Sandy Hook: What Are You Doing To Help!

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The senseless murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School have pricked the conscious of our nation. I’ve been doing my best this week to call attention to the need for mental health reforms, even though no one has said, for certain, that the shooter had a mental disorder. 

Talking about the shootings is tricky. We must make it clear that persons with mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violence than to be responsible for it. At the same time, these terrible shootings have opened a window for us to advocate for better care.

My efforts began Saturday morning when USA TODAY asked me to write an Op Ed piece. It went on the Internet that afternoon and appeared in the paper’s print edition today. I did a brief segment Monday morning on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation, then met with NBC Nightly News for a potential story, and ended the night on our local Fox TV nightly news. Tuesday, I spent an hour on NPR’s On Point program with host Tom Ashbrook. The other guests were Dr. Fuller Torrey from the Treatment Advocacy Center and Patricia Rehmer, the state mental health director for Connecticut. I gave a brief interview to WTOP, a local news station, and participated in an online video debate hosted by USA TODAY with three other panelists. Thursday I am tentatively scheduled to appear on another NPR program, The Diane Rehm show.

Earlier this week, I told you that we needed to speak out. Several of you asked how. Afterall, not everyone has access to the media. That’s true, but the most powerful statement that has emerged from the Sandy Hook shootings has not come from a so-called expert, psychiatrist, or leader of any mental health organization. It is the  I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother blog that has gone viral.  According to this morning’s count, that blog originally posted by The Anarchist Soccer Mom has sparked more than 14,000 comments, been “liked” by more than 1.2 million readers and sparked hundreds of articles and discussions on radio and television.

Whether you agree or disagree with what she wrote, my point is this: she put a human face on her story and people responded. Before she wrote that blog, she had no national voice. Now her story has become an influential force. Please remember that the next time that you think you don’t have a voice and there is nothing that you can do.

Two other voices are having an impact too.

Ann Curry’s sparked 20 acts of kindness. My daughter has taken that to heart and is doing one act per day to honor the shooting victims. It is a personal way to respond.

A Chicago resident, Jason Eccker, has launched a petition on the Internet that calls on the federal government to make mental health funding a priority. So far, more than 63,500 individuals have signed it. 

People want to respond and they are finding ways to do it.  All of us can find a way. There’s no excuse for doing nothing.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Chrisa Hickey says

    Keep shouting, Pete.  I’m not willing to back down this time.  I’ve got nearly 100 more moms behind me, ready to march on Washington for mental healthcare reform.  We’ve got your back, and the backs of our children.

  2. Lynda Johnston Vance says

    And the most Mr Obama wants is gun control. Gun control is not the answer help for All Mental health patient is the answer. You know that, I know that Ms Lanza, your children know that. Why can’t Congress see it? Or is it the blinders issued when they take office? For every post I saw blaming guns I posted your blog URL.

    Remember Hissom Center. I asked a close friend who worked in a job were she would have seen any mistreatment. She saw non. There may have been very isolated cases, but not like was claimed in court.

    It’s so sad.

  3. Our local NAMI affiliate’s Family Support Group discussed Pete’s son’s response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, the viral blog (I am Adam Lanza’s Mother), the lack of access to quality mental health services and the need to ban assault weapons/excessive ammunition clips last night. Everyone commented on the lack of support for families and their loved ones struggling with a brain illness. Families that are not in crisis (dealing with a loved one’s noncompliance and missed opportunities to get help because of a short-sighted system) are clueless to what it is like for families navigating the disjointed mental health system. Families need help not criticism and they need it ASAP.

    As I write this post, I am listening to Obama’s call for action (on tv). The emphasis needs to be on making mental health services the highest priority. Thanks Pete for advocating through newspapers, radio and talk shows and online debates. My family and NAMI group appreciate all your efforts! God bless you.


  4. Kudos to you, Paul, for taking the time to analyze the ways of the ‘suicidal-terrorist’ mind. We owe it to ourselves to gain a basic understanding of this operative behavior. As many Mid-East cultures embrace it for their own purposes, it would be wise for mainstream America to familiarize, inasmuch as both the purely hostile vigilante, and the under-treated mentally ill engage in such.
        Education tenfold! Books such as your “Defying…’, need to be available in public and school libraries for required reading.
        Right now, only families of, interested professionals, and a handful of mentally ill, are perusing blogs, websites, and national advocacy groups.
    The subjects of MENTAL ILLNESS 101 & MENTAL HEALTH CARE AND RECOVERY REFORM need to be FRONT and CENTER and as talked about as ‘Shades of Gray’!
         We need every SCHOOL TEACHER,  PROFESSORS, PEDIATRICIANS, FAMILY PRACTIONERS, CLERGY, LAW ENFORCEMENT, to be thouroughly TRAINED in mental health awareness and ARMED, NOT with GUNS, but U-s-e-a-b-l-e  ,KNOWLEDGE!
        for the technical writers among us, easy –
     How-to handbooks
    Precise, researched curriculum –
        basic diagnosis, warning signs, percursers, etc.
        positive, hands-on action for –
        strategies for talk-downs, calm-downs, etc.
    The HUGE HURDLE is BRINGING the MENTAL HEALTH CARE SYSYEM  up to SUPERB level,, from which it will dally down to
    a good level.
    To date – these groups have been silent.
    Email, write, phone, organnize and lobby as group, attend conferences,
    picket, march, GET FRONT PAGE HEADLINES!
    Currently, GUNS and WAR on GUNS is ALL WE HERE!!!

  5. (1) FIRST ACTION STEP THIS COUNTRY CAN DO TO SAVE LIVES:  Fully fund multiple Mobile Crisis Intervention (Mental Health)Teams in every county in every state.  Just think about how overloaded social workers already are; they’re barely able to make a dent in all the social ills for families in this country. If we can find the money to built baseball & football stadiums, we can find the money to save lives…

    (2) OPEN A DIALOGUE ON THIS COUNTRY’S EXTREMELY DISTORTED & IMBALANCED VIEW OF FREEDOM & CIVIL LIBERTIES: Since families of the — (mentally ill who are a danger to themselves or others) — are the real  “first responders” — we need to focus the spotlight on changing the laws so they are practical & enforceable, and that do not have obsurd loopholes in them.  Why are we first responders– (as parents, siblings & children of the mentally ill,) — required to jump through impossibly high “thresholds of proof” just to get our loved ones access to immediate health care in order to avoid a crisis? Or worse, physical harm?  It is because this country/culture has an EXTREMELY DISTORTED and IMBALANCED view of “freedom and civil liberties.”  THIS is where we must focus our intentions and dialogue.

    (3) FOCUS THE SPOTLIGHT ON THE NATURE OF M.I.   We must remind everyone in this country, that with Newtown or Virginia Tech: “There, but for the grace of god go I, or you or anybody!”  Though the odds lessen with age, nobody is really immune from getting a serious mental illness at any age, any more than they are from getting cancer. Therefore, mental illness affects EVERYONE…  And because of the nature & conditions that some mental illnesses pose, it is often unpredictable as to who, when or if someone might become a “danger to self or others” throughout the duration of their illness. Yes, it’s extremely important not to label everyone who has a mental illness as a “danger” — but we must see the truth for what it is:  Sometimes, even highly trained/experienced psychiatrists cannot always tell who or when someone might become a danger to themselves or others… and yet, the law and insurance companies expect family members to do this…  I call this “The Insanity of Insanity….”