Treefort 2015: Storyfort Author Liza Long Talks Childrens' Mental Health and the Prison System


Liza Long reads from her new book, Price of Silence. - FARZAN FARAMARZI
  • Farzan Faramarzi
  • Liza Long reads from her new book, Price of Silence.

Treefort Music Fest literary offshoot Storyfort opened strong March 27 with a reading by Idaho author and blogger Liza Long from her book, Price of Silence: A Mom's Perspective of Mental Illness, which was released in August 2014. 

Following the reading, Long discussed what she described as the "school to prison pipeline," a systemic bias within the education system that funnels children with mental illnesses into the criminal justice system.

"Jail is not the kind of help people like [Long's son] 'Michael' need," she said.

Part of that system, she told the audience, was poverty, which can be a barrier to receiving proper mental health care. In the United States, 15.6 percent of residents live under the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The elephant in the room is poverty. What we really need to blame is poverty," she said.

Long famously blogged about being the parent of a mentally ill child in her essay, "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother," in which she commiserated with the parents of mentally ill people who had committed violent crimes and discussed the travails of raising her son "Michael," whom she said had threatened to kill her then kill himself. For the purposes of the essay, Long changed the name of her son, but in a Washington Post story, she was accused of "oversharenting"—a parent revealing too much about her children online. She responded to that criticism by telling the audience that some good came from her narratives about raising a mentally ill child when she was approached by a national pediatric mental health expert.

"The consequences of telling my story was, a doctor connected with me and said, 'We can totally treat your kid,'" Long said.

  • Farzan Faramarzi