • 12/17/2012 | 7:18 pm Permalink

          Just keep in mind that if the kid ended up doing something scary at school or to another kid, the news would not spare his details and this information would be just as available as the post the mother made.

          • 12/17/2012 | 7:23 pm Permalink

            So because the media would act irresponsibly, it’s okay for the mother to? Well, that’s a hell of a standard.

  2. 12/17/2012 | 4:42 am Permalink

    Thank you for eloquently making this point.

  3. 12/17/2012 | 4:48 am Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughtful critique. I too was shocked and appalled that the author compared her minor child (who is clearly struggling) to mass murderers, as well as provided a photo of him for the Huffington Post article. This was very poor judgment and you are so right that this will absolutely affect him.

    • 12/17/2012 | 2:22 pm Permalink

      You bring a very valid point that bringing out his identity has potentially negative implications. However, I would have to disagree to a point about questioning her comparison of her son to mass murderers. I imagine it was done so from a sense of being able to relate. The author wrote of being in constant fear for her life and the frustration of not being able to do something for her son in a way that humanizes him–as she pointed out, her son is in desperate need of intensive services and she has been told the only way to keep him safe is through charging him with a crime and getting him in the judicial system, thereby criminalizing his behavior which he obviously is not in control of. So it seems to me that her “lapse in judgement” is significantly less problematic than criminalizing a disability, which in essence is what she has been encouraged to do. What I appreciate from this woman is that, through her candor about her fears and concerns for her son, she is humanizing Adam Lanza as well as other mass murderers so that we are able to see another equally important aspect of violence as we have seen thus far. What Adam Lanza and the others have done is without question horrendous and beyond tolerable. The point I would like to make here is that we will continue to see violence such as this if there isn’t an immediate resolution to mental health care, which in the past 5 or so years has seen a dramatic decrease in funding which is setting up this population for failure, and endangering not only their families but the community at large as well.

      • 12/17/2012 | 3:28 pm Permalink

        I don’t care why this woman said what she said. I’m concerned about the potential damage to her kid, not her reasons. Her reasons are abundantly clear. That’s all that anyone is talking about. The impact on her son? I’ve seen very few people talk about that.

        The fact is that most people who commit these crimes are not mentally ill, and most mentally ill people do not commit these crimes. If you want to have a conversation about why these things happen, start talking about a culture that considers violence part of being a man, and in which power and domination are the definitions of manhood. It’s not mentally ill people who are to blame here.

        • 12/17/2012 | 4:26 pm Permalink

          What on earth is the basis for the statement that most people who commit these crimes are not mentally ill? OF COURSE THEY ARE MENTALLY ILL. No one who is not mentally ill shoots up a room of six-year olds. Review the information on any mass or school murder in recent history. The shooter is invarably suffering from a mental illness. To suggest otherwise is, among other things, overly-simplistic – not to mention deeply illocgical. This sort of demonstrably false statement doesn’t do anything to advance your original point about child privacy, and it only undermines a meaningful discussion about the mental health crisis in this country. And, more importantly, it wrongly suggests that there isn’t a critical, lethal intersection between the mental health crisis and our own culture of gun violence.

          • 12/17/2012 | 4:38 pm Permalink

            Most mental illness does not predispose anyone to this kind of behavior, and it cannot explain it. The kind of mental illness that does is extremely rare; a person would have to hear voices telling him to kill people for the mental illness to be the proximate cause. I know that people want to find an explanation, but to simply say that people who commit mass murder are mentally ill makes the category “mentally ill” mean nothing more than “people who aren’t like us.” It becomes meaningless. It takes things from the category of moral wrong and makes them a sickness.

            We as a culture glorify violence as synonymous with manhood. So you get an isolated person, who is lonely, and in pain, and enraged that his life isn’t what he wants it to be, and he takes back being a man by picking up a gun. That’s what these shooters have in common: they’re young men who feel powerless and want that power back. If there is an illness here, it’s a societal illness. It’s not an individual illness. It’s an affliction of young men who have a twisted sense of what it means to be a man, and that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s because they’ve been taught something very destructive by the culture they live in. It’s so much easier to pin this on individuals than on the society at large, because it’s easy to point at individuals. It’s a lot harder to change an entire culture. Then people might actually have to change the way they think.

          • 12/17/2012 | 4:58 pm Permalink

            Facts. They are fun.
            http://se-smith.tumblr.com/post/37935866329/factbomb

            I am saddened that we only care about the mental health crisis when ‘normal’ people get hurt. These individuals needed help before the media explosion.

      • 12/17/2012 | 4:15 pm Permalink

        I understand her saying that she related to these mothers – I do. And I think that there’s great hypocrisy in a society who at once screams ‘how could no one have known? How could his MOTHER not have seen the signs?’ and simultaneously points fingers at a mother who says ‘I think I see this as possible and I need help to avoid it becoming reality.’.

        HOWEVER –

        one loses all credibility when that conversation happens PUBLICLY – with no effort whatsoever to protect this child’s anonymity, privacy and safety. Society is looking for a scapegoat. We are scared. This mother has just handed her child over on a silver platter to the mob with no apparent regard for the effect that will have on him. Yes, the conversation is necessary. Yes, I understand her perspective. But the cost of making this public – with her name – is far, far too high for an innocemt child to pay.

        • 12/17/2012 | 7:10 pm Permalink

          the public part is the problem, i agree, and the point that Rachel has been making. i don’t get why some commenters don’t seem to be reading the same post i am.

        • 12/17/2012 | 7:21 pm Permalink

          I said this above, but it bears repeating. If the kid did something and got himself in trouble, the news would not spare his details. What’s worse, the mother telling society he is this way or the news doing it trying to make the problem visible and to get help?

          • 12/17/2012 | 7:31 pm Permalink

            Belinda, those are not the only two choices. And the way that the media treats the privacy of children is hardly a standard for a parent to aspire to.

      • 12/17/2012 | 5:24 pm Permalink

        The thing is…why isn’t the issue here. Why she made the comparison can be hashed out for days, and I’m sure it will be.
        The issue is the breach to her son’s privacy and the very real danger she may be putting him in by doing this. Yes, she changed HIS first name, but everything else is the actual details. That doesn’t work with wanting to help your son, because it means that everyone who knows her, everyone who knows him, knows this is about him. Behavior is communication.. This won’t be helping her son, it will be hurting him.

  4. 12/17/2012 | 8:29 am Permalink

    I couldn’t agree with you more. When I read the post, I thought it was written under a pseudonym, and that the privacy of the child was protected. With that understanding, I thought it was an important perspective, because mental health services are woefully inadequate, and the choices facing parents are terrible ones – rarely, if ever, do they include providing appropriate care for the child.

    Then, I heard that the mother would be appearing on a morning talk show. It did not seem that privacy was going to be maintained. I know there is a lot that parents of children with all kinds of difficulties want to scream to the world, but our first obligation is to our children, and if we betray them in the process, we betray everything. One cannot be a righteous spokesperson by betraying the privacy and trust of those one is most obligated to protect.

    I write little, and carefully, because my children’s privacy is more important to me than my need to be heard by strangers. While we all know how compelling a first-person narrative can be, we must protect our children, and use composites, fictionalizations, and other techniques to allow the information to get out without jeopardizing those we claim to love.

  5. 12/17/2012 | 8:38 am Permalink

    This person is so intensely focused on HER struggle, HER exhaustion, HER insecurity. Christ, the idea of a little boy in the clutches of someone so incredibly self-centered that she can’t even see why releasing his personal medical information to the ENTIRE INTERNET is wrong… it’s horrifying. She’s effectively torpedoed her kid’s future. My mother brought up two disabled kids without once violating our basic right to privacy.

    I’m don’t live in America, but surely this is completely illegal? Is there anyone she can be reported to?

    • 12/17/2012 | 11:18 am Permalink

      Yiu’ve put your finger exactly on one of the many red flags about this article that I find problematic.

      As a kid who was bullied for being smarter than the rest, I fear FOR the kid more than I fear for the mom here. I agree that she is letting her own fears drive everything about this, and perhaps that’s why she’s being rather self-centered. After reading this, my first response was to ask who’s defending her son? Apparently no one.

    • 12/17/2012 | 7:23 pm Permalink

      Its completely legal. She is the mother and unless they could prove she is endangering him, she can say what she wants publicly.

      No one is going to take him away from his mother without a very just cause.

      • 12/17/2012 | 7:29 pm Permalink

        Yes. She can say what she wants, up to a point. But should she? That’s the question.

  6. 12/17/2012 | 8:48 am Permalink

    “She used a pseudonym for her son’s name, but not for her own”

    One of my cousins did the same thing, not on a blog but in a book. She notes that she’s using a pseudonym to protect her daughter’s privacy, but there on the cover? Yup, my cousin’s actual name *headdesks*

    (Actually, looking at the Amazon preview, it seems she doesn’t say that she’s talking about her daughter in the book itself. But some reviews mention that she is.)

  7. 12/17/2012 | 9:14 am Permalink

    I am saddened how society reacts to a mother whom is truly suffering each and every day of her life. I know exactly how this woman feels; how hopeless life can actually be when you discover how gruesome your child’s thoughts can be, and worst, when you discover what they are truly capable of. Can anyone reading this article, judging this mother, actually say they know what it feels like to be told their child would be better off institutionalized for the safety of family/peers? Have any scrutinizing parents out there had to attach themselves to the hip of a young child suffering from sick, inhumane thoughts, for the mere safety of their own family? Stay up each and every night, ensuring their child supervised at all times? It takes a huge mental toll on a parent who has to live life like this each and every day. Just because she hasn’t lost anyone in the recent massacre, doesn’t mean she is not mourning inside. She is just as connected to the incident in her own way. It is painful to be connected on the other end of horror, when the rest of the world is connected on a different level. Let the woman express herself. Society expects her to respect her son and those in mourning, but who is showing her the respect that she deserves? If you simply cannot understand the lifestyle someone is leading, please acknowledge that these times are the best times to turn your head and look away. Instead, like the rest of society, we must judge while we mourn… sad.

