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.”

roseofjuly 26th-Dec-2012 06:21 am (UTC)
This is the main problem. I mean, at this point we know very little about Adam Lanza. He left nothing behind indicating why he would do this, and his mom is dead. The only quotes about him that we're hearing are by people who weren't close to him or don't know much about him. Most of what has been said are the observation of personality traits. A sophomore psychology major could tell you that people's recollection of facts is colored by their present experiences and others' opinions. The young man just shot up an entire school, so of course people are going to remember the time he had to pee really bad at the end of 5th period English and describe him as "nervous and fidgety," or the time he was upset because a girl he had a crush on started dating someone else and describe him as "emotionally withdrawn." (I'm just making things up for example.)

Pretty much everyone who has said that he has a disability has been speculating, I think perhaps with the exception of the information that he may have been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. And even then, that is still just students recalling that they had been told he had Asperger's syndrome. By who, it's not revealed. Or even when or in what context. Like

One former classmate who said he was familiar with the disorder described Mr. Lanza as having a “very flat affect,” adding, “If you looked at him, you couldn’t see any emotions going through his head.”

This is a great example of confirmation bias. You know the young man killed 27 people, and that people are murmuring about him having Asperger's. You're a classmate of his, desperate to help the local police make sense of why he would do such a thing - and to be of some help to the journalist standing in front of you. Even unconsciously, your brain is starting to match the things you've observed about Lanza's behavior to what you know about Asperger's (since that's what they're saying he has!) and to sort out the things that don't match. It's natural human behavior. And what does "familiar with the disorder" mean? I know a lot of college juniors who would say they were "familiar" with schizophrenia because they took abnormal psychology.

I have rambled way off my point, but what it was is - people have such odd and inaccurate perceptions of mental illness and there's just a bunch of bullshit thrown in everywhere. Something like Asperger's gets confused with antisocial personality disorder, or people see a few sociopath movies and assume that everyone with any kind of mental disorder is dangerous. The most insulting thing is probably that when this national conversation happens after a school shooting, everyone turns to the mental health system and how it sucks. But nothing is ever done, and the insinuation seems to be that people with mental disorders are dangerous and need to be locked away from the "rest of us", not that they are people who are sick and need help.
wikilobbying 26th-Dec-2012 06:58 am (UTC)
you just articulated a lot of things i haven't been able to articulate with this, with lanza, and with the shooting in aurora earlier this year. even on my end, it's been a lot of combined unpacking my own wrong perceptions and my discomfort with the current conversation about mental health that gets brought up with every mass shooting. like they've basically been working hand in hand but so difficult to spell out, so yes, this is very good.

and especially with the coverage of lanza, it's been really weird to me how media outlets have gone to people who haven't seen or talked to or had any association with him in years, like old class mates. as if they're not missing a big gap in his life and a big gap in how ever lanza was more currently. idk there's just such a rush toward speculation, like how dare the media wait to find out actual facts instead of being all up everyone's asses with speculation all the time.
roseofjuly 26th-Dec-2012 07:34 pm (UTC)
It's the speculation that's driving me crazy. All this information age crap means people need to have information NOW, right this moment, so instead of doing actual investigative work the newspapers are grasping at whoever shows up.
brookiki 26th-Dec-2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
Lammers and Lanza both grew up in the post-Columbine era, too. They would have been about seven years old when it happened. I think there was a huge change post-Columbine in how kids who didn't match the teacher's perception happy, well-adjusted kids went from being that odd but harmless person who was really quiet in class and dressed a little offbeat to a potential school shooter. Or, at least, that was my perception of it.

On my dad's side of the family, there's a history of mental illness (nothing major, just OCD in a great-uncle and depression and anxiety in my grandmother). My dad was terrified I would end up like one or both of them, so my entire behavior was compared to what he felt was "normal" for my peer group and how his mother and uncle would have acted. And my mom was terrified I would become a goth, to the point that she worried when I bought any black clothes. We're talking normal black t-shirts/skirts/pants/dresses/shoes. And the irony is that I was textbook "normal." The edgiest clothes I bought were from Express. I did all the "normal" activities and was outgoing and had plenty of friends. Yet I was still treated like I was "pre-crazy", for lack of a better phrase, and they were waiting for me to do something that would signal my descent into "insanity" and black lipstick. And that did have an impact on me and it even affects me in minor ways today.

I'm not trying to blame shootings like this (or plans) on the parents or society. But I don't agree with the idea that anyone who does something like a school shooting is mentally ill and I certainly don't think that the fact that someone is quiet and has different interests is mentally ill and that we all have to watch out for these kids so that we can let someone know that they're clearly a pre-shooter so that the government can haul them off to a mental hospital where they will be held, with or without their consent, until they've done whatever it takes until they're "fixed" and " fit to be a part of society."

I'm not saying that being treated that way is the cause of Lanza or Lammer's behavior or that they deserve sympathy, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of completely harmless people are harmed by the current perceptions of mental illness and violence and part of fixing the mental healthcare system is changing this mindset, because as long as as people buy into the everyone who has a mental illness is violent and everyone who is violent has a mental illness, we're not going to improve anything.
teacup_werewolf 26th-Dec-2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
But nothing is ever done, and the insinuation seems to be that people with mental disorders are dangerous and need to be locked away from the "rest of us", not that they are people who are sick and need help.
MI people's humanity has always been questioned and every time a shooting happens it seems that their sense of humanity is not relevant. No ever actually looks at some of the institutions we keep locking way folks either and how many of them are not even borderline ethical. Just look at the John Rotenberg Center. We are we going to talk about the abuses in the institutions and group homes?

I am just going to add something about AS, I am sick of this idea that folks with autism or AS have no emotions or no concept of feelings. I hate this idea that we're robots with artificial reactions. We have feelings an we express them either like normal folks or differently.
poetic_pixie_13 26th-Dec-2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
romp 26th-Dec-2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
Is that why the autism of the shooter came up? It came out of the blue for me and made no sense...but almost half the kids I know are on the spectrum. To suggest they're more dangerous than other kids is nonsensical.

So perhaps they took autism = no feelings = psychopath. If that's what's happening, I want to know so I can work against the misinformation, you know?
chaya 27th-Dec-2012 04:50 am (UTC)
So perhaps they took autism = no feelings = psychopath. If that's what's happening, I want to know so I can work against the misinformation, you know?

I've already seen this being mentioned, with a dash of "kids with no emotions shouldn't be playing violent video games" for spice.
roseofjuly 27th-Dec-2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
I also didn't undertand, but I think that's the picture they are trying to paint. Later articles tend to describe Lanza as unemotional or unable to experience emotions like a "normal" person, and I think they're trying to stay in line with the Asperger's = no emotion = capable of doing horrible things narrative.
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