Friday, July 17, 2015

To the Parents of James Holmes

The World May Blame Your Son, but We Know the Truth, and We Support You
10 million children will grow up to be adults who have
serious mental illness like James Holmes. Like our children. 


Twenty doctors agree that James Holmes has schizophrenia, a mental disorder that has been described as “young person’s dementia.”   But the fact of his illness did not prevent Colorado jurors from finding the young man, who opened fire in an Aurora theater in 2012, guilty of 24 counts of murder in the first degree, two counts for each victim.  After the verdict, a girlfriend of one of the victims declared, “This is a huge step forward.” 

The shooting was truly awful, and the grief and even anger of the victims’ families is entirely comprehensible. But the parents of the ten million U.S. children with serious mental illness, children like James Holmes, feel differently. We see the verdict as a huge step backward, a clear message that the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness is as strong as ever, and that the public’s fear and ignorance of mental illness have not abated since 2012.

Mass shootings are incredibly rare, representing only two percent of all gun violence in the United States. Yet the daily tragedies—incarceration, homelessness, suicide—that disproportionately affect our children who have serious mental illness do not make the headlines.

In December 2012, after another mass shooting involving a young man who likely had serious mental illness, I wrote an essay sharing my own family’s struggles to find mental healthcare for my then 13-year old son. The essay, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” became a rallying cry for mothers who had tried and failed for years to find treatment that worked for their children.  As a result of my cry for help, my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and got treatment that works. Today, he is in a mainstream school earning good grades, hanging out with his friends, and planning for college. With treatment, my son is no more likely to be violent than anyone else.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, I was also able to connect with a passionate community of mental health advocates. Eight of these mothers, all powerful advocates in their own right, wrote letters to Robert and Arlene Holmes.  Here is some of what they shared:

Last summer my 12-year-old daughter Morgan was charged with the crime that would be dubbed by the media as the “Slender Man Stabbing.” One moment she and her two best friends were eating donuts at my kitchen table. The next moment, she had been charged with a crime of unimaginable violence, and was torn suddenly and unexpectedly from my home. You have expressed feeling guilt for not knowing your son had mental illness. I know how that feels. I didn't know that my daughter was sick, either.—Angie Geyser

We managed to keep our son out of the criminal justice system until 2012. He does not think he has a mental illness even though he has spent the majority of his adult life in locked psychiatric facilities. Today he sits in jail awaiting a bed in a state hospital. We all believe in treatment before tragedy!—Teresa Pasquini

It wasn’t your beautiful son who hurt all those people.  It was the untreated brain illness that is so misunderstood.  It is my hope that we can educate people to understand that people with schizophrenia are not evil; they are ill. —Kathy Day

More children in this country die by suicide than cancer, diabetes, and every birth defect combined, but somehow, trying to keep our son alive was considered “bad parenting.” We learned that our son’s illness is in his brain, not in his upbringing. We could have so easily been where you are.—Tom and Chrisa Hickey

I hope your son is judged with compassion and given the help and care he needs. I also hope you know that you are not alone in this. We have a community of parents and caregivers of those with serious mental illnesses, and we care and support each other.
—Marcie Bitler Sohara

Our son was an adult now, and his right to have irrational thoughts flying loose in his mind were supported by maladaptive laws written in the 1960s that make one thing crystal clear: after age 18, our boy would have to present as a “danger to self or others” if he was ever going to be returned to a safe residential facility. The deinstitutionalion experiment has cost countless lives; families have lived with personal tragedies of lost loved ones for decades without anyone taking notice. Only when our sick kids explode in the community do people share an opinion. You are not alone. —Jennifer Hoff

Please don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault; it’s not your son’s fault; it’s not your husband’s fault. It’s your son’s brain disease. It’s our broken mental health system. It’s the lack of funding to find a cure and lack of education to each school administrators, family members, judges, law enforcement, and lawmakers. —Marla Durkin-Pope

My hope for you both is that you find comfort and kindness in those of us who, even in a small way, understand and empathize with the experience you now have to go through.  We wish you could have known earlier that there were people much like you, struggling to find answers, comprehend, and keep ourselves afloat. —Jenifer and Jim Walsh


Their letters are reprinted in full with their authors’ permission below.

***

Dear Robert and Arlene,

We want you to know that you are not alone. There is an entire community of parents who understand and support you. We are the mothers of children who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness. Some of our children have committed violent crimes, and some of us simply understand how these tragedies can occur as a result of a brain disease.

