Parents of children with mental illness look at shooters and wonder, Could that be my child?

Parents of children with mental illness look at shooters and wonder, Could that be my child?


Every time Ruth K. hears of another act of violence — when teens are accused of murdering parents; when El Paso and Dayton are stunned by back-to-back shootings; when Denver’s schools are closed during a police hunt for a would-be Columbine copycat — she is afraid for her 16-year-old daughter.

Her concern is not just that the girl could become a victim of a shooting, although she does worry about that, in the now familiar way every parent does. But Ruth lives with another level of fear — that her child could become the perpetrator. Such is the constant weight carried by parents of children who have the kinds of mental illnesses that make them violent to themselves and to others.

Yahoo News spoke with nearly two dozen such parents about the complexity of their added parenting burden. On the one hand there is the stigma and finger pointing (“mentally ill monsters,” Donald Trump said after the Dayton shooting), which creates an inaccurate and counterproductive picture of what mental illness really is.

But even as they make the obvious point that a vanishingly small fraction of the nearly 50 million Americans afflicted with mental illness will ever pick up an assault rifle with intent to commit mass murder, there is the other hand. Could their child do this? And if society believes so, why isn’t more help available in what has become a daily battle to find and fund treatment?

“I want to punch him for ‘monsters,’” one father said of Trump’s description. “Mental illness in no way equals de facto violence. But there’s a part of me that thinks, OK, fine, call my kid the problem. Then come help me do something to fix it. I can’t do it by myself.” READ MORE

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