School shooting and a mother's blog stir a conversation about mental health

Published: Monday, Dec. 17 2012 7:40 p.m. MST

"Those on the higher end, they start to realize 'I'm a little different' and their peers are different than them. Sometimes they (the peers) are not kind."

In Utah, most children with ASDs are served in public schools. Enrollment at the Pingree Center is capped at 80 students and is designed for students with more severe behavioral issues, Armstrong said. Some children in public schools receive supplemental services from outside agencies or community resources such as the Utah Parent Center. 

Bonnie Peters, executive director of the Family Support Center, said reports that Lanza was socially isolated raised red flags.

"When you see people shutting down, not reaching out, that's a closed system and that's when I'm really concerned," she said. 

Unfortunately, many families with children with disabilities or mental illness find themselves on their own because of their inability or reticence to access services and stigma of mental illness and developmental disabilties, advocates said. Their children tend to have small social circles, which become smaller yet once they age out of school.

"We need to be cognizant of what is going on and try to be inclusive. That may very well be the word of the week, inclusion," Peters said.

For Liz Long, the struggle continues, only this time her voice is behing heard byond the walls of her home:

"I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal," she wrote.

"God help me. God help Michael. God help us all."

For help with a crisis, call the 24 hour University Neuropsychiatric Institute Crisis hotline at (801) 587-3000.

Assistance is also available at  http://www.dsamh.utah.gov/crisis.htm

The Utah chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which can provide support to people with mental illness and their family members, can be reached at (801) 323-9900 or www.namiut.org

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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