    • 12/17/2012 | 9:36 am Permalink

      Julianna, I was quite clear in my article that I understand the mother’s fears and that I don’t have a problem with people expressing these things so long as the privacy of the child is respected. It shouldn’t be a choice between empathizing with the mother’s pain and defending the right of the child to privacy. It’s possible — and necessary — to do both, and I’m doing both. Her pain is clearly overwhelming to her, but her pain doesn’t give her a free pass to talk about her child’s private life, under her own name, in front of millions of strangers.

    • 12/17/2012 | 10:48 am Permalink

      Which post went viral, the “i am…” or this one?
      Why do you think society is against that woman?
      i’m sure they’re against her son, especially now. And now they can find him.

      • 12/17/2012 | 10:54 am Permalink

        The original post went viral. And I don’t think that “society” is against the mother. I think that a number of people are rightly upset about the choice she made.

    • 12/17/2012 | 12:11 pm Permalink

      Although I find the posting of her real name in the article irresponsible, I also agree that she brings up an important subject.

      My oldest son has Aspergers, and he is a danger to himself, his LOVING family and his community. He has never been exposed to violence. Has been nurtured and loved beyond measure. But he is angry and inconsolable and feels it is his mission in life to “fix society”.

      Now, judge if you will. Heaven knows, parents of children on the Autism Spectrum are used to the critique. But also understand that after years and years, begging for services, begging for help for her son, even, in the beginning, begging for a diagnosis, it changes you. It wearies your soul!

      The last episode we had, he cut his own throat. Yes. From ear to ear. He was admitted for 14 days and evaluated. After that period the psychiatrist call me and said he would recommend I not take my child back into my (his) home because he had related on several occasions his desire to kill me… he also explained in detail how he would go about that task.

      So, what does a mother do? My son is 19 now. He might as well be 5. And they released him, put him on the street and told his only parent (his father died in a car wreck when he was 9 months old) not to let him come back home.

      Access to comprehensive mental healthcare is a MUST!!!

      • 12/17/2012 | 5:36 pm Permalink

        Cumberland,

        I am so sorry that life has been so challenging for your family. I will keep you and your son in my thoughts and prayers. I hope that you both find some help and some peace.

      • 12/17/2012 | 6:20 pm Permalink

        My heart goes out to you and your son Cumberland. My son is also on the spectrum. I hope things get better for both of you.

  8. 12/17/2012 | 9:21 am Permalink

    Rachael,
    I had not realized that the mother used her name. That is never okay and changes my prior support of the article. I pray that somehow she didn’t do that because if so now her son is yet another victim of this national tragedy.

    Thank you,
    Meeusea

  9. 12/17/2012 | 9:25 am Permalink

    So many people are trying to explain why she did this. I can’t think of a reason that will ever make sense. This is a child. A child who needs help. And she sacrificed him. It makes me cry.

  10. 12/17/2012 | 9:34 am Permalink

    This mom is afraid for her personal safety and the personal safety of others. Why would you not believe that her story of his actual violence and threats of violence are true?

    The post I read did not identify anyone by name. I blog anonymously in order to protect my family’s identity, so I get what you are saying about remaining anonymous.

    But I also understand why this woman writes, because I have a close friend in a similar situation. I have been caregiver to her child, so I know how unpredictably the change in mental state comes and how intractable it is when it happens. I have seen him be physically violent as a pre-adolescent, and yes it’s scary to consider how dangerous he will be when he is a full grown man.

    I remember when the police had to be called to her house when he was only eleven. That didn’t happen until all other avenues of help were exhausted, and the psychiatrist gave the counsel to go that route. His first hospitalization followed.

    I feel great affection and sympathy for the child. He truly does not seem to have any control over himself or ability to direct his thinking in a more realistic, positive manner when he gets in this mindset. Of course, he has no/few friends. This kid is also a genius, and builds servers in his spare time. He has also been home schooled, because he is so unhappy being at school. He is unhappy because he can not seem to understand that when you treat people badly and express bizarre violent thoughts that people won’t feel safe around you and will avoid you.

    My neighbor did not write the post in question, but she could have. Her son is one of the lucky ones, because she has good insurance. He gets weekly therapy, has medications monitored by a psychiatrist, and in spite of the way he terrorizes his mom and sibling, he still has family support.

    The article was written to raise the public’s awareness about the need for mental health services, and it is my hope that it has done so. I find no fault with the article, but the media who published her personal information. That was the only thing wrong, and since I didn’t personally see that, I am just now being informed that his privacy was violated.

    As far as anyone who knows her will now know this about her son, my honest guess is that anyone who knows her already knows these things about her son. The erratic, narcissistic, angry outbursts are impossible to hide, at least on this street. We all know what my friend is up against, and while we wish the best for all, including her son, we are all also scared for her.

    No one is scared for the mentally ill child. His mom would never hurt him, never. We all on this street have witnessed her patience in trying to get through to this child. We know she has the best medical support team backing her up, and that her son is getting the best treatment society has to offer at this time.

    But we are scared for her, because we have all seen her son caught up in his mental illness. We know how unrealistic and unstable his thinking is when he is in such a place, and how great are his feelings of persecution and justification at any course of action he decides on in this state. It IS scary. We need to have a public conversation about this, because it is a real problem that really exist.

    • 12/17/2012 | 9:41 am Permalink

      This mom is afraid for her personal safety and the personal safety of others. Why would you not believe that her story of his actual violence and threats of violence are true?

      What makes you think I don’t believe her story? Of course I believe it. That isn’t the point. The point is the child’s privacy.

      The post I read did not identify anyone by name. I blog anonymously in order to protect my family’s identity, so I get what you are saying about remaining anonymous.

      Her original post was anonymous. But every other post, including the one she posted to the Blue Review, has her name on it, and she’s been interviewed by NBC. She made the decision to break her anonymity, and when she did that, she broke her son’s as well.

      • 12/17/2012 | 10:09 am Permalink

        RC-R – I agree with her right to tell her story. Are you so sure that she is publicizing her real name? Perhaps she’s using a pseudonym and not disclosing that fact.

        • 12/17/2012 | 10:14 am Permalink

          Yes, she is using her real name. A five-minute Google search will bring up her LinkedIn profile.

  11. 12/17/2012 | 10:02 am Permalink

    I understand both points but maybe now that all is revealed, this child can get the help he so desperately needs and the mother some peace for violating his privacy. In the end, if he gets the help he needs, that is all that counts. If he doesn’t then at least the mother tried everything she possibly could…..

    • 12/17/2012 | 10:07 am Permalink

      Even if he gets the help he needs, the damage has been done. The loss of his privacy, with the attendant loss of feelings of trust and safety, will only exacerbate his problems. And the article in which his mother compares him to a mass murderer will be on the Internet forever. In the best case scenario, he will get help and he will heal, but he will still have this stigma hanging over his head for the rest of his life. His mother compared him to Adam Lanza. In public. In front of millions of people. It’s reprehensible.

      • 12/17/2012 | 1:01 pm Permalink

        On top of the basic issues he faces today in terms of the loss of privacy and the stigma he’ll face at school, the Internet doesn’t go away. This will come up and haunt this person forever. This will come up when potential employers are looking into him for a hiring screening. This will come up when his college girlfriend’s parents try to find him on Facebook.

        His mother’s fifteen minutes of fame have come at the expense of this kid’s future.

        • 12/17/2012 | 7:16 pm Permalink

          exactly.

      • 12/17/2012 | 6:23 pm Permalink

        He’s going to need even more help now to deal with the ensuing trauma.

    • 12/17/2012 | 10:53 am Permalink

      She could totally have written it anonymously, then after it goes viral send to her son’s support network and say “this is me but don’t tell anybody” and due to HIPPA and FERPA they were not allowed to tell anybody. Seriously she did not do this the only possible way.

    • 12/17/2012 | 2:32 pm Permalink

      No. Getting ‘the help he needs’ is not ‘all that counts’. Privacy counts. Privacy is a right, not a privilege. Stripping someone of their privacy, revealing their personal medical details to literally the entire world, is abusive. This child has been abused by his mother. I’m sure she was under a great deal of stress. That still does not give her the right to abuse her child.

  12. 12/17/2012 | 10:11 am Permalink

    I consider the article you refer to to be exactly the form of childish that causes the greatest harm to children. I read it is society seeing the child only for its value/threat to adults, and not as a struggling individual. Everyone has the right to a safe and fear free environment; mother, son, and all of us. We can never have it when we endanger children in any way, in the name of our own fears, and this is what I think is happening here.

    The lack of support for parents of special needs children is second only to the lack of support for special needs children. If the child had support and appropriate care, no doubt the fear and threat would be mitigated for all. At this point, the child is still under threat, and perhaps that’s a location from which the violent response may come.

    Thanks, as always for your writing. I read it even when it is not related to such public issues.

  13. 12/17/2012 | 10:12 am Permalink

    This was very necessary. Thank you for making these points.

