Monday, December 17, 2012

Using Tragedy for Personal Gain

What a few days of utter hell! Advocates all over the country have been attempting to extinguish fires set by the media. It seems the media's mission has been to out-sensationalize tabloid journalism. Highly emotional, the public is outraged and rightly so - too many innocent people are dying by the hands of gun owners with deadly assault weapons (people kill people, right?). The media knows that the public wants immediate answers and solutions that point the blame away from gun restrictions. And so they deliver.

While there was some talk about gun control, the new focus has become mental health. The headlines began to read the "Killer may have had [insert mental health diagnosis]." Thanks to this media hype, the dismayed public is now asking, why aren't these "dangerous" people with mental health issues being helped? Adding more mental health stigma to an already terrible situation, enter the opportunistic vultures.

Over the weekend, a blogger (whom I refuse to name in effort to prevent feeding her more media attention) created a blog post under her real name (no pseudonyms for this one). This blog openly discussed her child's dangerous mental health issues. Most disturbingly, the headline compared her thirteen-year-old child to a murderer. The blog post went viral. People all over applauded her bravery for sharing her story - a story that led the public to believe she was in danger and that her son might be the next mass murderer -a Michael Myers meets Jason of Friday the 13th waiting to happen. She used fear and panic to add more stigma about people with mental health disabilities. And the public was buying it.

One only had to dive deeper into this woman's blog to see that there was indeed a very troubling history. Her child was allegedly sexually abused by her x-husband - a story in which she tells of a court hearing where alleged-molester-daddy-dearest gives the boy the cold shoulder causing the kiddo to break down. Later we read Daddy has joint custody. But that's not all, no. Daddy has supposedly had this same 13-year-old child "incarcerated" four times!!!  Is it any wonder this child might have mental health issues? Mom also claims her boy threatened suicide to police and was hospitalized in a mental health facility on at least one occasion (we presume during jail time).These grandiose stories were starting to be over the top.

Did I mention Mom is a writer? She's been interviewed by several local media outlets in the past - never discussing this crazed life she lives.  She has, however, given interviews on a local radio station about using Facebook as a tool to build an audience as a writer. She also worked for a time as a magazine editor. She even tells us on her personal blog about using Facebook to create a persona - someone she "wanted to become." Hmmmmmm.

There are some very troubling parents who think they are helping their children by posting personal information. I won't deny that I have seen it. But typically, these parents are "green" when it comes to social media. They don't realize what they post on Facebook today ends up in Google's search engine tomorrow. This mother, however, is not green. She's a college art instructor who writes professional articles and erotica novels in her spare time. She expertly blogs, tweets, and Facebooks til the cows come home and advises others on utilizing these tools for self promotion.This mother did not inadvertently give out personal information that could harm her child without knowing she did so. No, this was contrived. Which leads me to my main point.

I don't believe her story. Her child may indeed exist - she has his and the family photos on the blog for all to see. He may even have an un-diagnosed mental health disorder. But I am unconvinced that this educated and savvy writer would willingly expose her child risking adolescent bullies and public retaliation. After all, she did not hide her identity (though supposedly changing the child's first name). No rational parent throws their kid under the bus like that. Mom has seemed to find a lot of time to blog, write books, and tweet. I would think she'd be able to find time to get her child some appropriate help, should he really need it. Our mental health system is far from perfect. But there is help for those who have means. One would think a college instructor has the means. Are we to believe that rather than privately seeking help for him, she blogged about it?

No, I don't believe that this woman has a child who is dangerous and has driven her to the brink as she'd have you believe. She is someone who saw an opportunity to get her name known. Perhaps this was her chance to get a real publisher to look at her work. Whatever the motive, I firmly believe that this was all about her and never about a social mental health crisis. Because all this woman did was make it worse. She helped link people with mental health issues to violent murderous behavior. I anxiously await the publication of her autobiography.


Unknown said...

Thanks for writing what i was thinking. Your child is a danger to himself and others and you are blogging!!!!!

It's all about her

Betty Schueler said...

This blog is one of the most insensitive blogs I have read. You have made assumptions about Ms. Long that are unfounded and unjust. You have no knowledge of her motivation in sharing her story.

I can tell you that her story is like hundreds of others I came upon in my research to help one of my foster children with her mental health issues. In each case the mother's, father's, and the child's name were given because they were in newspaper articles about children who had tried, or succeeded, to murdered their parents, siblings, or others.

Usually the article would sadly relate how the parents had recognized there was a problem, for years before the incident, but there were no mental health services available for the child and parents. Cutbacks in services had depleted all resources and the parents were left to handle a serious mental health problem on their own.

