How would you fill in the blank?
All I want for Christmas is_______.
All I want for Christmas is_______.
“All I need is my son back.”
These words from a man whose son died last week.
The day after he came home from surgery to repair a birth defect in his heart.
The day after he turned twenty-one-years old.
A short time after his brother took him for a brief walk in the fresh outdoor’s air.
An even shorter time after his mother administered a Tylenol because he said he didn’t feel well.
Immediately they began to wonder and question.
Was it the walk? The medication?
Did the doctor release him too soon?
Was there a problem with the surgery that went undetected?
On and on…
Last Friday, twenty elementary students and six staff members were gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut.
A senseless, tragic event…
Media in every form is bursting with news of the families, the shooter, and the shooter’s family.
In every comment thread you can find people squabbling over gun laws, the Second Amendment, Autism, and the state of our healthcare system.
And in many a conversation you will find people who are overwhelmed and frightened and disgusted and sad and angry…
Though they died from gunshot wounds, it was not the gun that killed two dozen people in Newtown, Connecticut.
It was a man.
His name was Adam Lanza.
Had it not been guns, it might have been homemade bombs, designed from internet recipes and household products each one of us can find in our cupboards.
Though the doors were locked, it wasn’t security issues that allowed his entry.
It was the determination of this man.
It wasn’t Autism or Aspergers that ended these innocent lives much too soon.
It was the irrational thought process of one individual in desperate need of treatment.
Though the teachers and staff did everything they could to protect those in their care, it wasn’t their fault they could not.
It was the resolve of one person who had snapped, who’s mental capacity had become (as I see it) void of clarity and compassion that defied all emergency protocol.
But here’s the thing: No amount of debate or blame or speculation will bring back any of these precious people.
And it wasn’t any one issue that allowed this tragedy to happen.
It was the convergence of all those elements and the resolve of one individual who hadn’t stumbled upon the help he needed to guide him to a different path.
What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary was essentially the human version of weather system’s Hurricane Sandy.
The right combination of the commonplace collided to form an event of epic proportions.
Though I haven’t read anything to this regard, I would dare say that depression played a part in this heinous crime.
Everyday Healthreran this piece on The Silent Killer that affects millions of us each year.
I know all too well how difficult it is to live with depression.
I know all too well how difficult it is to secure a good therapist, and how hard it is when faced with a shrink who does more harm than good.
I don’t let fear stand in my way of asking others if they have experience with mental health professionals, nor do I shy away from asking for references.
A month ago I phoned the offices of four different psychiatrists and psychologists who had come highly recommended.
Not one of them was accepting new clients, and the two who did have waiting lists said it could take up to four months or longer.
Those sorts of closed doors add to the frustration and anxiety of those seeking help.
They also tend to deter the inflicted from continuing to pursue professional help.
This lack of support often creates a sense of defeat or leads one to believe that the only option is to go it alone.
Despite those feelings, however, I pushed on.
I am a resourceful person and a business woman with friends who are doctors and nurses.
I swallowed my pride and called one of these contacts, who gave me the name of a female he’d worked with, and told me to use him as a reference.
My connection with this man was one of life’s sheer strokes of luck.
But it was a stroke of luck I was willing to recognize when I felt I had no other alternatives.
I have my first appointment with this woman tomorrow, almost a year since I began my search for help.
Those sorts of waiting periods aren’t suitable for someone who is suffering from severe depression or faced with delusional thinking.
Those sorts of waiting periods are catastrophic for family members who are trying to obtain services for their loved ones.
If the news is accurate, Lanza’s mother may very well have been caught in the web of an overworked and disastrously deprived mental health system.
If acquiring a good therapist was such a difficult task for me, imagine how nearly impossible it might be for a single parent, for those without the energy and/or financial reserves, and for those without the mental acuity or personal connections.
In response to last week’s heinous murders, President Obama has initiated a new gun violence task force.
Though I’m not opposed to this endeavor, I am opposed to the elimination of our country’s citizens’ rights to bear arms.
Warren and our children are avid hunters and fishermen who put food on our table and save us thousands of dollars in grocery bills each year.
I don’t want to belabor this topic, so suffice it to say that, as with any topic of discussion there are responsible and diligent individuals, those who follow the rules.
And there are those who aren’t.
But eliminating the right to weapons ownership will not eliminate violence.
Whereas a shrinking pool of mental health providers will only add to the personal disturbances that lead to such atrocities.
I hope that our government leaders have also established a task force to evaluate the effects of all of the funding being pulled from our mental health system.
In the coming year, fewer and fewer social workers will accept Medicaid, due to the severely slashed rates and added burdens being paid by and implemented by our governments.
The shriveling pool of resources and assistance for parents and caregivers like Lanza’s mother and Liza Long, mother and author of this poignant piece on raising children with mental disorders, is only doing our country and its citizens a grave disservice.
Without access to proper care and treatment, disillusioned individuals will continue to partake in violent behaviors, attacks upon themselves and upon others, both verbally and physically.
Until we realize that there are multiple factors that need our attention, we are merely masking the problem with the proverbial bandage.
We must stop seeking scapegoats and placing blame.
We owe it to ourselves.
We owe it to all of the victims of past atrocities.
We owe it to our futures.
In five days, millions will gather around their Christmas trees to celebrate the season of giving.
Millions of children wait with bated breath to see if Santa fulfilled their wishes…
And across the country, thousands will mourn.
Though our nation is focused on those who grieve around the Newtown tragedy, countless other stories will unfold, like my friend who lost his son.
Some sorrows will only be seen in the privacy of one’s own heart.
What I want for Christmas, right now, is for all those who are suffering to know The Five Facets motto: “We are neighbors in grief and allies in healing.”
I know how it is to have but one (unattainable) wish. The wish to have my child back…
And though I cannot give you that, I can give you one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, the gift of knowing that healing is within all of our grasps.
And a hug.
A giant, warm hug full of all the love I have in my heart…