  14. 12/17/2012 | 10:21 am Permalink

    I can understand what you are saying but as a mom of 2 Autistic children and one child with ADHD, I can say I understand the writer was trying to convey as well. My oldest son has serious mental health issues, as well as Autism I know the frustration, the sadness, and the fear she feels every day. We were/are lucky because we have great insurance, and we make enough money to pay for therapist and lawyers to get our son the help he needs.
    He is now in a residential facility in CT. BUT that was only after we spent 10’s of thousands of dollars, had to have him hospitalized many times for threats to his sister, and brother. He told me not to sleep when he was home because he was going to kill me, rape his sister, use knives and stab his brother. He was going to get a gun, shot his father, go to school and shot all his teachers and as many of the kids as he could. What could we do, we yelled, we screamed to the authorities that he was dangerous, and were told sorry we cannot help you till he does something, he could have killed and they were waiting for him because of our laws.
    With tears and prayers this summer we went to court and told a judge we were out of ideas, money, and we were desperate to get him help!!! The judge said the same thing, there is something wrong and you need help. His compassion saved our son and maybe our school from a tragedy. The judge ordered the state of CT to help him and help our other children in any way possible, because they had been hurt by him. He will be 18 in less than 3 months, what will happen to him? Who will help him then?
    I do not understand why this boy did these things and never will be able to comprehend. But I also do not understand why his mother did not do what we did, swallow her pride (as my husband and I did)and admit she could not help him. Get him the help he needed.

    • 12/17/2012 | 12:22 pm Permalink

      There’s a strong possibility he never behaved in the way your son did. By all accounts he was smart and a bit “lonely” but not considered dangerous or frightening by anyone. Lots of kids are a bit off in their teen years and grow out of it just fine … perhaps she didn’t see any signs, maybe there weren’t any clear indicators that he was suicidal or violent in any way. In that case, why would she consider getting him help? I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that there is a chance that this doesn’t apply to this particular young man (plus he was 20, so what mom said would have probably had little impact if he’d never been violent before).

    • 12/17/2012 | 5:31 pm Permalink

      But… understanding what she was trying to convey really, truly, IS NOT THE ISSUE. Understanding what she was trying to convey has happened. We get it. We could have gotten it just as well if she had stayed anonymous.
      Which is what she should have done. She blew her kids privacy, and he will live with the stigma forever regardless of how he heals.

      And in the case of the ACTUAL Adam Lanza and his mother, there is no indication of prior violence, anywhere. (Oh hey, that means that the kid who’s had impulsive violence isn’t actually like Adam either. Who knew?) The issues of dealing with a lifetime of behavior difficulties don’t really bear on the issues of suddenly committing mass murder without having ever been violent before, just odd. Odd can’t be enough to set off alarm bells, it’s just not safe to do that.

  15. 12/17/2012 | 10:34 am Permalink

    Thanks for this response to such a tragic display of a child’s private issues. With so many non-public ways to get help, I can’t possibly imagine doing this to my child.

  16. 12/17/2012 | 10:41 am Permalink

    Thank you for writing this.
    Thank you for bringing some sense of humanity into this.

  17. 12/17/2012 | 10:52 am Permalink

    I actually am okay with a mother posting about her struggles, particularly if it helps inspire someone else in a similar mothering situation. Plenty of us with kids who have special needs benefit from reading stories from mothers going through similar things, and especially in the case of anyone who writes books teaches, privacy is hard to completely protect. You filter yourself, phrase things carefully, and re-read what you wrote with an eye to how it might affect your kid.

    My biggest beef is with the idea of PUBLICLY comparing your child to some of our nation’s worst mass murderers. That makes me nauseous. No matter how hard her struggles or how deep her fears that it could have been her kid, you don’t post stuff like that in a public forum in that way. That is humiliating and traumatizing.

  18. 12/17/2012 | 10:57 am Permalink

    I completely agree with what you said in your article. That poor kid. He doesn’t have much of a chance does he. However, if we think about this woman in terms of the fact that she is also socially isolated, her marriage is ruined (read her blogs, they are just terrible), and utterly alone. Mental health issues are such a stigma. I feel bad for the whole family. As the mother of a son who has “anger management” issues and a whole host of diagnoses, it is a hard road. Your family doesn’t want to talk about it. The people you have known and called your support network your whole life just fade away because you don’t have time for them and what you’re dealing with is just “too hard”. No one wants to talk about it at all, and if you do, then you just feel needy and like people are feeling sorry for you and still don’t understand. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I have a family that I love with all of my heart and soul. What I want, is for people to make the slightest bit of effort to have a relationship with my son. To take time out of their narcissism to look at the world from his perspective. He is going to need all the help he can get and all he has is our little nuclear family. I hope it is enough.

    • 12/17/2012 | 5:33 pm Permalink

      Oh, there is no denying that the mother is crying out for help, and gods I hope she gets what she needs. And there is no denying that the son needs help, though the best help might be some time away from the mother- that’s quite the family dynamic there of them bouncing off each other. She just should never have given up the anonymity, because she blew her son’s privacy too.

  19. 12/17/2012 | 11:02 am Permalink

    Hi Rachel. I would like to follow your blog without needed to install the facebook platforms. Any suggestions?

    I appreciated your response, and it brought up some issues I had not considered.

    I too am the parent to a NT teenager on the autistic spectrum with psychiatric issues. I too have been challenged with keeping her safe, society safe, family and property safe … from her ever-changing internal mental storms that can develop into violent acts.

    I also struggled with the process of labels and labeling, diagnoses and medication ethics.

    At a certain point, pride and rules and law and decorum fall away. We too have had the police to our home. The hard cold reality in the United States is a complete lack of funding for in home licensed, trained, bonded and insured 24/7 attendant care for NTs who harm. It is exhausting work to supervise, detect, diffuse and redirect in our unlicensed and unfunded home institutions. When the violence does come out, there are very few options for long term supported treatment and training outside of the home. There are less than zero “beds” for our children, as the burden for care has been firmly placed in our hands and homes.

    Domestic PTSD from caregiving is real. These discussions about the private violence in our private homes has needed to happen for quite sometime, and I was extremely happy to read this original post. I also enjoyed reading your response, with many others. This parent has chosen to tell the truth, and that is always dangerous. These are painful truths. Have you lived with someone who wanted to hurt you, themselves, animals, siblings, strangers and property? You want to pull them back and knit them into society — and it takes time. Letting the “world” know that this is happening is being dangerously responsible. Our name is known, and our private struggles spill into the public daily. We are not anonymous either. Everyone knows. We seemed to lose our rights to privacy and that whole pursuit of happiness thing when our invisible disability reveals itself through violence.

    I realized in 1999 that the supports for these types of disabilities in the United States are simply not there. Accepting that and doing our best within the framework that exists is really all we can do. All the while protecting and preserving the possibility of emergence and improvement for our loved one — for as long as humanly possible.

    Speaking so honestly about the aggression in her home, coming from a NT dependent, is long overdue. My friends and family know that I live in an abusive relationship. Sorry, but it’s true. It gets awful and then it gets impossible and then it gets different. It gets beautiful.

    It is time to talk about the violence with our NTs. Not all NTs have this inclination — but the discussion is now open. And for that, you know, I am grateful for this parent’s honesty “on the record.” At the same time, you, and very well, have brought out the ethics and considerations.

    My dependent can now speak and discuss her aggression, violence and anger openly, and with anyone at any time. ;-) For her to speak about this, herself, is part of her life plan to diffuse and redirect these impulses towards, for a better word, MAYHEM. That took seventeen years. That took thousands of private incidents and about two dozen incidents that became public when immediate help (ie, called 911) was requested. Her labels, you know, protect her in these situations. Thank goodness for the labels. -katy

    • 12/17/2012 | 11:09 am Permalink

      Katy, there is an enormous difference between someone losing his privacy because the police are called or because he acts out in public, and someone losing his privacy because he mother wrote an article in which she compared him to someone who just shot 20 children. The former is inevitable; the latter is not. The mother could have been wrenchingly honest and used a pseudonym for herself as well as for every member of her family. She didn’t. She went public in a completely uncontrolled setting. That does not help him.

    • 12/17/2012 | 2:53 pm Permalink

      what is NT?

      • 12/17/2012 | 3:32 pm Permalink

        It means “neurotypical.”

      • 12/17/2012 | 4:39 pm Permalink

        Sorry about that, Sharon. Neuro Typical (separated or all one word) “NT” is sometimes used by those who want to distance themselves with the negativity associated with the Autism, Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) or the myriad of psychiatric labels. To say that one is NT is to say that they think, react and respond differently to the world, what we call reality, than the majority of the population.

        • 12/17/2012 | 4:41 pm Permalink

          No — NT is not used by people with autism or other labels to describe themselves. It’s used to describe people who *do not* have those labels — who have typical minds and neurologies.

          • 12/17/2012 | 6:37 pm Permalink

            I should have typed “non-” neurotypical, acronym NNT and thank you for the correction. Jenny, yes, as well. :-) Much appreciated.
            -katy

        • 12/17/2012 | 4:53 pm Permalink

          Maybe you are thinking of Neurovariant, or Neurodiverse, which I’ve seen to describe Autism primarily, but in other academic articles that like umbrella terms also OCD, ADHD, and certain mood disorders. Neurotypical as Rachel says.

  20. 12/17/2012 | 11:24 am Permalink

    I have been saying this from the moment I saw the article. You say it much better. Thank you!

  21. 12/17/2012 | 12:07 pm Permalink

    In “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” it is the author’s, and as the mother, right, and her call, to openly express her feelings. I was a bit shocked to see those they prefer to ignore this and pass their own judgement on a stranger’s heartfelt expression that has clearly touched a large number of people.

    Personally, I believe many people with blogs over-share. They also do flash psychological and moral judgements of people they think they fully understand by reading a few sentences. This may be a good example.

    • 12/17/2012 | 5:52 pm Permalink

      Er… I read the entire piece, several times, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. It’s clear that you haven’t read anything else I’ve written, because if you had, you’d see that the last thing I do is to make snap judgments. The reason I didn’t raise the content of the post here is because my concern is for the child and his privacy, and because most people on Internet discussion threads are skipping right over that. The content of the post has been discussed for days in a number of other venues. Very few people have considered what doing so means to the child. That’s why I wrote the post.

