ONTD Political

Parents of man accused of planning shooting call for changes in mental health system

10:09 pm - 12/25/2012
Parents of man accused of planning shooting call for changes in mental health system

Bill and Tricia Lammers sat in the lobby of Citizens Memorial Hospital on Friday, a week after 20 children and six adults were killed at a Connecticut elementary school. Outside, the flag flew at half staff.

The couple has been here before. They have waited for hours as hospital staffers called institutions around the state, trying to find one that had an open bed for their mentally ill son, Blaec, 20. They have waited time and again, five times here and twice in other hospitals, long before November when their son was arrested.

The arrest came after Tricia Lammers told authorities Blaec bought an AR-15 and another semi-automatic from the Bolivar Walmart, the same store where he was found three years ago carrying a butcher knife and a Halloween mask with plans to kill a clerk.

His plans this time, authorities say, were to shoot up a movie theater showing the latest “Twilight” movie. Blaec Lammers is facing felony charges of first-degree assault, making a terrorist threat and armed criminal action. Since then, Tricia Lammers has received phone calls from people who say she’s heroic.

“I’m not a hero,” Tricia Lammers said. “With the events that happened last Friday my heart tells me I did the right thing.

“Our city could be in the news.”

Bill and Tricia Lammers miss their son. He has been at the Polk County Jail for more a month now. They can only see him on Sundays. For 30 minutes. They can’t touch him. He is behind shatterproof glass, and they can only talk to him on the phone in the visiting room. They mourn him as if — in a way — he is dead to them.

“I’m a mom,” Tricia Lammers said. “It’s the holidays. I don’t have my child.”

The couple moved to Bolivar with their two children in 2009. He was the radiology director at Citizens Memorial before becoming a consultant. She is a patient liaison at the hospital. They love the city of 10,300 and hope to retire here. They sat in the hospital lobby Friday to talk with a reporter in hopes that people will better understand the challenges of mental illness.

The couple say their son has always been different. He was diagnosed with dyslexia soon after first grade. He was quiet and shy. Other children picked on him. He lettered in academics his freshman year of high school in Omaha. Two years later, he was expelled after saying he wanted to harm a teacher. He has homemade tattoos on his arms, belly and legs.

The couple has tried repeatedly to get help for their son. Over the years, he has received different diagnoses including Asperger’s and anti-social personality disorder. They’ve spent perhaps as much as $30,000 on repeated hospitalizations and medications. There is still a balance of about $9,300 from their son’s last stay at Lakeland Behavioral Health System, a psychiatric hospital for children in Springfield. They say the mental health system has failed them and their son.

“The system is broken,” Bill Lammers said. “The mental health system. There’s no place to turn to. You take them to a hospital, and 96 hours later they’re home. Maybe on Prozac, but they’re not fixed.”

They don’t believe in more restrictions on guns.

“I have guns, but they’re locked in a safe,” Bill Lammers said
. “There’s no way I would leave anything out.”

The couple say it’s too easy to get released from hospitals and other places for the mentally ill.

“In a perfect world, mental institutions would open back up,” Tricia Lammers said. “You could take an individual there and train them to take care of themselves.”


The couple has not put up a Christmas tree this year. One of their family traditions is the Christmas pickle. Each year, they would hang an ornament shaped like a pickle on the Christmas tree. The child who found it received a prize. This year, there is no one to search for the Christmas pickle.

But Bill and Tricia Lammers don’t think their son should be released. They hope he is sent to a mental institution that is able to help him.

“I think they should keep him until he is fit to be a part of society, and that may be a long, long time,” Bill Lammers said.


Bill Lammers learned about the shooting in Connecticut in a call from his wife. He turned on the TV.

“You think, thank God it’s not Blaec,” Bill Lammers said. “I thank God we got lucky.”

“Everybody in our community got lucky because he wasn’t able to do anything.”

source
chaya 26th-Dec-2012 04:31 am (UTC)
The couple say their son has always been different. He was diagnosed with dyslexia soon after first grade.

Is he also left-handed? Because that is equally as relevant.


