Adam Lanza: He, too is someone’s child.

Another preventable calamity. This time blamed on bullets, not bullies. Children murdered for no reason. We can research the killer, speak to his family and friends, search for words written on-line, in a journal, perhaps a letter. But we will probably never know why this 20 year old young man/child ever took guns to the school he attended as a child, break in and spray bullets around a classroom filled with very young children, killing sons and daughters; siblings.

This young man lived amongst us but not with us. He lived in a world unknown to most of us. What his eyes saw, what his ears heard, what his heart felt, were not the things we see, hear and feel. Somewhere in his life his understanding of the world, his connection to this world lost its moorings. We are learning that he had Asperger’s that for some people makes human to human connections difficult, different from what the rest of us take for granted. But what we are hearing, that is most disturbing, is he had a mental illness of some kind.

Some of us go through life with the ability to deal with stress and disappointment, loss and failure, our own and of those we love. They are blips in our life journey. Some even thrive on stress. But too many of us become overwhelmed. We lose the ability to think clearly, to care for ourselves, to dress, to eat, to shower, to feel. We are overcome with fear and anxiety and no longer process the world as it is. For some, anger turned inward destroys all rational thought. And over time some of us lose the ability to make choices, including the ability to choose life. This is mental illness. It can seep into one’s life slowly, over time, stealing one’s joy of life, suffocating one’s soul or it can happen upon us suddenly, a breakdown in the brain, often attacking young people between the age of 18 and 24.

Each time there is an act of horror like this we wring our hands and ask again, “Why?” Why did he commit this dreadful act?

That is the wrong question and yet we ask it over and over. And do not assume it is done for fame. The question that needs answering is why do we spend so little money on research into mental illness; its cause and cure? Why do we not integrate mental health check-ups with physical checkups? Why do we not have protocols in place to care for those who, when seeking help, are deemed dangerous by a psychiatrist, but not quite dangerous enough to self or others to bring them in for care? Why are there not enough psychiatrists to care for the large numbers of people with mental illness?

Five times more people have schizophrenia than HIV/AIDS yet we have come miles in our understanding and management of HIV/AIDS and yet comparatively, we are in the dark ages of mental healthcare and management.  And each time we hear of these horrible acts we hear it was committed by a young person, most often a male, between the ages of 18 and 24.

Mental illness is much like other chronic illnesses. With proper medication and care, people with mental illness live good lives. There is a difference, though, between a mental illness and a physical illness. People with a physical illness do not tend to kill themselves. People with heart conditions or diabetes do not tend to fall into an abyss, so deep, so painful, that there appears to be no way out-except death. And for some, whose darkness is so thick, whose understanding of the world is so skewed, they take others with them.  We screen for so many illnesses, why not mental illness?

It was the lesson of Job that we are not meant to know or understand everything. We will never know all the reasons why people kill.  We do know that mental illness plays a role in too many of these acts. When we have an idea of the underlying cause of horror and do nothing, then we as a society must be held accountable, too.