  22. 12/17/2012 | 12:10 pm Permalink

    Yes, thank you so much for saying this. She could have made the same point completely anonymously. I can’t even imagine what this boy must be going through right now.

  23. 12/17/2012 | 12:18 pm Permalink

    I have huge problems with the blog because we have no way of knowing what Ms. Lanza dealt with and no way to know that her child acted out as the child in the blog did.

    I have enormous problems with your blog.

    You do not understand what the mother is going through. It’s very clear to me that you don’t. You may empathize with her, but there’s really no way anyone can understand what it’s like to live with someone you believe may hurt you or worse, unless you have.

    The mother is pretty clear that her options have been limited.

    She is very clear that criminality is her child’s best hope of longterm care.

    She avoids letting her child become a criminal to receive help by broadcasting his needs. There’s no doubt to my mind that she will find resources available to her that were previously unknown to her.

    Yes, she exposed him, but she may have avoided the chance he would hurt another person or just ended up with a record that would be just as bad as her blog.

    Or would it be better for her to watch helplessly until her child does something that cannot be fixed in ways far more permanent and unforgiving than the Internet?

    My mom taught a kid with violent outbursts. There was no protecting his privacy because his own actions announced his problem. It took a high speed chase that put his best friend in the ICU for a month to get him hospitalized and treated. He wrecked a lot of lives before he got there.

    • 12/17/2012 | 6:32 pm Permalink

      What makes you think I haven’t lived with someone who hurt me? I grew up in a violent household. I’m well aware of what it’s like to live in fear. And I’m also well aware of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to healing and safety.

      You seem to think this mother outing her son on the Internet was the only way to get him help. You seem to forget that he is a child with a mind and heart of his own, and that the stigma and humiliation of what just happened might give him even more problems to deal with. And what are people expecting? That someone is going to stand up and say, “Great blog post, Mom. I’m here to solve your problems”? What kind of help do you think she’s going to get over the Internet? The media is just using this family to exploit a tragedy and to drive traffic to their sites. In a few days, they’ll be onto some whole other story.

  24. 12/17/2012 | 12:37 pm Permalink

    Finally a voice of reason! Thank you!
    I felt disturbed and annoyed by that blog post. I thought it was partly because I have worked in the (public) mental health system, partly because of the cultural differences. Definitely I was angry at a mother exposing her child in many ways.
    Every adult’s responsibility is to protect any child. Comparing and labeling a young soul like that? Stigmatizing just for the sake to pass a message? What message? That her son is a potential killer?
    How dared she and how dared anyone who re-published that post!
    She wanted to raise awareness on mental health? There are other ways to do so, protecting her child – and any other child – at the same time.

  25. 12/17/2012 | 12:40 pm Permalink

    I understand the concerns about privacy, but if this mother hadn’t shared from a personal perspective, the issue wouldn’t have been given much attention. Also, schools often use the privacy card to prevent parents from communicating with each other, leaving them isolated at a time when they most need support. There are too many parents dealing with a lack of mental health services for their seriously emotionally disabled children. They shouldn’t have to suffer alone. Our society needs to provide the services to help BOTH the child and his/her family.

    • 12/17/2012 | 6:22 pm Permalink

      Please recall that there is a child involved here. I’m not concerned about the child’s privacy as an abstraction. I’m concerned about the impact on him. Let’s have a national dialogue about mental health, by all means, but not at the potential expense of a child. It’s appalling to me — just appalling — how few people are thinking about how her son must feel about all of this.

  26. 12/17/2012 | 12:42 pm Permalink

    Maybe she thought breaking her anonymity was her best shot at finally getting her kid some real help. The blog post had gone viral, surely somebody reading might be in a position to help, if only they knew who she was.

    Or maybe somebody did some digging and “outed” her because her original post was anonymous but not quite anonymous ENOUGH. Once she was outed, what choice did she have?

    I agree that the kid’s privacy is an important issue and this kind of thing is a real, serious problem, but I think either of those scenarios is a real possibility, and without all the facts maybe we’re rushing to judgment just a little bit.

    • 12/17/2012 | 4:12 pm Permalink

      She wasn’t outed. She posted her piece on The Blue Review under her own name.

  27. 12/17/2012 | 12:55 pm Permalink

    However privacy is a part of the problem with stigma. ,As a mental health professional I can’t separate privacy and stigma. It’s a dilemma. I feel for both son and mom, and I don’t think it’s so clear what’s right.

    • 12/17/2012 | 6:24 pm Permalink

      No, privacy is not part of the problem with stigma. Hiding is part of the problem with stigma. There is a big difference between respecting privacy and making people feel so ashamed that they hide away. There are plenty of ways to speak honestly about a child’s problems without comparing him to a mass murderer, particularly on a day when the entire country is reeling. That doesn’t dispel stigma. It increases it. And it’s what makes people hide away.

  28. 12/17/2012 | 1:05 pm Permalink

    I agree with your piece and your points. However, in addition, I am frustrated that no one is talking about the presumptive nature of the connection she makes. We know NOTHING about the shooter or his history and it is beyond ridiculous to make a comparison to anyone or any reference to mental illness or other diseases or traits at this time.

  29. 12/17/2012 | 1:07 pm Permalink

    On the flip side, this mother’s desperate outburst may result in her son actually getting the help he needs. Sometimes, the ends do justify the means. If, as a result, this child overcomes his challenges, he will know without a doubt the lengths to which his mother will go to help him.

    I am not, by any means, saying that what she did was wise. She clearly felt it necessary, though. As the parent of a child with multiple disabilities, I fully understand the frustration and sense of helplessness involved in securing vital services.

    Yes, she could’ve masked her identity and that of her son. In hindsight, I’d wager she wishes she had done so. I still find her brave and even admirable, and I hope the resulting dialog will help not only her son but many others.

    • 12/17/2012 | 6:19 pm Permalink

      I don’t consider it brave to publicly compare your son to the most hated person in America the day after 27 people were killed. Sorry. That’s not my idea of bravery.

  30. 12/17/2012 | 1:11 pm Permalink

    thank you for this. thank you for reminding adults that youth have rights to privacy. i understand that many commenters say that there is too much stigma around mental health issues, and therefore, it is commendable that his mother is speaking openly and publicly about it. but the fact is, there is still a lot of stigma. it sucks to be a teenager period, but add to that, a situation where your teachers and classmates know about your mental health history. that’s rough.

    i agree with you that this is a breach and violation of trust, but it sounds like that’s been eroding for a while. in her post that went viral, she writes about telling her son that she never wants to hear the words “i am going to kill myself” come out his mouth. i doubt that is addressing stigma and making her son feel comfortable to express his feelings to his mother.

  31. 12/17/2012 | 1:16 pm Permalink

    Maybe we as a society need to stop pretending that people with serious issues don’t have them. Maybe we need to start openly discussing mental illness and stop trying to imagine through wishful thinking that with enough hugs anyone can be cured of whatever ails them. I’ve taught for nearly 15 years, and in that time, the paradigm has shifted so far to coddling tender emotions and worrying about self-esteem that kids are growing up incapable of hearing any criticism.

    Assuming that this mother was sincere and not seeking attention, I have no problem with her publicly crying for help. We need to stop living in this imaginary world where anyone can do anything and start facing head-on the difficult reality that some people have dangerous and debilitating mental issues. We need to figure out how to help those people. The first step is to discuss these issues openly and stop pretending like they don’t exist.

    • 12/17/2012 | 6:34 pm Permalink

      By all means, let’s discuss the issues openly. But not at the expense of the privacy of a child. A therapist couldn’t breach privacy, nor a teacher. A child has a right to expect that his mother won’t either. If this mother wants to build trust with the child, this isn’t the way to go about it. There’s a lot of room between sharing everything on the Internet and hiding in silence. There is no reason to go to either extreme.

  32. 12/17/2012 | 1:27 pm Permalink

    Oh wow… You are so right. Thanks for posting this. If we want a world that doesn’t increase the stress for those who are most vulnerable (which one can easily imagine might perpetuate violence in the future), if we want a world where we take care of ALL of our children (really the only way to be a healthy society)… we need to consider the consequences of our actions. As much as I thought some of this mother’s points were important–truly she should keep her son’s privacy. Oh dear…

  33. 12/17/2012 | 1:38 pm Permalink

    I think it’s so important that we talk about these issues openly. Unfortunately, mental illness has a negative stigma. If this mother wrote, my son has cancer or my son has diabetes, would the reaction to privacy be the same? Her son has a mental illness. She knows it. He knows it. And she’s willing to talk about it and ask for help. Yes, there may be negative repercussions to being so open about it but there are also many positive ones. I hope that her sharing not only helps her, but helps to reduce the stigma and open up the conversation about mental illness in this country.

    • 12/17/2012 | 6:55 pm Permalink

      The problem isn’t that she wrote about mental illness. The problem is how she went about it.

  34. 12/17/2012 | 1:41 pm Permalink

    Yes, a valid point in protecting her son’s feelings and saving him from undeserving notoriety.

    I’m hesitant to weigh in on mother-blaming, because having watched my father work with the mentally ill and disabled in education, you don’t know wits end until you’re the parent of a violent mentally ill child.

    Anyone who criticizes can also lead the charge to sign up and support those families as communities ought to.