They don’t believe in more restrictions on guns.

“I have guns, but they’re locked in a safe,” Bill Lammers said. “There’s no way I would leave anything out.”


But... earlier in the article we learned that your son can buy his own. And did. From a store where he planned to harm someone with a knife. So...?


(All that said, these parents did something incredibly hard and are right about the need for better solutions for people with ongoing mental illnesses.)
perthro 26th-Dec-2012 04:45 am (UTC)
MTE. A reading disorder does not a sociopath make. And most people who get guns pass psych evals easily- especially sociopaths because they know all the answers to give. Mentally ill =/= stupid. In fact, it's usually the opposite. People with schizophrenia tend to be geniuses! But something breaks down in the mind, and that can't always be fixed. That's why we need mental health care so badly: to catch this stuff early.

There will be challenges. There's already questionable bias in our psych field, especially when drug companies get involved. Invent a pill for one thing that ends up doing another? How do we sell this thing? Oh! Invent an illness that just so happens to be cured by it! No big deal. Same thing with our regular medical industry. But in the end, I think the benefits might outweigh the costs, if it's done *right*.
art_house_queen 26th-Dec-2012 12:15 pm (UTC)
People with schizophrenia tend to be geniuses!

That's simply not true. Not to berate you, but classic misinformation like this is what perpetuates a complete misunderstanding of certain mental illnesses.
violetrose 26th-Dec-2012 12:31 pm (UTC)
Seriously. This isn't an either or situation. People with mental illnesses are always thought to either be stupid, violent and murderous, or creative, artistic geniuses. Both tropes are harmful to mentally ill people.
art_house_queen 26th-Dec-2012 02:18 pm (UTC)
Agreed. What's disappointing is that "the Media" tends to present these over-generalizations as fact and if one has not studied nor had experience with mental illness, it might be easy to perceive the misinformation as wholly valid.
moonshaz 27th-Dec-2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Sad but true. :(
the_physicist 26th-Dec-2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
+1

There also isn't one thing that goes wrong in the brain that cause "schizophrenia". What psychiatrists call schizophrenia has been found by scientists to be caused in different patients by different biological causes in the brain. No wonder psychiatrist can't treat patients with just one pill and therefore find them hard to treat. The diagnoses and way psychiatrist think of mental illnesses is bullshit.
rex_dart 26th-Dec-2012 06:07 pm (UTC)
You realize that we don't know all the causes of most mental illnesses because we JUST DON'T KNOW and not because we don't WANT to know, right? We try one pill after another based on particular slates of symptoms because that's the only way things get DONE. If we only prescribed meds because we knew the particular cause and the particular mechanism of each illness and medication, nobody would get any meds at all and a lot of lives would be ruined.

Of course mental illness is hard to treat. But you say it like some kind of shadowy ~establishment makes it hard to treat for funsies.
the_physicist 26th-Dec-2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
You realize that we don't know all the causes of most mental illnesses because we JUST DON'T KNOW and not because we don't WANT to know, right?

That's now what I was trying to say at all. And who is 'we' here? Are you a psychiatrist or a researcher in the area? I know there are many people who do want the best for their patients, but that doesn't mean their patients are getting the best deal out of this due to the system.

We try one pill after another based on particular slates of symptoms because that's the only way things get DONE.

I understand that different drugs have to be tried because people don't know a better method.

If we only prescribed meds because we knew the particular cause and the particular mechanism of each illness and medication, nobody would get any meds at all and a lot of lives would be ruined.

I didn't suggest that's what people should do at all. I think you misunderstood my point completely.

Of course mental illness is hard to treat. But you say it like some kind of shadowy ~establishment makes it hard to treat for funsies.

So yeah, I say this because I do actually believe that the establishment is making it harder. Not for funsies, but for many reasons besides that. People can have good intentions, but still be stuck in a system that ultimately is screwed up and, yes, actively making things harder for medical research and future treatments.

