He blasted out the door with the force of a rocket leaving the bounds of earth.
Rocks flew as he hit the gas pedal to speed out of the driveway.
The screen door now had the bottom broken out and hung by one hinge. The front door knob had left a hole in the wall when he threw it open. I stood shaking; the phone to my ear waiting for 911 to pick up.
The person I was calling the police about was my own son. I feared for him and for others in his way. He was suffering a psychotic rage, and it seemed that even an armored wall couldn’t stop him. I was trying to hold back tears. They spilled over my eyelids anyway.
In my shaky voice, I explained to the 911 dispatcher what had taken place and my fears. After she took all the vital information – name, age, weight, height, license plate number, direction of travel – I was told that an officer would call me. Call me? They couldn’t send someone to intercept him in his vehicle and potentially stop someone from being hurt. No. Unless I was witnessing unlawful or dangerous behavior at the moment I was on the phone, there was little the police could do.
All too often that is the response families and friends of an adult with a serious mental illness get. “There’s nothing we can do.” Privacy laws, civil rights, and many other restrictions prevent intervention, even when it’s possible that someone may be hurt or killed by our mentally ill loved one.
When terrible tragedies happen, especially when a young person is involved, questions about the concern of the parents are asked. Most recently in Newtown, CT, pundits opined that if Adam Lanza’s mother hadn’t purchased guns, the tragedy would not have happened.
In Littleton, CO, the question “Why didn’t the parents do anything?” was asked around the water coolers and in the news media. The parents had done all they knew how to do Even though their sons were minors, they could not have them committed to a hospital or other facility until something terrible happened.
In my situation, there was no similar tragic incident. I’m eternally grateful that God protected my son and others. But it was too close for comfort.
As the conversation in the aftermath of such horrific events and the role of mental illness, the people who need to be involved are the moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, and sisters who daily wonder if their loved one will be the next terrible headline.
We want to help but are prevented or ignored. Often when we try to seek help we are called over-protective, helicopter parents. Parents often end up vilified by friends, community, even in the media.
Family members are on the front lines every day trying to prevent bad things from happening. Family members are often alone in this battle. Family members, most often parents, become the scapegoat for a failed mental health system.
Talk to us first. Include us in the conversation about how to prevent these tragedies. Let us be part of the solution, rather than the blame for the problem.