  35. 12/17/2012 | 2:01 pm Permalink

    Thank you for bringing this article to even more peoples attention. Thank you for using this mother and her son as a springboard for your own discussion. Thank you for finding the mothers linked in account and letting us all know we can too. As much as i think this was a well intentioned article (as the same is likely true for the original author)it seems contradictory. Why is it ok for you to supply all the same information and a handy dandy link to the original all while judging this woman? I wish people would focus less on judging other peoples parenting and focus more on their own. You should ask yourself,what did you do to help this boy you claim to feel horrible for, besides add another link to google search about him. Ironic and sad

    • 12/17/2012 | 3:14 pm Permalink

      jenna, I really struggled with the privacy issue before I wrote my article. I kept from linking to the original post all day long, hoping that it would all just go away. Then I saw that the mother was on NBC News and was starting a media tour, and I realized that I had to speak up about the privacy issue. The kid’s privacy has been blown. Nothing that anyone says at this point will add to or subtract from that. Someone has to speak up in defense of the child. I made a decision that keeping silent was not ethical.

      The mother put the child in an untenable situation: if you don’t speak up, you’re countenancing a loss of privacy; if you do, you’re talking about the child in public. I understand the contradiction involved. I’m doing the best I can after spending an entire day thinking through the ethics of it. I decided that I had to push back against the overwhelming tide of people forgetting that all of this has an impact on the child. If I didn’t point out that privacy breach, I’d be giving it power, because I’d be letting it go uncritiqued.

      The problem is that the woman breached her child’s privacy, not that people are calling her out on it. I had to make an ethical choice about what was most important. Since the kid’s story has been splashed all over the Internet, I wanted people to find at least one post in which someone stood up for *him* as a human being. If no one stands up for him, that’s also an ethical lapse — a huge one, in my opinion.

      The reason I posted a link to the article at the end of my post is that I’m required by the rules of my profession to cite any source I use, including the link. I mentioned the LinkedIn information because I had done a search in order to verify the mother’s real name before I wrote my post, and someone asked how I’d verified it.

      • 12/17/2012 | 4:37 pm Permalink

        You say you thought about it all day and had to make an ethical choice. Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, she also gave alot of thought as to whether or not to “out” her son? Isn’t it possible that she was weighing the benefit of getting her son some help against his privacy? Isn’t it possible that in her opinion, the help he may receive from the attention outweighs his privacy? Isn’t it possible that she was doing the only thing she knew how in order to speak up in defense of her child and the children she fears he will hurt someday? Whether you have a child in the same situation or not, you do not know this woman, nor do I. You don’t have the right to judge her, nor does anyone.

        • 12/17/2012 | 4:45 pm Permalink

          Indeed, it has occurred to me. It doesn’t change the way I feel about her decision, because I’m concerned about its impact on her son.

  36. 12/17/2012 | 2:02 pm Permalink

    In the story I read, the names were not revealed. I had 2 issues with the original (anonymous) article. First, I was concerned for her safety and that of her other children. For the siblings to require an escape plan (run to the car and lock themselves in) indicates they are truly unsafe. However gut-wrenching it may be, the mentally ill son should not be in the home. My second issue was the premature leap to conclusions about Adam Lanza. So little is known yet about his mental state. All we’ve really heard is he “might” have been mildly autistic, or “maybe” had Asberger’s, he was “reclusive” and “quiet”, big deal, he was “highly intelligent”, and he “may have had” some sort of “personality disorder”. We don’t know.

    I have a mentally ill young adult child, so I know how shattering it is to live with, I know how hard it is to get help, I know how hard it is for people to understand what we go through. If my child was dangerous to self or others, I would do what I have to do to keep everyone safe. Oh, and my child’s privacy? I shield it fiercely.

  37. 12/17/2012 | 2:06 pm Permalink

    It is so easy to judge when you have not walked in this mother’s footsteps. Her letter is an obvious cry for help.

    • 12/17/2012 | 3:31 pm Permalink

      It certainly is. And if she had done it with a pseudonym, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But if she thinks that speaking ill of her son on the Internet is going to help him, she’s looking in the wrong place. It might help other people to have the conversation, but it’s not going to help her son. Her son is now at greater risk of being bullied, of being isolated, and of being feared. That alone was enough to keep me awake and in tears last night.

  38. 12/17/2012 | 2:35 pm Permalink

    People are upset that this mother compared her son to mass murders but the point she was making is that those mass murders were also someone’s troubled son. On Thursday before he committed murder Adam Lanza was a troubled young man. All the details have yet to emerge but he was living with his family and would have been treated kindly by must of us if we’d known/met him. That’s the point! These mass murders are people’s children!!!!! Everyone talks about “mass murders” as if they are a separate class of people but before they committed murder they were just kids/young adults who needed help they didn’t get! This mom was simply saying she is dealing with caring for a troubled child. Sure she shouldn’t have used her real name since now her sons privacy has been violated. She made a mistake, again probably because she is exhausted and unbelievably stressed out!!! No parent can tell me they haven’t made mistakes. This mom is looking for help desperately and all she’s getting from the author of this post is criticized. Are you kidding me? Have some compassion. Desperate people are not always thinking clearly. My assumption is she loves her son very much. If she can get the help she needs her son can also get some help and come to understand why his mom made this mistake. He’s not perfect and she’s not perfect and we all need help sometimes. Her mistake is not unforgivable! If you have never had a lapse of judgement like this mom has then you clearly aren’t dealing with raising a child you fear may turn into a murder.

    • 12/17/2012 | 5:41 pm Permalink

      On Thursday before he committed murder Adam Lanza was a troubled young man. All the details have yet to emerge but he was living with his family and would have been treated kindly by must of us if we’d known/met him.

      He was entirely isolated. It doesn’t sound like anyone treated him very kindly. He hadn’t seen his father or brother in several years. Most people who are seen as “weird” or “aloof” or “different” are not treated particularly kindly by the world at large. Trust me on that.

      No one is saying that the error is unforgiveable, for the simple reason that this discussion isn’t about the mother. It’s about the child. I think everyone has examined the mother’s mental state sufficiently. I’d like people to start imagining how the child is feeling.

  39. 12/17/2012 | 2:37 pm Permalink

    I posted the original blog post, which I found gave some insight into a complex critically important issue that I believe has become over-simplified as we search for responses to the shootings. I agree she should have remained anonymous and I did not see the photo of her son. But it is important to look at the role she played in raising awareness about the issues faced by parents, like herself, who can field isolated, frustrated, distraught and indeed, afraid of what might happen. There are too many times where after a horrific crime (killing just 1 person is horrific), a mother will say, “This can’t be my son. He could never do that.” This mother is facing up to what her child is capable of, to let the rest of us know that we need to provide real help and support to her and son, and the many others facing issues like this. To attack her for her courage, when she may truly be saving the lives of others with these insights, is truly unfair. That’s why she’s being called courageous and I continue to believe she is.

    • 12/17/2012 | 3:22 pm Permalink

      I am always supportive of people who raise awareness about difficult issues, and if she’d done it while protecting her son’s privacy, I wouldn’t have written this article. But now the child has been compared to a mass murderer, by his own mother, and neither the stigma nor the pain of it will help him.

      I don’t think it’s courageous to publicly say such things about your child. I’m not attacking the mother; I’m criticizing what she did. There is a huge difference. Yes, she’s in pain. Yes, she’s afraid. No, that does not give her a free pass to compare her child to people who shoot innocents — not publicly. These kinds of fears should be spoken in private, to trusted people who can help — teachers, therapists, doctors, friends, clergy, law enforcement — not to an Internet full of strangers.

  40. 12/17/2012 | 2:55 pm Permalink

    What I saw in that article is what a sweet and interesting kid he is when not in the throes of his illness. That he loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animals. And the picture illustrates that sweetness. I see a mother who loves her son, sees the sweetness in him and wants us to see it too. And who wants her child to get help. Not to get worse and worse until in one aberrant moment he commits an irrevocable and terrible act that forever defines him as a monster. Which he is not. He is a child, a struggling child, and this is her plea for us to see him, really see him in all his complexity, and to help him. I have looked at that picture over and over and all it does is make my heart go out to him.
    I loved what Anna said – that all she wants is for people to make the slightest bit of effort to have a relationship with her son. We need to see these kids as the whole people that they are. Because only when we see them as “us” rather than as “other” do they become real to us, enough for us to care instead of just pushing them away.

  41. 12/17/2012 | 2:57 pm Permalink

    This is a brilliant rhetorical article. It is heartening to see the voices like yours, and others in the media like Sanjay Gupta who are quick to respond to the irresponsible demonization of individuals with developmental disabilities following the publication of sloppy journalistic work by commentators who chose to speculate ignorantly about Adam Lanza’s condition without verifying any diagnosis. But the fact that such prejudicial and uninformed opinions are being so broadly expressed indicates that we have a great deal of very hard work to do to educate the public regarding the nature of cognitive disability and the rights of individuals with cognitive disabilities.

  42. 12/17/2012 | 3:09 pm Permalink

    This is a slippery slope in which one can not win. On one hand we are all to private. We don’t tell people, we don’t express our fears or concerns, we don’t get the help that is needed or the help we have is inadequate. Then we things go south people wonder why? What could we have done? Nobody knew what was really going on. However you do have to protect the rights and privacy of those involved.
    I have a very unique perspective of this. Last year my daughter (who was in 5th grade) had been bullied by a boy(who was also in 5th grade). This boy wanted total control over her,who her friends were, who she talked to etc… As the year went on and on things got worse. We talked to the teachers, but they never saw anything. It was all done in private, were no children or adults could see. Fast forward to the last two weeks of school. This 11 year old boy brought a high powered air soft gun to school with intentions of shooting my daughter if she didn’t do as she was told. Your worst nightmare just came true. The only thing we know is this child was expelled from school. We have no clue if there were signs at home or what. The only thing I can think of is if he had shot her -those guns can do damage. I have seen it. What if it was an actual hand gun. At 11 years old this child should not have mentally gotten that far.
    This NEEDS to be a before hand discussion not an after something horrible happens discussion. I HOPE you never have to be involved in this on either side.
    Remember “Judge not, lest ye be judged”

    • 12/17/2012 | 3:44 pm Permalink

      There is a whole lot of territory between repressing what needs to be spoken and publishing your kid’s personal pain on the Internet. A vast amount of territory. We live at such extremes in this country — either was say nothing at all, or we say everything to everyone. Have people no common sense anymore?