I'm not saying "stop this all and give out no drugs!" :/

What I was trying to get across was something that many people who are unfamiliar with MIs and their causes do not know, namely that the psychiatric names given to MIs are all about symptoms and not about the underlying causes in the brain. That doesn't mean that I think people shouldn't try and hope for the best with the pills until they hit one that works. It means that I think the general public needs to have an understanding that there is no such thing as "normal" and "has schizophrenia". That's a false dichotomy that many people believe. There are sliding scales and there are multiple things that happen in people's brains that can lead to a condition that has symptoms that get called "XYZ MI".

And I do believe that labelling people as having "X disease" rather than focusing on the symptoms and the like is due to historical diagnoses criteria and is harmful to the patients. Ideally, in the future, some time... people will be able to say "patient has X wrong with that cluster of nerve cells, doing Y when it should be doing Z". I know that's not feasible now. But the labels are not 'correct' and they do cause harm because the medical system is vast. There are researchers, pharmacologists, big-pharma, psychiatrists, pharmacists, doctors... when being imprecise this does cause issues with the research and treatment of patients.

My sister is a pharmacist and researcher at one of the largest and most important mental health hospitals in the country and is in charge of all the most sever cases there. I do trust her judgement on all this.
tnganon 27th-Dec-2012 03:55 am (UTC)
What I was trying to get across was something that many people who are unfamiliar with MIs and their causes do not know, namely that the psychiatric names given to MIs are all about symptoms and not about the underlying causes in the brain...I think the general public needs to have an understanding that there is no such thing as "normal" and "has schizophrenia". That's a false dichotomy that many people believe. There are sliding scales and there are multiple things that happen in people's brains that can lead to a condition that has symptoms that get called "XYZ MI".

I absolutely agree with this & I can see where you were going with your first comment, but I have to say I don't think that diagnoses are de facto harmful? They aren't a perfect system, but they're better than nothing imo. Much of the way in which they're abused and misused is more than process than the actual diagnostics themselves, although with the DSM-V becoming ~law~ that may change. (Also, diagnoses representing symptom clusters actually aren't unique to mental illness)
chaya 27th-Dec-2012 04:44 am (UTC)
Really well said.
the_physicist 27th-Dec-2012 10:19 am (UTC)
I guess I should have specified that "nothing" is not necessarily the alternative. Sorry, I was drunk all of yesterday.

I absolutely agree with this & I can see where you were going with your first comment, but I have to say I don't think that diagnoses are de facto harmful? They aren't a perfect system, but they're better than nothing imo. Much of the way in which they're abused and misused is more than process than the actual diagnostics themselves, although with the DSM-V becoming ~law~ that may change. (Also, diagnoses representing symptom clusters actually aren't unique to mental illness)

Law? I didn't know this. Sounds horrific. If that comes to pass you have my commiserations. In many countries the DSM (old version/translates regional variants) already is considered law.

The DSM is used world wide by psychiatrists. The new DSM V will influence the way millions are treated, even though it's only about diagnostic criteria and not treatment guidelines.

My opinion isn't US-America centric, I've never been to the US and only know what things are like there from LJ. I'm talking in broader terms. And in most places in the world you do not get a choice of treatment - often you don't get to you chose if you get treatment even. You get it whether you want it or not. Human rights of mentally ill patients are routinely violated. But yes, I wasn't talking about specifics that depend on country and specific healthcare system. It was the issue of the current diagnosis system itself, as that is less specific (even if there are bigger issues, such as human rights here). 

Scientific discoveries on brain circuits and genes that are underlying human behaviour are making leaps and bounds. Journal papers on the issue are accumulating rapidly - and being ignored. Why? Because they don't fit the DSM. They don't neatly work with the criteria layer out there. 

20 years ago it seemed like only a matter of time before psychiatry would be more scientific due to all the research advancements. But...? Time has done nothing, as the system is locked in historical and scientifically inaccurate diagnostic criteria that are hindering the advancements of science in the field of MI diagnostics - and therefor treatment - from having any effect.

