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Newtown (12/19/2012)
By Frances Edstrom

When I heard about the killing of the little 6- and 7-year-olds at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, I was at St. Mary’s Church. About thirty little kindergarteners, with bright faces and dressed in their holiday best, had filed onto the risers set up for their concert of Christmas songs, and the room was filled with love and joy. It was simply too awful to contemplate the scene in Newtown, where love and joy had been replaced by death and sorrow.

Such a loss is devastating, heartbreaking, and unfathomable. But we are human, and most of us have rational minds. So we try to fathom the unfathomable.

From the New York Times to Fox News online, the headlines scream out that the “authorities” are searching for a “motive.”

About five times the number of children who are killed every years in homicides are killed in automobile accidents. Do we look for a motive for those horrible deaths? No, we look at ways of preventing them. Over the years we have made changes in many things related to automobile crashes. We address speed limits, driving while impaired, seat belts, child restraints, position of children in vehicles, auto equipment, pedestrian laws; you name it. Yet still over 5,000 children die in car accidents each year. People break the law; children are killed.

Let’s look at the individual who killed those children and adults in the school in Newtown. Several news articles gave the impression that his Asperger syndrome, if he was indeed diagnosed as such, could have caused his killing spree. That is unfair to those with Asperger syndrome, as there is no proven connection between the condition and homicide. There does seem to be some evidence, though, that the man did suffer with some form of mental illness, perhaps untreated.

There is a connection between some mental illnesses and irrational action such as homicidal violence. Why are so few journalists and politicians calling for an effort to find cures, or at least controls, for those who suffer from mental illness?

If we are looking for a reason that these horrible irrational acts occur, shouldn’t we be looking for the cause of that irrational thought? Shouldn’t we make it a national priority to be able to diagnose mental illness, treat mental illness, and perhaps cure mental illness that causes us so much pain and destruction?

We waste our national efforts looking for a “motive” for homicide, suicide, and other violent acts committed by the mentally ill, rather than a cure for that mental illness. We want a rational explanation and a quick fix for violent actions that are totally irrational.

When I hear about a person, such as the murderer in Newtown, committing such a horrible, irrational act, I react differently than most, I think. I thank God that my son, who committed suicide at the age of 14, after returning home from a day at school, was the only victim who died, and not a room full of innocent children, too.

Our mental health laws and initiatives must be dragged out of the dark ages and changed. Then, we have a hope of preventing another Newtown. 


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