      • 12/17/2012 | 4:28 pm Permalink

        That would seem to be the crux of a lot of the issues here, Rachel… indeed, common sense seems to be pretty archaic these days.

  43. 12/17/2012 | 3:14 pm Permalink

    I have to disagree. As a journalist, I’ve come to appreciate the value of attaching a name to a statement or account, which gives it a great deal more weight and credibility than the same words offered anonymously. This piece would not have been circulated as widely as it has been if it had been anonymous, and the emotional impact on readers would have been far less as well.

    It also sounds like Ms. Long has concluded that her son’s problems are serious enough that they overshadow any further stigma he might suffer as a result of her article, that he may even be indifferent to the opinions of others and that she believes the best thing she can do for him is to lend her voice to try to advance a discussion about mental health issues in this country.

    • 12/17/2012 | 3:42 pm Permalink

      This isn’t just a story, Kirk. This is a person.

    • 12/17/2012 | 4:15 pm Permalink

      The “weight and credibility” you write of is only so desperately needed because the justification for disseminating the piece is based upon the suppositions that a) Lanza has a mental pathology be it psychiatric and/or neurological; b) that Lanza shares this pathology with the child in question and c) that said pathology is common to all such mass murderers. None of these can, as yet -if ever – be substantiated. Lazy journalism at its worst.

    • 12/17/2012 | 4:44 pm Permalink

      Kirk, I took a similar path as this parent through the Spokesman-Review newspaper in 2000. I still believe I did the right thing for our family, at the time.

    • 12/17/2012 | 5:14 pm Permalink

      Yes, it would. Do I even have to explain that? This is the internet. Anonymous or semi-anonymous arguments go viral constantly. Things get posted on Reddit. People create memes and share cat videos. I don’t believe people checked to see if there was a name before reading it. They read it because of the title.

  44. 12/17/2012 | 3:15 pm Permalink

    THANK-YOU!! I couldn’t articulate it so well, but it’s disloyal to say negative things about your children. How would she feel if someone close to her shared so brazenly without her consent? Our society ignores and devalues children to our own detriment. Thank-you for pointing out the inappropriateness of that article.

  45. 12/17/2012 | 3:26 pm Permalink

    You make an assumption that she violated her child’s privacy and did it without consideration or consultation to her child and the rest of the family. Where is the evidence supporting that? How do you know this? It’s possible that she did consider all the privacy factors and made a very thoughtful decision based on factors specific to her household. Maybe there was a discussion within the household whereby the family agreed it was okay. Maybe her level of desperation at where things are at and where they are going overrode those privacy issues for her and them. It seems like her previous blog posts were fairly cryptic about her children, so she has previously been very sensitive to her children’s privacy.

    I absolutely agree with you regarding privacy in general. However, I’m not sure you have all the facts in this particularly case to judge.

    • 12/17/2012 | 3:40 pm Permalink

      Seriously? You think that her 13-year-old boy told her to go right ahead and talk about his most painful moments — and compare him to Adam Lanza — on the Internet? I’m sorry, but no. That’s not even remotely in the realm of possibility. Even if it were, you don’t take direction from a 13-year-old about this sort of thing. A 13-year-old isn’t equipped to make an informed decision about putting something of that magnitude on the Internet. She’s the adult. This was up to her.

      • 12/17/2012 | 4:14 pm Permalink

        You’re missing my point. My point is that none of us know the conversation that happened within that household around privacy and identity that led to her decision. Perhaps after weighing all the options and careful deliberation she came to a different conclusion than you or me. I’m not sure that warrants yet another blog post this week condemning the decisions parents with children with mental illness make.

        • 12/17/2012 | 4:17 pm Permalink

          Your missing my point: If the whole family thought it was a great idea to post an article called “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” under the mother’s real name, with a photo of her minor child, that still doesn’t make it a good idea. The potential impact on the child is the same.

    • 12/17/2012 | 4:49 pm Permalink

      Do you genuinely believe a 13-year-old with such a tense relationship with his mother is going to agree when she asks him if she can compare him online to a man who killed 20 children? I think you are having some convenient suspension of disbelief, there. And whether or not she sat down all four of her children, and convinced them that airing his medical information on a blog was a good idea for all of them, he is still a child, and it will still be damaging to him when and if children at school see that post and hear about his mother being on television.

      Additionally, I object to using tropes of “judging” and “condemning.” This response is attempting to advocate for the child in an online conversation that has overwhelmingly supported the mother without question via links and impassioned defenses. Very few seem to care about this wrinkle of the issue, and if people really are invested in a springboard to discussion, they should understand that this needs to be discussed as well.

  46. 12/17/2012 | 3:49 pm Permalink

    Thank you for raising this issue – which is an important critique on the original article. I think it is right to raise awareness about privacy issues in this context. However, I am sad so many commenters here are, without knowing the details of the situation, condemning the mother so harshly. I think few of us know what she is going trough. I am living on another continent and haven’t heard the mother speak or seen her on television – but couldn’t it be the case that she has mental health issues herself? Perhaps the situation, or her own mental health status, has put her into a situation where she is not (or no longer) able to exercise proper judgement. We’d better not judge so harshly, but (a) try to have a careful debate about these important issues, and (b) ask ourselves what we can do for children like him and mothers like her.

    • 12/17/2012 | 4:07 pm Permalink

      I don’t feel that people are judging her as a person. I feel that they are judging the decision she made because they’re upset with it and concerned for her son. I have gotten comments in which people have cast aspersions on the mother, and I’m not letting those comments through — any more than I’m letting through comments casting aspersions on her son, or on mentally ill people, or on anyone else. But I don’t have a problem with people critiquing the words she used and what she wrote under her own name.

  47. 12/17/2012 | 4:06 pm Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this post.
    While I understand that people are wont to draw parallels it is clearly inappropriate to do so with such a young child so publicly. Equally,it is clearly a falsehood and a gross over-simplification to imagine that the mass murderers named all share a similar neurology or mental illness. It is part of the quest to find an easy “why” without addressing the “how”. This venture is doomed to fail.

  48. 12/17/2012 | 4:09 pm Permalink

    The woman has every right to tell her story, and to help bring awareness to the fact that people are not getting the mental health supports they need. She does not have the right, however, to disclose her minor child’s medical/mental health status by using identifying information.

    Is the mom scared, worried, frustrated? Absolutely. Is it helpful to her son for the world to know the specifics of his emotional status? No.

    And that is the point of this post.

  49. 12/17/2012 | 4:15 pm Permalink

    I understand the concerns raised here. But at the same time, I think that some of these concerns also come from a place where mental illness is something to be ashamed of and which must never be spoken about except in the shadows and utmost privacy. As someone who suffers from depression, the constant hiding is exhausting. I do hope that she spoke to her child before going public with her story, because it would be wrong to “out” him without his consent. But if she did, and her son was ok with it, then I think it’s very brave of the both of them. At the end of the day, her son needs serious help, and no one, not even those trying to help, should make him feel ashamed of that fact. I’ll be praying for the both of them.

  50. 12/17/2012 | 4:20 pm Permalink

    I’m not sure what the moms intentions were. I’m not her so I cannot speak for her. Now I do agree that we as bloggers especially as a parent have to pay attention to the possible outcome our writings may have to those we write about. It may not be apparent today or tomorrow but what we write since it is online could possibly affect people later in life. I understand wanting and needed to vent, but I also know I need to pay attention to my words and the affect they may have on my children. While we may use alias’s for those we write about and a lot of time ourselves we are writing about real people with real feelings. Words can cause damages that can not be undone.

  51. 12/17/2012 | 4:22 pm Permalink

    If only she had remained anonymous and changed “I am Adam Lanza’s mother” to “We are Adam Lanza’s mother”. What a powerful, heart-wrenching piece of misguided propoganda. There is help for this boy. There are services. There is rehabilitation. I pray someone helps. I don’t know this woman’s story. I don’t know if she was trying to be tongue-in-cheek clever. I do know, however, that she was on the Today Show… I’ve never been on the Today Show.

    My heart goes out to the boy.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  52. 12/17/2012 | 4:41 pm Permalink

    My first response to the original post was one of support, I admit. And I do support what it takes for people to tell their stories.

    However – and it is a big however – this mom, though she may have meant well, has done so much harm here. People will know her. They will know her son. They will judge him unfairly, they will stigmatize him, they will equate him to a mass murderer, and this could follow him forever. And right now, especially, with people so reactive and emotional, I fear for his safety.

    I understand at a gut level the point that even people who do bad things have people who love them. But this was not how to do it.

  53. 12/17/2012 | 4:51 pm Permalink

    I read some of your responses to the comments here suggesting that you are attacking the mother. I don’t read your post that way, and it’s clear that your concern is around the privacy of this young person who necessarily will be affected by her writing.

    I doubt this comment will make a dent in the deluge of responses attacking you, but there are many many people who appreciate what you write here. It needs to be said. Thanks.

  54. 12/17/2012 | 4:52 pm Permalink

    It used to be said that writing letters while emotional was therapeutic – and it still is. Paper letters are good. You have to find an envelope, a stamp and an address. By the time you’ve found all of those things, hopefully you’ve calmed down. Hopefully you’ve re-thought your writing and hopefully you’re ready to make a better choice.

    The internet changed all that. Now you’re told to never send an email while you’re emotional. It’s dangerous. It’s instant and it’s forever. Blogging takes things a step further because now instead of a one-to-one person exchange, it’s one person to the entire world. There has to be a lot of thought and caution involved.