The US National Institute of Mental Health has a new project therefore with the aim to ultimately tear up the DSM and its labels and replace it with something based on biological and behaviour measurements that reflect better the underlying changes in the brain's wiring and has sliding scales. You know, making use of the past 20 years of scientific research.

Yes, no one know what's going on exactly, but it's simply not true that better diagnostic criteria based on science don't exist. They are being hindered by the widespread use of "labels" and an unwillingness within some parts of psychiatry (ie the kind responsible for drafting the DSM V) for change. And psychiatrists the world over are doctors, they are human. They will follow their training and are often not scientifically literate. They cannot use the new advancements in science as long as those do not map directly into the diagnostic criteria they operate with because doing so is too hard for them. 
tnganon 28th-Dec-2012 01:19 am (UTC)
sorry, by putting ~law~ in tildes i meant it to come across somewhat sarcastically, as in, it'll become the default reference for mental health care professionals diagnosing in countries where the dsm is used which can have an effect on legal matters, but not directly.

also igss i should have specified that i'm not american, so i'm also not talking about the us system specifically! and yes, i am very familiar, personally, with the fact that patients in the mental health care system typically get very little choice over their treatment, i just don't think moving away from diagnoses would necessarily change that?

Scientific discoveries on brain circuits and genes that are underlying human behaviour are making leaps and bounds. Journal papers on the issue are accumulating rapidly - and being ignored. Why? Because they don't fit the DSM. They don't neatly work with the criteria layer out there.

yeah, ia. that's why i'm really scared about the dsm-v, because there's been so much protest against it by scientists (including contributors to former dsms) that's been out & out ignored. it's not so much the changes themselves (although, yes, some of them i find really unhelpful) as much as the fact that they're blatantly ignoring the scientific process for what should be a medical manual based in science.

i don't think we really disagree, either? all i'm saying is that while the current system needs a lot of work, diagnosing (not specifically dsm) is a useful and necessary tool, especially for the public system where patients can't afford the luxury of having doctors and therapists learn the nitty-gritty specifics and diagnosing becomes a kind of necessary shorthand.

i also don't think it's good to entirely abandon the diagnoses we use now. some, yes, but i think many major disorders-like bipolar-have well established symptom clusters, and that it would be ill advised to throw out the past in enthusiasm for the future. we still have a lot of questions about the boundaries of even the most solidly defined diagnoses, yes, but i think sometimes we get fixated on the newest research and lose sight of the context of history.

i mean, look at the change in scientific belief and practice when the first psychiatric medications like haldol and lithium came into usage. general scientific consensus on the origins and treatment of mi shifted within a matter of decades from therapy and psychoanalysis and social upbringing to almost entirely biological and responsive to medication. that lead to seriously over-drugging many people, along with dozens of unethical "medical" treatments presuming to fix the underlying biological illness. today, the research is pretty conclusive in proving that the nature/nurture debate is over, that (to oversimplify it) both medication and therapy* are necessary in different ratios in different people.

*seriously not psychoanaloysis tho sorry freud

my other problem is that i don't think using mental illness diagnoses as "labels" is going to change just by updating mental health care systems to current scientific standards. i don't even think it's a big part of the problem, tbh.

again, a lot of the abuse of diagnoses is in the process and the way mhc workers use them, and i don't see that changing just with more accurate diagnoses. That's going to require a more complicated fix, one where we acknowledge that everyone has mental health (& therefore mental health problems sometimes), that it's just as important as physical health, that it's a massive spectrum, and that's only the beginning. we need to look at how societal oppression like racism and sexism influence mental health care. we need to work on breaking down stigma for all mental illness, including the ~scary~ ones like psychotic disorders. more accurate diagnoses are good, yes, but they aren't the root of the problem imo.
the_physicist 28th-Dec-2012 01:48 am (UTC)
Ah, idk why I assumed you were American. Must be confusing you with someone!

I agree the notions have changed a lot. I'd argue that we do have actual science now though, before we didn't.

