Ill Will Hunting

Good_Will_Hunting_theatrical_posterHard to believe that it was 15 years ago that this brilliant movie was a hit.  Good Will Hunting went to the heart of a young man battling early demons and mental illness of a sort in the face of clear genius.  From all accounts the same  might be said of Adam Lanza.  He has been reported to have been socially awkward and possibly on the autistic spectrum, most likely a high functioning Asperger’s individual, unfortunately high functioning for marksmanship as it turned out.  His mother was reportedly a gun enthusiast, and was preparing herself for the worst, though ironically it was apparently her trips with Adam to the shooting range that empowered him with the skills to kill her with her own gun.  This tragedy has set off yet another malestrom of debate about gun control, but the mental health issues here add to the complexities.


As I sat in Starbucks in Eatontown this morning, an Israeli citizen was proceeding to explain to a U.S. citizen “why we don’t have these kind of problems in our country”.  I’m not sure Israel doesn’t have its share of mental illness, but the fact that military training is compulsory and that school personnel are vigilant against terroristic attack from without seems to mitigate against Lanza-like attacks from within a community.

This heartfelt plea from a mother living with a loose cannon like Adam Lanza’s mother focuses an important spotlight on our challenging mental health system in the United States:  The difference of course is that this mother didn’t load the cannon.  At the risk of playing armchair psychologist, it is not hard to envision from reports of his childhood that Adam Lanza felt like an outsider stemming from his early school experiences, and that this may have factored into why he chose the targets that he did to make a personal statement.  That statement through action was a tortured one on many levels, and it is still too early to try and make sense of last Friday’s events while the grief is as palpable as it is.

Barack Obama was very Presidential in his address at a memorial service in Newtown, Connecticut tonight, coming to share the nation’s grief much as he did in Tucson, Arizona nearly two years ago.

As the Chicago Tribune reported, the newly re-elected president openly grappling for bigger answers. Obama said that in the coming weeks, he would use “whatever power this office holds” to engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like Newtown.  He said that we must change.  The question is how; and when.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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One Response to Ill Will Hunting

  1. Daniel WOHLGELERNTER says:

    Excellent analysis.

    I agree with Dr Miguel Faria, psychiatrist “: The latest shooting rampage of 26 people, including six adults and 20 children in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, is a senseless tragedy, and words cannot convey the horror and the magnitude of the loss of innocent life. The second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was carried out by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, a loner with a personality disorder — and in critical need of psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Once again, these deadly rampages are the result of failure of the mental health system.

    Consider the case of Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old disturbed individual who shot and attempted the assassination of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. He also killed five others, including an innocent 9-year-old student and a judge, and wounded fourteen other people in 2011. There were signs of psychiatric illness and social pathology, that should have alerted those around him and called for mental evaluation and psychiatric treatment. But Loughner, like Lanza, fell through the obvious cracks.”

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