Last summer my 12-year-old daughter Morgan was charged with the crime that would be dubbed by the media as the “Slender Man Stabbing.” One moment she and her two best friends were eating donuts at my kitchen table. The next moment, she had been charged with a crime of unimaginable violence, and was torn suddenly and unexpectedly from my home.

You have expressed feeling guilt for not knowing your son had mental illness. I know how that feels. I didn't know that my daughter was sick, either. She was only diagnosed with schizophrenia after being declared incompetent to stand trial and being evaluated at a state psychiatric facility. I feel as though my guilt for not knowing Morgan was sick will forever consume me from the inside out.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us for support. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, please know we all hold you close to our hearts.

Angie Geyser

***

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Holmes,

I am the proud mom of a 32-year-old adult son who has a 16-year history with serious mental illness. He was diagnosed at the age of 16 with bipolar disorder following his first hospitalization. He has been involuntarily hospitalized over 50 times. His diagnosis has changed to schizoaffective disorder. He suffers from a lack of insight, which is called anosognosia. He does not think he has a mental illness even though he has spent the majority of his adult life in locked psychiatric facilities.

We managed to keep our son out of the criminal justice system until 2012 when he was arrested while on a hospital unit at Napa State Hospital in California and charged with assault. He has been deemed incompetent to stand trial four times. Today he sits in jail awaiting a bed in a state hospital.

In May 2015, I travelled to Washington DC to speak on Capitol Hill about my family’s tragedy. I joined families from across the nation who refuse to be silent and let our families and communities continue to suffer. We all believe in treatment before tragedy!

Your son and your family are in my heart and thoughts. We are with you, and you are not alone.

My best,
Teresa Pasquini

***

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Holmes:

My family member suffers from schizoaffective disorder with constant psychosis. There’s just something about psychotic illnesses that make us all feel alone.  It’s so isolating.  In James’s case, it’s worse because his illness impacted so many others. The system should have provided treatment to him to prevent tragedies that happen too often.

I’m so thankful that my family member has not hurt anyone--yet.  But for the last four months, he’s mostly stayed in his room.  He lives in fear every day because his “spirits” constantly threaten his life.  I can’t leave him alone at times, because his fear of being killed is so great.  I worry that these spirits will cause him to act out and hurt himself or someone else.  I know that my loved one could experience what your son’s illness did to him.

I’m fortunate because he lives with me.  I can keep an eye on him and am aware of changes that could be red flags.  You weren’t in the same town, let alone the same state as James.  There is no way you could have known what his illness was planning.

And that’s just it.  It’s the illness that controlled him.  It wasn’t your beautiful son who hurt all those people.  It was the untreated brain illness that is so misunderstood.

I hope James gets the treatment he needs and deserves.  And I hope you both can have some peace.  You hear some very ignorant statements about your son.  It is my hope that we can educate people to understand that people with schizophrenia are not evil; they are ill. 

I’m sending good thoughts to you and your family.  I hope you know that you are not alone, and there are many of us who would welcome you!

Sincerely,

Kathy Day

***

Dear Robert and Arlene:

People look at me cross-eyed when I say we're lucky my son Tim was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child. 

He was 11 when we first got the diagnosis, the last in a long line of them, from autism to speech disorders to depression and bipolar disorder. He was in a psychiatric hospital when he was diagnosed, after a suicide attempt that forced us to acknowledge he was sick.  Three years and 11 hospitalizations later, we made the agonizing decision to put Tim into long-term residential treatment because he was so delusional and so violent that we feared for his safety, our safety, and the safety of our other children.

We were alone then. We were accused of filling him with poisonous medication because we didn't feel like creating structure or enforcing rules. Strangers cursed us when he had a meltdown in public. Acquaintances felt justified in beating their breasts and declaring they would never send their children away. More children in this country die by suicide than cancer, diabetes, and every birth defect combined, but somehow, trying to keep our son alive was considered “bad parenting.”

In residential treatment, Tim learned what it was like to live without the voices. And since he was still a child, we were able to ingrain in him the importance of his meds and therapy to keep the voices at bay. We learned that our son’s illness is in his brain, not in his upbringing. He's 21 now.  He can never be left alone for more than an hour, or his anxiety and paranoia kick in.  He takes his meds, and today, they are working.

But I remember watching him being frisked by the sheriff we had to call after he broke every door in the house and threatened to kill us. There's a razor thin line between that day and today. We spend every day staving off a return to that day.  We know we're lucky to have the opportunity to do so. We could have so easily been where you are. 

We will continue to keep you in our prayers. 

