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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Like the rest of the world, as a Human being, I am horrified by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary  School in Newtown, Connecticut.  As a Mother with her youngest in Grade 6, I am terrified and sickened at the thought of what the Parents and Family of those 20 innocent children are going through, as well as the Parents and Family of the slain Teachers.  My Son has had an inoperable brain tumor since he was 4 years old and the reality is that without Chemotherapy treatments, which he has undergone twice (currently in his second treatment), uncontrolled growth could end his life.  So I do my best to take it one day at a time.  But to have your child, who you feel is safe with his or her Teacher’s in School, is taken so suddenly and violently, is unbearably shocking and appalling to the core.

Adam Lanza, the 20 year old who caused this horrific event, was an obviously troubled young Man.  The media information coming in informs us that he had may have had Asperger’s Syndrome most of his life.  According to medical authorities, Asperger’s does not have any mention, in diagnostic criteria, of a potential towards violence.  It would simply help in understanding the personality and experiences of the gunman.  I wonder what happened in his life experiences that lead him to such a destructive act of violence.  Because he smashed his home computer, I don’t believe we will ever know what drove him to this.  He took his secrets with him on December 14, 2012. 

What we do know is that he was reclusive and shy. I believe he was in pain and filled with suppressed rage.  He shot his Mother, which in his disturbed mind, shows that she may have been a focal figure of his rage.  He stared at the floor when introduced to people which indicated he may have suffered from Social Anxiety, which presents when one has extreme fear, in social interaction, of ridicule and judgment.  He looked average in his photos which may also have added to poor self image.  Interviews friends of his Mother said that they knew he’d switched schools more than once and that she’d tried home schooling him.  This could indicate trouble at school with bullying, not fitting in.  A student in his tenth grade Honors English class recalled he was very quiet, very thin and carried a black briefcase to class, which stuck out when all the other kids carried backpacks. Read more: +Daily News

Most of what I have read puts the spotlight on gun control.  It shouldn’t be all about the easy access to guns of all types.  I think it would be a mess trying to come up with regulations that allow for legal gun ownership and weeding out those that have mental illness that should not be in possession of such.. Difficult but possible to enact some kind of legislation that limits access to guns.  With all the educated minds in the US political system, perhaps they can come up with regulations and limits to gun access.  This also needs to be about mental illness, about kids feeling ostracized by society for being different.  Just a few months ago, Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd of Coquitlam, BC, near where I live, took her life after years of being bullied.  She, too, changed schools several times, looking for a fresh start, but her troubles followed her.  In the notes underneath a video she posted on YouTube about her depression and struggle, which appeared shortly before she committed suicide, she writes, "I'm struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply.... Haters are haters but please don't hate," said the posting.

Perhaps Adam felt the same way in that being an outcast was a common denominator.  Amanda did not, however, that is known, have a mental illness. Her being bullied began after an unknown man convinced her to expose herself online in front of a webcam. He blackmailed her and spread the photos around, destroying her reputation.  The tweens and teens are hard for any kid in this day and age where being different can mean being cast off.  Where many kids will do anything to belong, to be liked and accepted.  We all have judgments and are quick to exercise them.  We value material things, celebrity, and body image but shun that which does not match up with what society deems “normal”. 

Adam may have had Asperger's syndrome (which I can only assume he was diagnosed with) which is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests (like OCD). It' also indicative of high intelligence for subjects that are analytical (like math and science).   Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and peculiar use of language are frequently reported.  It begins in infancy or early childhood.  Imagine trying to make friends and fit in when by the very nature of his disorder, social interaction is difficult.   It’s a disorder of social communication. People with Asperger’s have trouble understanding how other people are thinking and how they feel. They have trouble reading social cues and making eye contact. They're often obsessed with details and facts.  Perhaps this was the seed that caused him to suppress frustration and anger as the only way to cope?  We ALL do it.  We swallow all those feelings that don’t feel good but the thoughts attached to them remain and our actions are dictated by them, if not regularly, then at the least, with the occasional outbursts.

I in no way condone what he did.  There is NO rational explanation that could justify this heinous crime.  And that’s the point.  This was not a rational act. It was, perhaps, an emotional response to pent up feelings that finally drove him to do what he did.  Perhaps he convinced himself that this was the only way to end his pain.  Perhaps he’d been hanging on to his sanity by a thread for some time.  We may never know. Maybe he was mentally ill, but I imagine that not fitting in was his nemesis; not having strong social bonds with peers, not feeling understood even by those that loved him the most in the world.

I work with Clients who have Anger Management Issues.  And although some have said that in their rage they could "kill" the object of their anger, there are enough restraining parts of their minds that know it is only words.

What society could learn is to find methods to intervene at the childhood level where mental illness is concerned; to have more programs in place to educate children in general about mental and physical illnesses and how this does not make people difference, only uniquelt themselves.  My Son has decided to take it upon himself to talk to different classes in his school to teach them about what he has gone through so that they feel more at ease with him and lifting the shroud of taboo about physical and medical disabilities and how it feels to have an illness.

As a human race, we have to come from heart, to educate ourselves about mental illness and instability so that perhaps, we can see the signs of a troubled mind before it acts in anger and violence towards others.  That’s my hope.


  1. Well said, Rosa!


    1. Thanks, Wendie. In our profession, we can realise that there is such an emotional component to this.
      Appreciate your reading it :)