Mentally Ill

Adam Lanza is the 20-year-old who shot and killed his mother, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School, and shot and killed 6 adults and 20 first graders. As reported in the New York Times, the State of Connecticut has issued a report with more details about Adam’s life at home and his bizarre behavior. His case is an extreme example of a young man who was clearly mentally ill. His mother had him in counseling and he reportedly was prescribed medication but would not take it. He spent the final months of his life mostly alone in his room. He was preoccupied with violent video games, one of which was called “School Shooting.” He possessed a video of a child being shot. One of his pictures was of himself with a gun to his head. He had clippings throughout his room of school shootings. For a 5th grade class project he produced a book called “The Big Book of Granny.” It depicted a Granny with a cane that shot people. In the 7th grade, a teacher noted he was intelligent but was obsessed with violent imagery. His mother would take him to a shooting range. She was planning on buying him a pistol for Christmas. Instead he took several of her guns, killed her while she slept in bed, and went to Sandy Hook School to shoot the staff and the children.

What to do and where to go for help:

1. Remove any guns, weapons or implements for hurting others or themselves from the home. Do not have guns and ammunition available for your young adult with mental illness to access. Do not promote shooting or possession of any weapons with a mentally ill adult. Generally the first person killed by a mentally ill adult, young or old, who commits violence will be against their parents, their spouse or their relatives in the home.

2. Seek mental health treatment for your young adult. Consult a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Make sure the treating doctors know all that is taking place at home and your concerns about the mental health of your young adult.

3. It is quite common for a mentally ill young adult to not take the medication that has been prescribed for them by a psychiatrist. If your young adult is making threats to harm someone else or themselves, call the police and request a mental health detention and examination to determine whether they are a danger to themselves or others. In California this is called a Welfare and Institutions 5150 evaluation. If your adult has had such a commitment, they are not permitted to possess or own firearms.

4. The likelihood is that your young adult will be kept a day or two in a mental health unit for an evaluation and released. Be sure to let the staff at the mental health unit know all the concerning facts about your young adult and why you believe they are a danger to others or to themselves.

5. Have the psychiatrist to make a referral to County Mental Health for an evaluation to determine whether a mental health conservatorship should be established for your adult child.

It has been my experience most County Mental Health evaluators don’t want to impose a conservatorship on young adults. If the schizophrenia and paranoia is drug induced, they will not want to handle them. Young adults are harder to handle than older adults and trying to find a suitable placement can be difficult.

Assuming you have tried all of the above and gotten nowhere. Your mentally ill young adult is not taking their medication. They still have fantasies of death and dying. They still want to watch and play violent video games. You are scared of being killed or that someone close to you may be killed. I would tell you to see if you can have your young adult arrested for a violation of the law. Have they stolen from you, assaulted you, and/or broken into your room/home? If so, call the police and demand they be arrested. Sadly our mental health hospitals today are our county jails and state prisons. When your young adult is in custody, they will soon enough come to understand that if they want to get out of custody they will have to agree to regularly take their medication and abide by the conditions of their release. If they are not following the orders of the court, they are subject to going back to custody.

If none of the above has worked, give consideration to removing your mentally ill adult from your home. Once again, generally if someone is going to get killed, it starts in the home. If you get a restraining order against your young adult and they violate the order, you can ask the court that they be arrested for violations of the restraining order. If they are having to make it on the streets on their own, you are hoping they will come around to agreeing to take their medication and co-operate with their treatment providers as a condition of returning home..

Consult with a local defense attorney in your community who has a reputation for handling mentally ill clients and is familiar with the services in your community for such individuals.

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