    Sure, we understand that a person can feel angry “in the moment” and most parents at one point or another will say things to or about their kids that they regret later. Fortunately spoken words are more easily forgiven and forgotten – though often not without at least some form of lasting pain.

    On the internet you can’t take it back. On the internet it is forever. As a blogger, you have a responsibility to protect yourself and your family.

    There are so many ways that this woman could have sent and anonymous message but she chose not to. She chose to put her family in a dark place. She chose to add to her son’s difficulties by creating a picture of his mother than he will be bound by forever.

    That’s a poor choice. It’s sad. The one place where a child should feel like they can be loved is at home. This one has been spoilt forever. Another victim of the tragedy.

  55. 12/17/2012 | 4:52 pm Permalink

    Thank you, Rachel, for your compassionate articulation regarding Long’s post. I have been horrified since reading it on Huff Post before it went viral.
    As a law and bioethics professor, I was having difficulty giving voice to my grievous objections to Long’s violation of her son’s privacy as well as to her perspective on his mental health issues. Please consider publishing this to a wider audience, either on Huff Post or on an op ed page.

  56. 12/17/2012 | 4:53 pm Permalink

    This woman compared her son to a murderer. She posted a picture.
    The only thing we know about the shooter is that he committed a heinous crime and that he had easy access to powerful and deadly weapons.
    The mother made a choice and she jeopardized her son’s privacy.
    She could have told her story without directly using the murder name; She could have actually asked for help, for information, on line.
    The use of the name of a killer and the interview sound like a call for attention to me.
    My opinion, maybe some will disagree. But she could have been more protective of her child.

  57. 12/17/2012 | 5:03 pm Permalink

    Yeah… as a former information security professional, I immediately wondered why she didn’t use a pseudonym for herself. Of course the community will figure it out and it will come back to him, along with every comment now on the internet about him.

    Then AGAIN, I imagine she is at the point of “desperate cry for help”, since she has done multiple live interviews at this point as well. She wants effective treatment for him and maybe she thought this was the best way to get some coverage.

    It could be that all of this brings him an understanding of her fears, better help, and he learns to better manage his anger. It could be the worst possible way for a child to find out that his mother loves him but believes he is a monster… Time will tell the impact.

  58. 12/17/2012 | 5:07 pm Permalink

    Thank you Rachel. Normally I advocate for people to look at the big picture but in this case people seem to be using the big picture (the inadequacies of mental healthcare) to brush aside the affect this mother’s post has and will continue to have on her child.

  59. 12/17/2012 | 5:08 pm Permalink

    My heart hurts thinking about this poor kid having to go to school, where his teachers and many of his schoolmates will have read his mother’s words and now look at him as a potential killer. And I fear that someone will take it into their own hands to prevent the next mass murder by targeting this child. In this emotionally heightened time in our society, it is especially wrong to tell the world that your child is a future mass murderer.

  60. 12/17/2012 | 5:09 pm Permalink

    This is such an important perspective to bring to this argument. When I first read Long’s article, it did not occur to me. I couldn’t articulate the reasons it bothered me, other than the overt appropriation of “being” Adam Lanza’s mother and fighting in a car. I think my first thought was to wonder if they had found something written by her, and someone had posted it. Not the case. Further deconstructions made me realize what I couldn’t bring out: the familiar tropes surrounding disability, the lack of voice for the son.

    I think, even in the mythical magical candy-land where a woman who can’t talk to her son about pants without having a fight but can reasonably reach a consensus about it being okay to call him a future mass killer on the internet and television, what you’ve written here is very, very important. If the regular narratives are teaching us to side with the parent, no matter what they do… then we have a narrative that needs to be disrupted. We need to be able to think about consequences of these narratives, and we need to be able to question how experience is portrayed without equating that question to a personal attack or (everyone’s favorite word lately) DEMONIZATION.

    Pointing out how something is problematic isn’t bad, and it isn’t silencing. Goodness knows, enough people have seen and liked her article already. She has convention on her side.

    So thank you for posting this, even though I know this deluge of comments must be trying for you. I hope you get some that are life-affirming.

  61. 12/17/2012 | 5:12 pm Permalink

    I was absolutely sickened by the article. It is very unfortunate that this woman used a national tragedy as an excuse to bash her son and compare him to an assortment of mass murderers. There is a long road between calling your mother a B and even picking up a kitchen knife (and not using it) to gunning down school children. I agree that our health care system is broken, but scapegoating your child is not the way to bring attention to that issue.

  62. 12/17/2012 | 5:14 pm Permalink

    Rachel–you have hit upon my exact concerns with what she did. I blog but when my son asked me to stop writing about him, I did. And that was/is an anonymous blog. I can’t imagine writing about your child in such a public manner and thinking it’s OK. The only thing this does if further stigmatize him. I feel for him, I really do.

  63. 12/17/2012 | 5:20 pm Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your insights. On a theoretical level, I absolutely agree with you. That child is going to have a hellish few months on top of the struggles he already faces.

    On a practical level, you and I both know the only ways that laws and policies get changed/made is when there are real faces and names behind the stories. No law for adequate mental health care is going to be passed because of an anonymous blog. However, with this national media attention, she has the potential to be a symbol for a greater good. It is a terrible sacrifice for her family, but maybe it will help thousands of other families. It’s not a path that I would choose myself, but if no one did this, we wouldn’t have things like civil rights, domestic and sexual violence protection and shelters, or hate crime legislation.

    It’s going to take hundreds of people telling their stories honestly and openly in order for anything positive change to occur. And yes, their children will be “outed.” But I just don’t see another way around it with the way our government is currently set up. Maybe I am not educated enough about certain laws – but my understanding is that there has not been a single law that has been enacted regarding a social justice issue that has not come from everyday people demanding that it happen. If you can provide examples otherwise, I would love to see them.

    • 12/17/2012 | 5:27 pm Permalink

      Things change when adults, who are able to give informed consent, reveal the injustices and the pain of their lives and work together as a group in order to change laws. That’s how we got the ADA. It doesn’t happen because someone does something like publicly comparing her son to someone who just murdered schoolchildren. It never has, and it never will.

      We’ve had school shootings for years and years now. If innocent people being murdered isn’t enough to change the laws, how is a woman outing her son in a blog post going to do it?

  64. 12/17/2012 | 5:24 pm Permalink

    To those who are saying otherwise:

    I think that Rachel very much considered the possibility that the author deliberately used her real name and a photo of her son. To me, deliberate choice or not, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” is despicable. Disturbingly, readers seem concerned with the travails of the mother at the expense of her son. I don’t doubt that she copes with trying experiences daily. But she compared her child with mass murderers in a brutally public fashion. This is wrong — there’s no way around it.

    And claiming that Rachel lacks empathy for the author’s “situation” is too easy a cop-out. I think we’ve established that none of us here can understand another human’s life-world. To what extent are we willing to let misplaced empathy shield us from the reality of what’s transpired here — the public shaming of a child?

    Moreover, the author’s essay is but one example of a larger problem surrounding discourse on mental disability: Audiences have more concern and compassion for families than they do for those with disabilities themselves. Often, this comes under the guise of, “But we just want to help.” In all of the press coverage that’s transpired on mental illness and violence the past few days, how many people w/mental health diagnoses have we heard from? To my knowledge, none — at least, none who’ve publicly disclosed. We’re hearing from parents, psychologists, neighbors, siblings, news anchors — all with theories to offer, all with suggestions for restructuring the mental health system. And yet, other than our little disability corner of the blogosphere, nowhere are we hearing from people who are subject to that mental health system.

    Speaking from personal experience: To be compared to such monstrous behavior, to have one’s privacy violated in such a horrific manner — it does something to you. Long’s blog post will haunt her son for the rest of his life.

  65. 12/17/2012 | 5:41 pm Permalink

    Thank you. You’re a good mom and a good person.

    • 12/17/2012 | 5:49 pm Permalink

      Dear Someone,
      What a lovely response. And so true.

  66. 12/17/2012 | 6:38 pm Permalink

    I’ve read through the original article, this blog and others, and I’m still not sure 100% how I feel about the article, or the varied responses. But I am curious here about the child’s age and the times you put emphasis on the fact that the child is 13, a minor.

    Do our opinions change if the child is older? If he is 16, or 18, or 21 – all various ages of “adulthood” – or at least ages of altered decision-making. I understand that this is a hypothetical question – the child here is 13 – but I wonder about what light the answer might shed.

    Is there a point at which, if he is considered an adult, we have a different reaction to the article? Maybe not. Maybe at any age the idea of a mother writing this publicly about her son would be horrific.

    I don’t know if there is an answer, but I’m curious.

    Is age a factor?

    • 12/17/2012 | 6:52 pm Permalink

      I think that a mother saying this about her son at any age would be horrifying.

  67. 12/17/2012 | 6:53 pm Permalink

    Your blog post is exactly what disturbed me the most about the original article – the glaring, white lights of the whole freaking country on this child, someone who could not give consent to the original posting.

    I am not a parent and I am not one to demean the struggles this mother feels she goes through. But I still cannot imagine sharing so much public information during such a difficult time on such a sensitive issue. I am not suggesting this is not the time to discuss troubled persons, but I am suggesting that comparing your child to someone who just murdered 20 children (less than 48 hours after said shooting) is probably not going to be a good thing for your child OR for the discussion of access to mental health.

    That child in his entirety is lost and the one bedrock of support he should have has exposed his struggles to the world…has gone on national television to boot! Even if he consented, I feel about the same as I did watching 7-yr-old students being “interviewed” moments after their classmates were killed – equal parts horrified and disappointed.

    Thank you for eloquently putting into words how I and I imagine many others feel about this particular story.

