Aaron Alexis: Another Ignored Cry for Mental Illness Help

September 18, 2013 Randye Kaye

I am doing an on-air shift at a radio station today - so have access to the NewsWire from the Associated Press. This just in:

NEW YORK (AP) _ The mother of the man who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard says she is ``so, so very sorry that this has happened.''
Cathleen Alexis said Wednesday in New York City that she does not know why her son, Aaron, did what he did and she will never be able to ask him.

[caption id="attachment_1583" align="alignright" width="141" caption="Aaron Alexis"][/caption]

The mother read a statement at her home in Brooklyn. She concluded, "My heart is broken."

Thirty-four-year-old Aaron Alexis opened fire at the Navy Yard on Monday before he was killed in a shootout with police. Authorities say he had been suffering a host of serious mental problems including paranoia and a sleep disorder.

Untreated Mental Illness and Another Needless Shooting Tragedy

My son, Ben, has also "suffered" a host of serious mental problems, including paranoia. But we are among the lucky ones. We were able to, eventually, make sure that he got into treatment, and (most of the time) stays in treatment. So last night, while Cathleen Alexis was in shock and mourning, apologizing for mental illness symptoms that went untreated and caused needless tragedy, I was watching my son try a new recipe for vegetarian stuffed peppers, which he shared with a friend.

[caption id="attachment_1582" align="alignright" width="170" caption="Ben's Stuffed Peppers: Another Sign of Progress"][/caption]

"There but for the grace of God...," I sometimes think. Sure, Ben has never shown violent tendencies - yes, we are lucky in that - but he has also never served in the military, nor been influenced by its necessary emphasis on weapons. And - he stays in treatment, currently including schizophrenia medications, structure, purpose and community.

What if Aaron Alexis had had that support? Or Jared Lee Loughner? James Holmes? Or any of the other other "shooters" who snapped without proper mental illness treatment?

The Cost of Ignoring Needed Mental Illness Treatment

Are we "blaming" mental illness for another senseless shooting? No. How can an illness be blamed? But - when someone has clearly, according to published news reports, cried out for help with paranoia and other mental illness symptoms, what is the cost of ignoring the plea?

How many senseless shootings will it take for us to fix our mental health system, and get help to those who need it? How many lives must be lost before we heed the signs of - and sometimes cries for - a desperate need for treatment?

They say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well, our mental health system is most definitely "broke"; let's fix it. Please.

Our hearts go out to all the families in mourning today as a result of this tragedy. Including Cathleen Alexis.

APA Reference
Kaye, R. (2013, September 18). Aaron Alexis: Another Ignored Cry for Mental Illness Help, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Randye Kaye

Anonymous Mother
November, 11 2022 at 6:57 pm

I am a mom of a 16-year-old who has early onset schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder, severe symptoms and I have tried desperately to get my son into a treatment program for over 18 months, only to be turned away over and over again. I was shocked that there is a law that prevents me as his mother to make any medical decisions or receive medical information without the consent of my son who is not stable enough to even recognize that he has an illness. All parents will be shocked if they ever have to go through this and lawmakers should be held accountable for their outcomes. I believe my son could and would have at least had an opportunity of treatment early on had things been handled differently by the people of authority. But instead we have people who are not experts or do not have a background in mental health making decisions that ultimately will cost lives- lives of the individual with the illness, lives of the people they will harm in the future, an insurmountable economic and social cost to society as a whole. Why should a Sherriff be able to say "no" we don't need to take your son to a hospital for a psych evaluation, when I have a letter in hand from a psychiatrist who has been working with adolescents and psychiatric disorders for 30 years and it says "yes, your son needs to be in a hospital and would benefit from treatment". I could write forever on this but my point is , nobody really can understand the challenges and difficulty that is involved for parents trying to help their young children as severe chronic mental illness starts to progress and become worse. Like most things in society, our solution to this right now is just to wait, until some tragedy happens and then call the police out to make reports about the situation like glorified secretaries with guns. I have many service people in my family and none of them have been able to help either and are just as frustrated because they are forced to abide by laws that are harmful.

Marie Blanch
September, 21 2013 at 8:55 pm

I have been treated for bipolar disporder for two years DESPITE my psychiatrist saying there was no sign of it in me i was just an addict ... he had been treating me for alcohol and drug abuse. Often the cry for help is disguised ... when I was in Amsterdam writing a blog or publication (I was a journalist) I was open about misusing sleeping tablets to comatose myself through a crisis and also about smoking a lot of pot in amsterdam. I remember thinking at the time, "surely someone in my family (a doctor, a nurse, a social worker) will query this; it is a cry for help''. They turned their backs on me, embarrassed. Functioning people can also be in danger. PAY ATTENTION, PEOPLE.

September, 18 2013 at 10:02 am

Most people want an answer that they can comprehend, and they want it now. The media gives them the simplest answer possible - usually pointing to a mental condition as the culprit. However, these situations are complex. It is really all of the conditions coming together at the right time to create the perfect storm of destruction. This occurs whether mental illness is involved or not. There are many otherwise healthy people committing acts of violence because the stage is set for it to occur. We all need to look at the big picture and think of the role we all play as members of society.

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