Tom and Chrisa Hickey

***
Dear Robert and Arlene,

I have a 26 year old son who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was only 19 when he had a complete break with reality, and we were able to get a diagnosis. I have been luckier than most because he knew something was wrong, and we were able to get help; however, I am fully aware that might not have been the case. I tell you this because I want you to know that the pain and the suffering you and your son are going through are always on my mind.

I know that the seriously mentally ill are operating with a sick brain, and your son’s actions were due to that sickness. I hope your son is judged with compassion and given the help and care he needs. I also hope you know that you are not alone in this. We have a community of parents and caregivers of those with serious mental illnesses, and we care and support each other. I hope you can find us and take some comfort in knowing you are not judged by us.

Sincerely,

Marcie Bitler Sohara

***

Dear Arlene and Robert,

I want to thank you for speaking up in response to the “evil” and “monster” taglines used liberally by the media towards your son James. Thank you for being brave enough to endure people spewing anger and hatred towards you as you attempt to educate our nation on the painful reality that serious mental illness can be fatal if left untreated and how a devastating psychiatric diagnosis like schizophrenia can wreak havoc on an individual’s life, stealing the ability to reason and decide rationally and potentially leading to tragic outcomes.

I cannot imagine how you must feel as parents, going through the courtroom experiences when what your son really needs and deserves is to be in a psychiatric hospital. I understand personally about losing an adult child to an illness that steals his mind and free will, and I know what it is like to watch helplessly as people judge and condemn your child for behaviors resulting from a brain that is too sick to understand the consequences.

My 22-year-old son is mentally ill and spent the majority of his childhood and all of his adolescence in clinical day programs or locked residential facilities “for safety.” Despite the fact that he was disabled, receiving SSI, and was never was never able to manage his life in a safe manner, when he aged into adulthood, he received his shoe laces back and a plane ticket “home “and free reign to manage his life completely without “interference from his parents” (his case manager’s words).

Within months of returning home, he had multiple run-ins with the law, several psychiatric hospitalizations, and he was kicked out of two group homes. We begged our county health department to put him in a hospital. We presented 500 pages of medical records and his doctors’ letters advising he be reinstitutionalized for treatment of his illness. This meant nothing to Orange County. Our son was an adult now, and his right to have irrational thoughts flying loose in his mind were supported by maladaptive laws written in the 1960s that make one thing crystal clear: after age 18, our boy would have to present as a “danger to self or others” if he was ever going to be returned to a safe residential facility. There was nothing his father and I could do but watch helplessly as he was consumed by the revolving door.

He went missing for days at a time, and started smoking pot and drinking often. We were constantly worried, not only of what would happen to him but also about collateral damage that might be inflicted in the community. Less than 36 hours after his last release, he walked into Bank of America with a threat scribbled on a sticky note to blow up the place if the teller didn’t hand over a thousand dollars. He will spend the next 13 years in the California State Prison. He has spent many months in solitary confinement and now has “Crazy Boy” literally tattooed across his young face; despite this, he has been denied his psychiatric medicine because he is not “sick enough.” in other words, we have to wait until his mental state declines even more before he qualifies for his psychiatric meds that he has taken since age 12.

Our jails have become hospitals, but they use pepper spray instead of a syringe. Nearly percent of prison inmates have a serious mental illness. The deinstitutionalion experiment has cost countless lives; families have lived with personal tragedies of lost loved ones for decades without anyone taking notice. Only when our sick kids explode in the community do people share an opinion. You are not alone. I am praying for everyone who has been impacted by our broken mental health system and for treatment for James.

Kindly,

Jennifer Hoff

***

Dear Robert and Arlene,

I have a 30-year old daughter who has been sick since high school. When her problems first started, we took her to psychologist who diagnosed her with “normal teenage defiance.” For ten years, no one knew what was going on in her beautiful sick brain. They call it “presenting well.” In secret, she sees aliens, a FBI informant, the Messiah, and I can go on and on. Finally, after ten years, her illness got so bad that other signs related to schizophrenia became apparent.

It took three misdiagnoses from professionals and education on my part to really grasp what was going on when those external signs started to become apparent. Please don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault; it’s not your son’s fault; it’s not your husband’s fault. It’s your son’s brain disease. It’s our broken mental health system. It’s the lack of funding to find a cure and lack of education to each school administrators, family members, judges, law enforcement, and lawmakers.  

There are many parents like you out there who support you, love you, and will be there in spirit with you every day in that court room! Please come to our groups on Facebook. You have a support system of loved ones whose family members have a brain disease like your son. Become advocates. You have the support to fight for your son’s life, and his life matters!

