Imagine your 13-year-old son's white-hot temper is ignited by the slightest offense. Simple requests are met with a hail of insults. He terrifies his siblings, who know to run to the car and lock the doors when things escalate. One day you ask him to return his library books. He pulls a knife, threatens to kill you and himself. No doctor seems able to curb, or even explain, his behavior.

In a 2012 blog post, "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother," about parenting just such a child, Liza Long exposed how little help parents like her receive. Published after Adam Lanza massacred 26 students and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Long's essay went viral. Many mothers offered sympathy, including some in Boise, Idaho, where Long lives. But as a result of the exposure, a family court judge ruled that she'd lose physical custody of her younger children until her son, Eric, was placed in a residential facility—despite his doctor's belief that this was unwarranted. It took almost a year of legal battles before Long's children could return home.

Confronting a healthcare system that provided little help—and, she says, "a legal system that actively made things worse"—turned Long, 44, into an invaluable resource for others who felt similarly unsupported, particularly once she wrote a book, The Price of Silence, which further exposed the challenges the mentally ill face.

"So many people got in touch," Long says. "Mothers who couldn't help their kids, politicians who wanted to know what it's like, doctors who wanted to help." In 2013, a New York psychiatrist diagnosed Eric with bipolar disorder and prescribed him medication; now 17, Eric has his moods under control. "My sweet boy," Long says. "He's received amazing treatment. But it cost an entire paycheck to visit that doctor, who didn't take insurance. What about people who can't afford that?"

Long now fields dozens of calls each week, connecting strangers with hospitals, therapists, Facebook groups, and other forms of support. "Yesterday I got a call from a woman whose landlord was trying to evict her because she's mentally ill. We brainstormed ideas; then she called an attorney who sent her to the Fair Housing Board."

Long has found her calling. "I've had the chance to help so many people," she says. "We've never met, but we connect on such a deep level because I know the journey they're on."


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