As a lifelong Connecticut resident I can tell you that there are now officially two Connecticuts: The pre-Newtown Connecticut and the post-Newtown Connecticut.
I attended one of the hearings that resulted from the massacre of December 14, at an elementary school of all places, in Hartford the last week of January. There seemed to be only two concerns: guns and mental health, with the latter being a concern mostly due to "the stigma attached" -- according to one speaker. The stigma? Really? Not that we have a system in place, in Connecticut anyway, where once a sick child turns 18 his or her parent can't even so much as make a doctor appointment for them, never mind see to it that they take their meds, forcibly if need be? A state where a bill known as the Assisted Outpatient Treatment Bill is repeatedly dismissed as too expensive, but Congress has approved money for something called "psychiatric first aid," and the speaker keen on it suggested even mailmen can benefit from this. Oh yeah, the guy terrified of my neighbor's Schnauzer should add to his plate a psychiatric first aid class so as to talk an unstable couch-surfer out of finishing the bomb he is making on a TV tray.
Seems to me the first step we need to take here is not to help the mentally ill, but those whose roofs they live under, whose hands are tied. A mother in this very situation wrote me quite a letter about it. I share some of it, with her permission, with you here:
I had been trying to get my son help since 2006. Each time the psychiatrist would spend a short time with him, diagnose him with depression or social anxiety, and put him on medication. There was no therapy. The only doctor that talked about real therapy did not take insurance. Thinking back now I wonder why there was no deep probing given the history of mental illness on both sides of the family. My son, a gifted artist, was never a problem in school or at home, violence and belligerence are not part of his nature. But, beneath his peaceful exterior were thoughts that needed to be explored. I am thankful he wasn’t into violent movies or video games, instead he was into art. He read a lot about artists and some of the stories did influence his bizarre behavior. His mind is vulnerable, as many are. Once he turned 18 that was the end of me being able to help him. I couldn’t even get him an appointment with a psychiatrist. I remember trying to make an appointment, crying over the phone, pleading. But no, they said HE needed to call. Now this was a kid that couldn’t keep it together, was sleeping all day, going for long walks and drives in the middle of the night. After an arrest in 2008, a well intentioned person called me and said “your son has a problem”. I thought, yea, but there is nothing I can do. That’s the truth, once they are 18, even if they live with you and are financially dependent on you, you are helpless. You live day to day with the darkness, scared. The sad truth seems to be that the mentally ill do not get the help they need until there’s a crisis. Can this be changed, or is it just the nature of the illness? I would like to see restrictions lifted on parents for children over the age of 18 that are financially dependent on them. Also, I was happy to see the mental health legislation introduced by Senator Blumenthal. I hope included will be aid in training for parents.
Pre-Newtown Connecticut was consumed by joblessness, unemployment being the major concern, some of the state's biggest job providers either closing their doors altogether, or moving out of state for tax benefits. Post-Newtown Connecticut got handed the very job creation the state had been obsessed with on a bloody silver platter: Armed guards at our schools, mental health facilities and the staffs to run them, and psychiatric first aid teachers for...um...the very people who work in the industry.