“Officials at Pima Community College, where Jared L. Loughner was a student, believed that he might be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs after a series of bizarre classroom disruptions in which he unnerved instructors and fellow students, including one occasion when he insisted that the number 6 was actually the number 18, according to internal reports from the college,” was the lead paragraph in “‘Creepy,’ ‘Very Hostile,’ A College Recorded Its Fear” by Mark Lacey and Serge F. Kovaleski (New York Times, January 12, 2011).
As most of us may know by now, Loughner is the 22-year-old former college student who last Saturday, took a taxi cab to a supermarket where Representative Gabrielle Giffords was holding a public event. Loughner was carrying a Glock 19 and proceeded to wound 14 including Giffords and kill six, including a six-year-old who was there to learn about democracy.
A Professor in the Management Department at Zicklin where I also teach circulated a series of unsettling e-mails he received from a student he had in class and, in the light of the circumstances, expressed his feelings about the overall safety of the faculty in situations like this. His concern was to be able to receive precautionary advice to ensure everyone’s safety on campus.
His concern is valid. Although I develop good relationships with my students, there have been one or two of my ‘angry’ students who made me feel vulnerable to their wrath. Nothing happened but I didn’t like the feeling.
Some of my students do demonstrate not violent but disruptive behaviors that need assistance from a counselor. (I detail my approach in “A Bystander of Student Mental Health.”) Often students ask me, “Why get help now?” and I answer by describing the consequences on their career. I also reply in part by saying, “Because you want to resolve your issues while you are still young.”
“Mental Illness Exacts Heavy Toll, Beginning in Youth” was the title of a press release issued by the National Institute of Mental Health on June 6, 2005 that lead with this paragraph, “Researchers supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have found that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and that despite effective treatments, there are long delays — sometimes decades — between first onset of symptoms and when people seek and receive treatment. The study also reveals that an untreated mental disorder can lead to a more severe, more difficult to treat illness, and to the development of co-occurring mental illnesses.”
Behaviors and disorders in childhood and teenage years are often overlooked. Personality disorders begin to reveal themselves and require treatment in young adults in their late teens and early to mid 20’s—although disorders can emerge at any age. My area of interest in this is a young adult’s education on the consequences of ignoring their disorder and how doing so cripples their personal and professional ambitions. Although some cultures who see aberrant behavior in their children will pray as a means of healing, there are other ways as well to treat individuals who are overwhelmed by emotions and in need of professional assistance.
As a way to help those wondering what could happen if a disorder isn’t treated or how does someone get ‘well,’ I’ve prepared the reading list below consisting primarily of memoirs of those who have been in therapy.
It is hard to hard to be working to be a leader while you are also carrying around emotional baggage. The smarter way would be to lighten your load by engaging a counselor, psychotherapist, or other mental health professional to assist you.
Gordon, Emily Fox, Mockingbird Years: A Life In and Out of Therapy. New York: Basic Books, 2000. I read this book by Gordon (who had five therapists before the age of seventeen) while I was in therapy and found it provided helpful insights into the dynamics of the therapist-patient dynamic.
Greenberg, Joanne, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. New York: Signet, 1964. Although it is a book I read thirty years ago, I highly recommend this novel of a sixteen-year-old girl who hears voices and retreats into her own world of madness, similar to those with schizophrenia. Three years in a mental hospital working with a skilled psychiatrist brought her back to reality.
Jamison, Kay Redfield, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. New York: Vintage, 1995. A Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and coauthor of the standard medical text on the subject, Jamison tells her story of manic-depression from the perspective of a professional helping others and of someone whose life was severely impacted by her disorder.
Kaysen, Susanna, Girl, Interrupted. New York: Vintage, 1993. An excellent memoir of an 18-year-old’s stay at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, the author succinctly describes through her behaviors the challenges of treating someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. This book was made into a major and very well-done motion picture. Kaysen’s book Far Afield (Vintage, 1990) is a wonderfully entertaining and educational novel with great psychological depth about a graduate student in anthropology whose fieldwork takes him to the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. Members of my book group and I thought Kaysen’s novel was one of the best books we read in over ten years; I’ve read it twice.
Solomon, Andrew, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. New York: Touchstone, 2001. Using research, stories from others, and his experiences, the author breaks down depression into personal, cultural, and scientific terms. A weighty book—443 pages of text plus over 100 more with Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgements, and an Index—it is a good reference for those seeking additional insights into this emotionally crippling behavior.
Vaughan, Susan C., M.D., The Talking Cure: Why Traditional Talking Therapy Offers a Better Chance for Long-Term Relief than Any Drug. New York: Holt, 1988. A concise and helpful book for those who want to understand the psychoanalytic process, I bought copy to give to a relative for their education on the topic.