Good Question: What Should You Do If Worried About A Mentally Ill Loved One?
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As millions of parents across the country grieve for the loss of 20 children, there are some that have focused in on the shooter.
Liza Long, a mother from Idaho, posted an essay online called “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” – which went viral over the weekend.
“I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son, but he terrifies me. He’s a 13-year-old boy who threatens to kill himself and kill others,” wrote Long.
Dr. Kelly Wilson, a psychologist from PsyBar, says it’s difficult to tell the difference between regular old teenage angst and behavior that actually poses a threat.
“It’s hard to tell. It’s hard to tell,” Wilson said.
An estimated 20-25 percent of Americans have some sort of mental illness.
Ed Eide of Mental Health Association of Minnesota says violence is not common among the mentally ill.
“More people with mental illnesses are the victims of crimes than they commit crimes, and I think we need to keep that in mind,” Eide said.
Many of us know somebody who might have the capability to do something violent, but what should you do? Dr. Wilson says that it depends on your relationship to the person.
If it’s your child in question who is escalating or threatening over and over – do something
“Believe them. Believe what they’re saying and take whatever steps you feel are necessary,” Wilson said.
If it’s a friend, research some resources like providers or crisis hotlines to help out.
Should you say something to the person?
“I think it’s a good idea. I think you have to be careful on how to approach it,” Wilson said.
It may be a scary thing to do because you might not know what to say, but Ed Eide says that’s all the more reason to do it.
“It’s better to say something than to let things go,” Eide said.
Experts say it won’t necessarily be easy. If you get to that point, committing someone is purposefully hard.
“You can’t just arbitrarily say, ‘I think you’re a danger, Ed, therefore this has to happen,’ because people have a right to make whatever decisions they do,” he said.
But Wilson says if the potential for violence is clear, action is necessary.
“If you’re gut tells you they have the capacity to do it, then do something,” she said.
The National Alliance for Mental Illness in Minnesota has a list of numbers to call for mental health help in every county. Click here for their website.