Hugs!

Marla Durkin-Pope

***

The bravest are the most tender – The loving are the daring. –Bayard Taylor

Dear Robert and Arlene,

Underneath the sullen and distant fa├žade lies the heart of a sweet young man.  Our son longed to be free. 

At the tender age of 13, our son attempted to end his life so that he would no longer be tormented by the voices, commands and “Book” in his head that told him to do things.  Our son struggled with violence at home, epic meltdowns, running away, isolation, threatening suicide constantly, and enormous anxiety and paranoia since age 7.  I read more than I ever thought I could read.  I was mocked by psychologists and condescended to by psychiatrists, until my son’s suicide attempt resulted in a diagnosis of early onset schizophrenia. 

When he had his psychotic break, he spent 42 days in a behavioral health hospital, where he was finally put on the last resort medication.  We are grateful and fortunate that it is working for him and keeping the suicidal ideation and hallucinations away.  We also know the damage that has been done to our family.  Another of my sons has a serious mental illness as well.  We struggle.

My hope for you both is that you find comfort and kindness in those of us who, even in a small way, understand and empathize with the experience you now have to go through.  We wish you could have known earlier that there were people much like you, struggling to find answers, comprehend, and keep ourselves afloat.

Brene Brown shared “Empathy’s the antidote to shame: The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.”

Your family is in our prayers.  Please let yourselves be supported.

With love,

Jenifer and Jim Walsh


21 comments:

Dixie Jordan said...

There is a legion of such parents in this nation. As an advocate for children with serious mental illness, I spent many years talking to families, the court system, social services, mental health providers, and the kids themselves. We have a crisis in this nation, and the James Holmes' of this world pay with their lives for OUR failures to provide community based treatment.

Anarchist Mom said...

Dixie, thanks for your comment! Keep advocating--we HAVE to change this broken system.

Candie Dalton said...

Thank you for this! I am the mom of an amazing young man who has schizophrenia. I have done local and national advocacy trying to raise awareness and eliminate stigma around mental illness. I cried when the verdicts were read yesterday. How can we as a society continue to turn our backs on those who need the most help.

Mark Zanger said...

Lisa, thousands, -- from the light, from the shadows, on the bridge, still searching for the door in the wall, looking at the rock and up the hill for the 15th time -- pause to thank your brave heart once again.

Mark Zanger said...

Lisa, thousands, -- from the light, from the shadows, on the bridge, still searching for the door in the wall, looking at the rock and up the hill for the 15th time -- pause to thank your brave heart once again.

Darlene Patrick said...

At 18 my son had his first psychotic break. He is 27 now. Only recently he shared that he had been hearing voices since about 12 yrs old.

I remember him being about that age, telling me he 'hear your voice in my head when your not here mom , you tell me not to do stuff' and i replies "thats your conscience, you should always listen to it.' How was I to know?

He has had violent episodes, every single one stemming from trying to protect someone he sees as in danger, or to protect himself. It is a constant roller coaster of worry, meds, paranoia, being fine and being afraid.

Awareness is key. Advocacy is key. Acceptance is key. Most importantly, we did not cause it, we can not cure it. Just wanted to be part of the discussion. We are not alone.

Alex's mom said...

We are ready to refuse sitting at the back of the bus. Let's fight for our kids.

A said...

Bad brains? That's your "strategy" for destigmatizing mental "illness"? Why didn't James Holmes feel comfortable with talking to his parents about his feelings? How likely is it that his parents would have "grieved" the "loss" of his upper-middle class status if he had lifted some of they placed on him to "succeed" and quit school? How come neither of his parents have admitted even ONE thing that they wish they would have done differently in raising him? I highly doubt that either of them were perfect.

Mad people do NOT believe that biology is our biggest obstacle. We hold our country's mental "health" systems, criminal "justice" systems, economic systems, educational systems, and, yes, our abusive and neglectful families responsible for both the etiology of and deterioration of our so-called mental "illness". It will be interesting to hear what "Michael" has to say when he's old enough to decide for himself whether or not "his" problems are or should be located entirely within his body.

A said...

*some of the pressure they placed on him to "succeed" and quit school?

Alex's mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex's mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A said...

Your son's fear of confiding in you has helped to make him ill and keep him ill. Your refusal to acknowledge any legitimate concerns he may have had about reaching out to you for help makes it very hard to believe that you didn't want this to happen. People don't usually hide these sorts of changes in their life from their parents unless their parents are a large part of the problem.

