Published: Friday, December 21, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated: Friday, December 21, 2012, 7:00 AM
By Letters to the Editor/The Star-Ledger
This photo released on December 14, 2012 by the ABC television network shows Adam Lanza at an unknown location in 2005. Lanza gunned down 26 people, 20 of them children aged 6 and 7, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.AFP/Getty
Understanding mental illness
As a parent who has lost a child to suicide, I am deeply saddened by the deaths in Newtown, Conn. My son Tim, 18 at the time of his death in 2008, was not Adam Lanza, nor am I Adam Lanzaís mother. However, I lived in fear and will never forget what it was like dealing with a young adult with mental illness.
Tim was neither violent nor ostracized. He was an academic and an athlete who was well-liked. He had always suffered from low self-esteem and was a sensitive boy. Tim was also always drawn to risk and had endless stamina as a child. As he slowed down, we thought that perhaps he was maturing but later learned that he was self-medicating with marijuana and prescription painkillers.
Tim had been seen by counselors on and off throughout his life, but my husband and I had been told he was not depressed; that he was merely manipulative or just a teenager experimenting, as many do. However, I knew my child was troubled.
In January 2008, just 3Ĺ months before Timís death, he acknowledged only once that he wanted to kill himself. Sadly, both Tim and I quickly learned through two short hospitalizations that he could easily sign himself out because he was 18 and he was no longer considered a threat to himself or others.
While I am devastated that my child took his life, I am eternally grateful that he did not kill anyone else. This past week has been extremely difficult for me and I empathize with parents who fear not only for the life of their own child, but for themselves and others.
Mental illness is a serious disease and the risks surrounding young adults are insurmountable. Our country desperately needs improvements in mental health treatment.
My heart goes out to the parents who are doing their best to help and protect their teenagers and young adults.
Please feel free to contact me or just browse my website, www.withouttim.com
Lisa Schenke, Spring Lake Heights