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Adam Lanza refused to take medication for mental illness
November 25, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
We will likely never know why Adam Lanza committed mass murder last December during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
However, a summary report issued by a Connecticut prosecutor Monday provides some clues.
The 20-year-old Lanza, who killed himself after the massacre, had mental health issues from at least the time he was in elementary school, but he refused to take medication for his illness. His mother was worried about the young man who locked himself in the basement playing violent video games for hours and communicated with her only by e-mail, even though they lived in the same house. Lanza was obsessed with mass killings such as Columbine and the Amish school shooting and maintained a spread sheet with detailed information about past murders. He even played one video game that was specifically about a school shooting. Still, his mother, Nancy, who was the first victim of Lanza's massacre, took her son shooting at the gun range and he apparently had easy access to the guns she owned. The prosecutor's report notes that there was no reason to believe Nancy Lanza knew of her son's plans to shoot up an elementary school.
Gun control legislation would not have prevented this school shooting, since all the guns that Adam Lanza used were legally owned by his mother and she was the one who gave him access. But would laws making it easier to force people with mental illnesses to get treatment against their will have made the difference? Most people who suffer from a mental illness are not violent; most are more apt to be victims of the violence of others. Still, I don't think anyone can possibly miss that most of the perpetrators of mass public shootings in recent years have been young people with mental health problems, most often schizophrenia. Schizophrenics often first show symptoms of the disorder when they are in their late teens or early 20s, when many young people are out of their parents' homes and no longer under their legal control. At that point medical privacy laws make it difficult for those around a troubled young person to alert his parents that their child is in trouble. It is also harder for parents or other family members to force psychiatric treatment on an adult child. Nothing in the report indicates that Adam Lanza was ever officially diagnosed with schizophrenia, though the problems he did have seem to have been significant. I do think it should be easier for the family members of those few young people who might prove violent to get them help before it is too late, though I do worry that it might involve trampling on their civil rights.
The Connecticut prosecutor's summary report can be found at www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/11/26/nyregion/26newtown-report.html
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