Now is therefore the time to try and change system to make it possible to adapt with the future. DSM they do things like hold democratic votes on whether being gay or trans* is a MI or not (as I'm sure you know XD ). There is little science even in the more well defined disorders and it is hard to incorporate the new scientific brand of psychiatrics into the old system, compared to how it would be with a new system of diagnostic criteria. The issue with public vs private doctors you mention strikes me as very country specific, so harder to comment on. I'm really going by what my sister has told me on this issue. I have an MI, but that doesn't make me aware of behind the scenes stuff, that was my sister. I know that 'but my sister' is not an argument, lol XD . Sadly it is that my opinion is from trusting her judgment on what is a problem and what isn't in psychiatry and it makes more sense when she explains it obviously as she really does know what she's talking about. I think I'm probably doing a disservice to her point of view. -_-
the_physicist 28th-Dec-2012 10:53 am (UTC)
and yes, i am very familiar, personally, with the fact that patients in the mental health care system typically get very little choice over their treatment, i just don't think moving away from diagnoses would necessarily change that?

Sadly I don't think so either -_- . that was more of an aside rant my mind somehow got stuck on because of the sentence
I don't think that diagnoses are de facto harmful?

because being diagnosed can in some cases be more harmful than not because of it opening you up to a system where you are actually forced to take drugs that for example turn you infertile and you are given no choice. :/ which is just fucked up. as you say, you're aware of this though and i didn't really mean to imply that you weren't, just... needed to randomly vent.

yeah, ia. that's why i'm really scared about the dsm-v, because there's been so much protest against it by scientists (including contributors to former dsms) that's been out & out ignored. it's not so much the changes themselves (although, yes, some of them i find really unhelpful) as much as the fact that they're blatantly ignoring the scientific process for what should be a medical manual based in science.

The reason they are ignoring it is because they want to hold onto their old, established, therefore easy ideas and science shows that the old ideas on diagnosing MI patients have been discredited in many cases.

i don't think we really disagree, either? all i'm saying is that while the current system needs a lot of work, diagnosing (not specifically dsm) is a useful and necessary tool, especially for the public system where patients can't afford the luxury of having doctors and therapists learn the nitty-gritty specifics and diagnosing becomes a kind of necessary shorthand.

Yeah, I don't think we really disagree either. The issue is probably that I'm just like, waaaay more cynical and disillusioned with medicine in general. more so with psychiatry, but my criticisms go beyond just that specialisation. Having tick box diagnostic criteria is not a bad thing at all, and many diseases outside of the realm of psychiatry could do with a system as stringent as the psychiatric diagnostic criteria. It is more that the diagnostic criteria right now are not open to changes from science as they are fundamentally incompatible with our current understanding of MIs.

general scientific consensus on the origins and treatment of mi shifted within a matter of decades from therapy and psychoanalysis and social upbringing to almost entirely biological and responsive to medication. that lead to seriously over-drugging many people, along with dozens of unethical "medical" treatments presuming to fix the underlying biological illness. today, the research is pretty conclusive in proving that the nature/nurture debate is over, that (to oversimplify it) both medication and therapy* are necessary in different ratios in different people.

Yeah, i find the arrogance of the medical establishment in general infuriating, but that really is the topic of another rant. it has taken a while to find out the there are changes in the brain chemistry and that both drugs and therapy can both help influence that depending on the patient. i feel that now we are finally at that point where we know that, that it would be good to try and build on that.

my other problem is that i don't think using mental illness diagnoses as "labels" is going to change just by updating mental health care systems to current scientific standards. i don't even think it's a big part of the problem, tbh.

well, I do think it is part of the problem. i agree the biggest problem is that being given certain labels is akin to revoking your "human rights card". -_- The old-fashioned diagnoses are not the root of the problem, but they don't help doctors change their views either and are not easily updated (as the DSM revisions prove) to be scientifically up to date.

I would like to say it's just a matter of time before that changes, but that's what people said 20 years ago. :/

edit: oh screw, i replied to this yesterday. um, ignore my late night reply? XD

Edited at 2012-12-28 10:54 am (UTC)
chaya 27th-Dec-2012 04:42 am (UTC)
+10000
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