Posted on December 19, 2012
Our hearts are saddened and our condolences go out to the families and the community of Newtown, CT.
Faced with a tragedy like last Friday’s shooting – a case of violence too horrific and seemingly random for us to absorb - our first instinct is to make the perpetrator the Other – a stranger incomprehensible and far removed. We speak of “evil.” We immediately assume mental illness and conjure up images of wild-eyed “psychos,” “nut jobs,” or “insert your own label here.” We rush to judgment in an effort to preserve our tattered sense of security and to avoid examining ourselves and the society we are collectively building, either with our action or our inaction.
Certainly, no single factor motivated this shooting, and a nexus of issues has arisen in its aftermath, among them the availability of mental healthcare in this country.
At this point, we know very little about Adam Lanza’s mental health, and my guess is that we won’t discover anything that satisfies the painful questions we harbor about the terrible events of December 14th. One of the few things we can glean is that Lanza was socially isolated, unable or unwilling to connect effectively with his peers. While this is not a sufficient condition for attacks of this kind, time after time, it seems to be a necessary one.
Social isolation is the mental health crisis of our day. It can become part of a downward spiral, difficult to escape, nurturing a person’s darkest thoughts and diminishing her perception of herself and of others. For 65 years, Fountain House has developed, refined, and propagated our approach to community – the surest and most meaningful way we see to combat isolation. We create a context and activity that brings people together in one place. They experience what it is to be needed and wanted, to be asked to contribute to something larger than themselves, and to grow in that process.
Ironically, much of the reporting to date has been about how the community of Newtown has come together. To prevent these acts in the future, more communities of support must be built for the many people who are out there today isolated and alone. Public debate will rage on, and I’m hopeful that, from this senseless and brutal attack, some real change may come. For our part, we will continue fighting isolation, alienation, and violence by building communities that support mental health and by working with others around the world to do the same.
Kenneth J. Dudek
President, Fountain House
President, Fountain House