What if a motherly stand-in could prove you wrong? What if a woman who believed in her power to show your son how to heal himself could make his life happier, freer, and more insightful? Do you want to see him enjoy a positive relationship with a woman who is able and willing to do what you aren't?

You're only partially right. You have helped to make your son ill and it will take people who have strength and tolerance beyond what you may ever be capable of acquiring in order to make him better.

Alex's mom said...

"Help your son be ill." Very innovative philosophy. Would it apply to diabetes and heart disease? Shame on you.

A said...

Actually, yes it would. If a parent fed their heart-diseased child Red Bull and their diabetic child a big slice of pound cake, society would blame them up the wazoo and probably launch a CPS investigation. Families who traumatize their children by using them to satisfy their own sick desires risk making their children Mad. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Madness prevents the world from annihilating its throw-away people. It's a "sacrifice of reality to preserve life".

Kate said...

His parents said they didn't know their son was so very mentally ill -- and I, for one, believe them. James hadn't lived at home full-time since he was 17 years old.

Would his parents have "grieved" the loss of their upper middle class golden boy had he dropped out of grad school? Sure, but they'd likely have gotten over it pretty quickly. Parents who love their kids generally do.

-- signed an upper middle class girl with a severe mental illness whose parents got over her "dropping out" of a PHD program by graduating with a Master's within three months.

(In hindsight, it takes me parents about three months to "accept" pretty much any decision I made that they disagreed with -- my undergrad major, my grad school major, my not getting a PHD, my choosing to work in a field unrelated to either degree).

JanetDavies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JanetDavies said...

don't know, A. You're on shaky ground here. You imply that there is no such thing as mental 'illness" and then accused somebody... not sure if it's AnarchistSoccerMom or Alexis'Mom.. that they have made their son ill. Can't have it both ways. Right? Is the child "ill" or not?

It's really easy to sit in front of a computer screen posting only as 'A' saying any nasty thing you like about mothers who are fighting as hard as they can to keep their children safe. Another thing entirely to put your name on what you believe and to show up in the biggest way you can find to help your child and others like them. It's terrifying to advocate for your mentally ill child and takes tremendous courage and very thick skin. A lot more courage than it takes to hide behind the name, 'A'.

I think I've seen you in here stalking the AnarchistSoccerMom's family, last I saw you, you were entirely too concerned with how they should behave. That was you, right? When ASM posted about her ex husband?
Go get a new hobby, 'A' and stop harassing moms who already have more than enough on their plate.

A said...

I have never said that mental illness didn't exist. The "illness" refers to my staunch rejection of bio-only and bio-dominant "theories" of mental illness which claim to "indicate" that Mad people are suffering from "young person's dementia". There is physical evidence for dementia that does not exist for so-called mental illnesses. Furthermore, a significant percentage of Mad people partially or fully recover from their illnesses. Many of us recover faster and better without drugs that we do with them. The best medicines for mental illnesses are solitude, time, justice, and love.

My "concern" can only be misinterpreted as excessive by the trolls on this comments page like yourself who ignore the fact that you all vote for pro-force psychiatry laws like H.R. 2646, make sensationalized infotainment about "violent mentally ill" people the most-watched stories in the news, and pay taxes for the drugs that maim and murder Mad people. These are but a few of the ways in which sanists like you keep Mad people "in their place". Your "denial of power and power of denial" is the epitome of violence and manipulation.

I have a right to speak anonymously on this comments page and anywhere else that allows people to express themselves without the explicit or implicit threat of censorship. It's important for Mad people to voice their opinions about the pathological family dynamics that sicken and victimize them to the people who perpetrate and personally benefit from those dynamics. On this comments page (for now) Mad people can access the people who aggress against us from a safe distance. You chose to read my comment. If you don't want to know what I think about Mad people and Mad lives, then you shouldn't be doing that.

Your disrespect for my rights to privacy and freedom of speech and for your duty not to treat people worse than you would want to be treated is a prime example of why many laypeople and clinicians still believe, despite Big Pharma's glitzy PR campaigns, that drugs cannot heal a brain that's gone bust under the strain a person endures by trying to discover a reason for why they should be abused and neglected by their family, their caregivers, and society. Similarly, your failure to maintain this modicum of civility also illustrates why the "families of the mentally ill" groups have not been successful at demonstrating to the public that Mad people's "bad brains" are mostly impervious to the actions of the people they share their lives with. People aren't stupid. We know that abuse and neglect cripples and kills us all, no matter how sick or healthy we are. Though people may fear this understanding, they soon overcome this fear when life circumstances compel them to survive by defying the evolutionary instinct to turn to their families for protection and nurturance.