  68. 12/17/2012 | 7:10 pm Permalink

    I agree with you Rachel! I am disgusted with that woman. I feel for her child.Comparing him to a mass murderer on the web for everyone including him to see.He is young so if she feels the way she does than get him evaluated,take certain steps. There’s psych wards in most every hospital. It’s not easy I know! There needs to be more out there but to say all that for him,his friends etc…. to see is discusting. If she thought he acted up before what does she think is gonna happen now that she compared him to a Murderer??

    • 12/17/2012 | 7:14 pm Permalink

      Exactly, Sherry. Exactly.

  69. 12/17/2012 | 7:17 pm Permalink

    I am likewise horrified that the linked article’s author didn’t even seem to be considering the impact her writing could have on her child. I get that she clearly needs help addressing her son’s issues, and it sounds like he definitely has them (issues). But comparing him to mass murderers? How is that helpful? This kid, unlike the others named, has not killed anyone. Moreover, not that it necessarily matters, but in all the recent shootings I’ve heard about, the shooter was NOT described as having been especially violence-inclined.

    Obviously if any kid is threatening family members with any sort of weapon there are problems in need of solutions (understatement), but threats *from a kid* are not tantamount to murder.

    And they don’t mean the kid in question is doomed to become a serial killer unless Mom writes enough about his problems on the internet. Obviously it needs to be okay for parents to seek help parenting troubled children, and there ought to be better resources (and I mean actually better and tailored to the person, NOT “more places for people to be locked up”) through which these children can receive assistance dealing with anger, etc.

    But this whole “oh look how BRAVE and RAW and REAL I am” thing I occasionally see popping up in parent-blogs and articles? To me even though there’s obviously a call for help embedded at the center of these things, there is also a problematic disregard for the personhood of the kids they’re so busy being RAW and REAL about. And acting like that disregard isn’t there just makes all this stuff worse and worse. And yet it’s so hard to point at it because there’s this weird perceived sacredness to what parents say about their children. Ugh all around.

    I guess now that the deed has been done, all I can hope for is that when this kid reads his mom’s article (which he undoubtedly will, presuming he doesn’t spend the rest of his adolescence stuck in a cave with no wifi) he gets all stubbornly contrary and decides to prove the world wrong by not ever killing anyone, ever. But even if that did happen, I don’t think it’d justify the means.

  70. 12/17/2012 | 7:23 pm Permalink

    I agree that we, as adults, are responsible for protecting the privacy of our children…The woman had no right to do or say what she did…I hope in time that her son and others will be able to forgive her…I am bipolar and I don’t care who knows because I cannot help who I am and I respect those who respect me…

  71. 12/17/2012 | 7:24 pm Permalink

    Your post is contradicting your strong belief in protecting this child’s identity, as you are only adding more publicity to the story yourself. You have in fact provided a link to the very story you feel is harming this child, giving direction on where to locate the name of the mom (which will presumably get readers to the name of the child), and providing information on an upcoming or past interview with NBC.

  72. 12/17/2012 | 7:26 pm Permalink

    So just to clarify, Rachel: if she had NOT used any real names, would you have been okay with her comparison to Klebold, Harris, Holmes, and Loughner?

    • 12/17/2012 | 7:36 pm Permalink

      No. Her son isn’t a mass murderer. Even if she’d posted pseudonymously, her child could find out what she’d posted. He could find it on her computer, or he could figure out where she blogs. That’s not something a child should hear from a parent, ever.

      It’s her deepest and worst fear. It should be said privately, to supportive people, in a safe environment. The Internet is not that environment, and her son should not be carrying that.

  73. 12/17/2012 | 7:27 pm Permalink

    I saw your post on the NAMI website and my first reaction to the “I Am…” blog post was the damage it does her son. Then I started reading the rest of Liza Long’s blog and I am appauled with the way she talks about all of her kids. She also uses “Michael’s” real name all over her blog in other posts so even the name change was not really a way to help protect him.

    Thanks for sharing your view on this. I really hope people read Ms. Longs other blog posts and make their own decision on the where she is coming from.

    Here is my response: http://www.bipolarspirit.com/2012/12/in-response-to-i-am-adam-lanzas-mother.html

  74. 12/17/2012 | 7:48 pm Permalink

    Dear Rachel:

    You bring up excellent points. Even more important, you write very well, which, I must say, is a lost art these days, especially on blogs.

    Well done.

  75. 12/17/2012 | 7:49 pm Permalink

    Which is more important? Privacy or screaming out for help for the most vulnerable among us?

    • 12/17/2012 | 8:39 pm Permalink

      Why is it a choice between keeping silent and likening your kid to a mass murderer? I do a ton of work shouting out for help for the most vulnerable among us. I don’t blow anyone’s privacy in the process.

  76. 12/17/2012 | 8:03 pm Permalink

    Thank you Rachel. You wrote exactly how I felt. This blog sent a chill down my spine but not for the reasons it did for most people. When I decided to begin writing about my experiences with my children the most important thing was to retain their anonymity. I do not write under my real name. Infact as they aged I made certain that it was still OK with them to continue with my blog.

    I also have real issues with how negatively she talks about her child. I agree with you that one day he will read what she writes and I can’t imagine the damage. Yes his teachers, friends, therapists also will read everything she writes. The possibility of terrible ridicule is so real it is frightening.

    What is worse is that the fact that she thinks her child is headed for being a mass murdered. Simply because he is having issues doesn’t mean he will become a monster. Her attitude towards him is despicable.

    This woman is one of those types of parents I despise the most. Someone who makes their child’s issues all about them. Her blog is not about the failure of the mental health system to help her son. Its most definitely not about her child. It is look at me me me me.

  77. 12/17/2012 | 8:17 pm Permalink

    Thank you, Rachel. Yes, I can understand that it’s probably terrifying to live with a child who has threatened you with a weapon; I’d be scared too. But that is no excuse for painting a bulls-eye on his head and saying he’s a future Charles Manson at age 13! He will never live this down.

  78. 12/17/2012 | 8:20 pm Permalink

    I have seen several responses to the “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” like this one. I have to respectfully tell you that when she wrote that, when you listen to her…she is certainly not comparing her son to a mass murderer but to one more mentally ill young male that has been “through the system” without any results. How are we to change it if we mothers, who have dealt with road block after road block after road block trying, clawing for any outlet that will offer a solution or help, don’t speak out about the broken system. And of course by speaking out, we implicate our children as being ill…but that fact is that if we keep quiet then nothing will ever change. It is interesting to me that those most vehement about this woman and her blog post, have never experienced the fear, anguish and pure agony that a mother of a troubled child feels. The hopelessness for one’s child is a cavern that I wouldn’t wish on anyone…but perhaps if you, Rachel, and others who criticize the Adam Lanza blog experienced for just ONE day the things parents of children who need help experience on a daily basis…you may think twice about her high horse and righteousness

    • 12/17/2012 | 8:36 pm Permalink

      Logan, I’m a survivor of 15 years of family violence. I’ve known from despair, believe me. You have no idea of the kinds of things I’ve been through in my life. Be careful of your assumptions here.

      I’ve also been a friend, an ally, and a supporter of the parents of disabled children for several years, many of whom have commented in support of this post. So I’m well aware of what people go through, and I’m well aware of what it takes from them.

  79. 12/17/2012 | 8:36 pm Permalink

    Thanks for articulating this. I got caught up in the narrative of how badly lacking is the US mental health care (non)system to a point that I did not immediately realize how much information the writer was revealing to so many people, or even the consequences of comparing her son to a murderer of children in an international medium; I read desperation more than anything else, and although some of the ways she talked about her son did make me uncomfortable, I found her story moving enough to share it.

    Going back, I see all too well the problems in the way she went about voicing her own desperation. I wonder what her son’s experience is, and I wonder what channels he has for making his experience understood. I wonder if her son has a voice. I wonder if he is allowed to use it. But much of this comes from my own memories of being a sort of troubled child who took years to find any voice at all and who, long after childhood, is still sometimes terrified to speak.

    Like most here, I do hear the mother’s pain, and I see her desperation for some sort of response from her community that would offer something other than drugs and/or jail. But underneath it I see her son’s pain broadcast in the third person and then reamplified to nearly an infinite extent, and without any indication that he had a say in whether this would have been made common knowledge at all.

    And I also wonder if we know what we are doing with this internet, you know? This sort of instant, total, permanant exposure of oneself and others has never been possible on this scale, and it availability as a medium only grows, only gives more and more “regular people” a way of revealing everything to everybody with one keystroke.

    I dunno. It’s like I want to cut this mom some slack, given that we are all new at this particular form of communication. But at the same time, her post was, unwittingly perhaps, painfuly symptomatic of the very problem she is asking for help with: our cultural disposition toward mental/emotional/neurological difference.

    It may be that I need to write my own blog post. But I did want to say that I appreciate your tenacity with this. We have to learn how to have these conversations, as painful as they are, without rushing to shut each other down. Thanks for making this space.

  80. 12/17/2012 | 9:07 pm Permalink

    I’m closing comments on this post. I’m seeing a lot of the same types of comments, and many of them I find deeply disturbing — so disturbing that I simply can’t let them stand without a response. Given that they are tending to follow a similar theme, I’ll simply be repeating myself if I do respond, and that’s not useful to anyone.

    I will close by saying that I continue to be upset at the lack of regard for the child’s feelings in this situation and for the impact on him. I continue to be concerned that a great deal of energy is being expended defending his mother and very little is being expended defending him. I continue to hope that people will one day wake up and realize that there is a great deal of territory between hiding in silence and shame, on the one hand, and breaching the privacy of a 13-year-old on the Internet, on the other. And mostly, I hope that the young man gets the help he needs to heal, to deal with his feelings, and to feel good about himself, because he’s clearly a brilliant young man who deserves the very best.

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