It is an ugly, sad story and all too true. One of my children injured 7 people, including staff and students, permanently disabling one adult, and no one would press charges.

It was all swept under a rug and I was left to educate her on my own because no residential treatment center would take her--especially after one of her friends stabbed and killed his caseworker with a filed down fork. No one knows why he did it.

I got one of my children when she tried to toss her previous foster mother off a 3rd story balcony. The police had to pull the girl off the lady to save her.

I wasn't advised of this incident and was quite surprised when she tried to stone me, my disabled husband, and another child with large garden rocks. The next day she was incarcerated when she attacked her social worker in front of a cop. She has now aged out of the system and is in the community, somewhere, probably full of hate and malice.

I have no idea why you took it upon yourself to discuss a subject you obviously have no real knowledge about. It took me years of graduate study to get even a remote handle on the subject of mentally ill youth and I'm hardly an expert as you make yourself out to be.

You know nothing about Ms. Long but what you have read. She may be all the things, you claim, but what made you her judge, jury, and executioner? Where is your factual proof that Ms. Long is just trying to gain media attention by cooking up a story about a violent, mentally disturbed child?

I sincerely hope, that if you don't find the documentation to back up your claims that you will have the decency to apologize to her, and your readers, for making an already confusing, painful situation even more painful.

Kari said...

I feel like it is a James Frey all over again (of A Million Little Lies author fame ...). It's no doubt that there are parents who are terrified of their children. I'm just not sure that I believe that this woman is one of those parents.

Gina Pera said...


Powerfully said.

Thank you!

I shared on FB as proof that I wasn't the only person finding problems with LL's post. :-)

Amy Caraballo said...

Thanks all for your perspectives. I encourage anyone who doubts the information within, to fully read Ms. Long's blog and use Google to research for the historical facts. There's no hidden agenda here. Just my opinion.

daisybirdtwo said...

To me it doesn't matter who's child it is about. That is the point. In can be anybody's child mental illness strikes anybody at any time. It is about the struggle a parent has when confronted with that type of child and the decisions you have to make. Deciding whether it is fictional or not takes away from that point.

Gina Pera said...

No one is questioning (at least no rational person) that some children are born with badly troubled brains, and that it's not the parents' fault.

That is NOT the issue here. So let's stop insisting that it is. Because the real issue is important.

The real issue is that too many people are not reading Ms. Long's post carefully and putting it into the context of her other blog posts. They are missing key red flags that point to her own likely mental-health challenges.

Perhaps some simply are not strong readers. Perhaps some are just so glad to see the issue being raised (as if it's not already widely available) that they gloss over the deeply troubling clues. Perhaps they are just too self-focused to see that Liza Long's story is not theirs. Exactly.

This whole "Internet conversation" has been entirely dispiriting to me.

If people can't see through an overly ambitious, self-centered, self-victimizing, throw-the-kid-under-the-bus ploy for a book contract, a reality-show deal, or otherwise fame and riches, then they also will not notice the problem with the next Nancy Lanza they meet, who self-medicates with End Times scenarios and stores a military arsenal in the home she shares with a child who has profound brain deficits.

Americans need to develop more sense! More judgment! More brain-science literacy.

Anonymous said...

Aside from your post, I have also read the following:

Ms Long's viral post which we all know about

Ms Kendizor's reaction to that post as well as her joint statement with Ms Long -

Ms Logsdon's post "I Was One of the Scary Kids" -

You have expressed very different perspectives and experiences that I think are what we need to start truly understanding why we have this kind of violent acts.

I am deeply grateful for all your bravery in all these because I think you, more than the media, are the ones who can really help in asking the right questions and being on the right (albeit long and tiring) road of finding the right answers that we all need and our children need.

JKLA said...

I believe her as well as hundreds of other mothers as well.....

I am her, her son is my son......When I read that blog, I felt like I was reading an entry out of my journal. My 9 year old son has had the same issues as she explains in her writing for close to 7 years.....yes there is help, medications etc, but not all works, and not all believes......My son has many diagnoses, and let me say this.......I MYSELF WANTED TO WRITE A BLOG OR AND ARTICLE ABOUT MY SON AND MY DAILY TAKES, NOT FOR ATTENTION, NOT FOR PUBLICITY BUT FOR ADVOCACY, TO GET IT OUT THERE THAT THERE ARE SO MANY KIDDOS SUFFERING, SHE JUST BEAT ME TO IT.....

Amy Caraballo said...

I'm sorry to hear that you have had such bad experiences. Please, let us know what kind of help you need.
This particular author was not concerned for her son. She was concerned for herself. Big difference between you and her in this case.