It's impossible to build a sanist society without fooling the public into believing that Mad people are delusional for holding abusive and neglectful people responsible for making them ill. Rants like yours set this awful goal beyond your grasp. Though closet whack-jobs like you do not listen to anyone who isn't at least as whacked as you are, this post will remind its more open-minded readers that people whose values are as strong as they are sound do not need to play games. Your attempt to guilt-trip the readers of this comments page into letting you use the "sanctity of motherhood" in order to slip your less noble agendas in under the radar is not going to work. Mothers who are doing what's right for their children don't need to exploit their canonized status in order to set themselves above reproach. If they have made mistakes, they own up to them and try to correct them.

A said...

Your contemptuous attitude towards me for my choice to write at the same time I safeguard my privacy and your outrageous demand that I exit a comments page that does not belong to you are obvious symptoms of an untreated "narcissistic personality disorder" (haha!). You need professional help, pronto! If you'll act this appallingly to a total stranger for disagreeing with you on a comments page, you've got to be doing a whole lot worse to the people with whom you've enmeshed yourself. You don't have to "get help" for yourself, but for the love of E. Fuller Torrey, please do it for them.

Bushigaide Wang said...

Discount air jordan shoes,designer handbags,belts,Sunglasses for sale online,Offer latest Style and lowest price,wholesale from china free shipping,Save Up to 70%

OFF,Welcome to: http://www.tradecsus.com

cheap jordan shoes http://www.tradecsus.com
air jordan shoes http://www.tradecsus.com
cheap jordans http://www.tradecsus.com
air jordans http://www.tradecsus.com
new jordans http://www.tradecsus.com
designer handbags http://www.tradecsus.com
wholesale sunglasses http://www.tradecsus.com
jordans shoes http://www.tradecsus.com
designer belts http://www.tradecsus.com
cheap sunglasses http://www.tradecsus.com
wholesale belts http://www.tradecsus.com
cheap handbags http://www.tradecsus.com
wholesale handbags http://www.tradecsus.com
authentic jordans http://www.tradecsus.com
designer sunglasses http://www.tradecsus.com
cheap designer belts http://www.tradecsus.com
jordan release dates http://www.tradecsus.com
cheap designer handbags http://www.tradecsus.com
cheap jordans for sale http://www.tradecsus.com
wholesale jordan shoes http://www.tradecsus.com

Alex's mom said...

After I posted two comments I am back, calmer, to voice my opinion without being rude. Suffering from an illness such as bipolar disorder can make us impulsive and say/do things we might regret later. My son has bipolar disorder and so did my father. WE passed down our genes/predisposition/whatever you want to call it. I am able to hold a full-time job and pass as a "normal" member of society. I have that luxury, my son does not. I now firsthand how hard the struggle is. My son has zero insight into his disease/condition/fill in the blank. I will fight for him to the end of my days. After reading all comments I decided to write a letter to James' parents and I feel so much better. Every time I saw his picture I saw my son. It could have easily been him. He lives in terror and deals with it by trying to prove the world he is the strongest, meanest, most dangerous person in the world. We have been spotted at airports by security when he acts out because airports are one of his major triggers. I have had to basically protect him from himself as he would not be the first mentally ill person to get shot down in an airport. After writing to James' parents (and waiting 2 weeks for the letter to come back as I did not have their complete address) I feel great that I was able to convey them love and support. We need to stop the stigma and welcome people like my son and James to feel loved, understood and most of all accepted. This in turn would stop some of the bullying and unfair treatment they receive from the time they are in kindergarten, which only lights the fire in their minds. Who is really to blame? Let's work on ourselves by provide them with compassion, love and understanding. Otherwise we become part of the problem. I am a true believer that love and acceptance would cut down on the violence that comes from isolation and feeling like the only way they can "get back" to their tormentors is by getting even. And remember most of the random shootings and violent acts are committed by people who are "normal." We all have a responsibility to provide acceptance and support; otherwise we must accept responsibility for the part we play. I feel like crying whenever I remember Andrea Yates, who loved her children yet believed she would "save" them by committing the horrible act which ensued. And they have locked her up and thrown away the key. Let's keep fighting for our children until the discrimination stops and we look for their virtues and strengths. In other parts of the world individuals who suffer from some sort of mental illness are believed to have been touched by god/s. And they thrive. We need to change and bring out the positive. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of compassion.