Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Adam Lanza Story

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 22, 2014

Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six teachers Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., in 2012. His father has spoken to the media for the first time since the incident.

The article referenced above exposes the details of Adam Lanza’s forays in the mental health assessment world, with all of the issues of parental push back, deep speculation, but a strong inclination, by trusted clinicians that he needed more mental health intervention. As the article states….


” ‘I told Adam he has a biological disorder that can be helped with medication. I told him what the medicines are and why they can work. I told him he’s living in a box right now and the box will only get smaller over time if he doesn’t get some treatment.’

Nancy Lanza rejected the Yale doctors’ plan. Adam was 14.”


It is easy to take away that Nancy Lanza should not have rejected the Yale doctors’ plan, but that is way too simple. Yes, the Yale Child Study Center is an impressive diagnostic and treatment institution, and yes, it makes sense to me that Adam needed mental health intervention, but we have no way of knowing if anything would have been different had Nancy Lanza followed through with the recommendations. That is the problem. It is tempting to demonize the parent who did not want to see the depth of her child’s illness, and indeed, that is often an issue, in my experience, but at the same time, there have been so many school shootings lately that we have come to see that there is no discernible pattern. Sure, in Adam’s case he was lonely and isolated and preoccupied with guns. That is a dangerous combination, but how do we know that treatment would have helped? I know that treatment does help some times, and hence I go to work daily, but I am also aware that bad outcomes happen when patients do stick with treatment. There are no easy answers.




See also…

4 Responses to “The Adam Lanza Story”

  1. Shelly said

    So we vilify Nanv Lanza? It is her fault that Adam went on a rampage and killed all those people? Can we not separate his actions from hers? How was she to know that by her actions she would set off a chain of events that would lead to Sandy Hook? Parents are not to blame for the bad actions of the children the same as the children are not to blame for the actions of the parents.

    • Indeed, parents are not always to blame, but we are using the benefit of hindsight to examine the multiplicity of factors in which children grow up and develop antisocial behaviors. Yes, some antisocial children would be that way no matter who raised them. Other antisocial children are more influenced by their environment leading them to feel helpless and self-centered. We will never know if Adam’s behavior was preventable. All we can say is that the doctor recommended treatment. The parents did not follow through, and from those facts we cannot determine causality. In other words, sometimes parents contribute to the problem in their child, and sometimes they don’t, and there is a lot of gray area in between.

  2. Eleanor said

    I would like to suggest that it should have also been a recommendation to Nancy Lanza that she get some psychotherapy. It is my impression that to only treat Adam would have only addressed part of the family difficulties, hence possibly compromising Adams treatment success.

    • Yes, indeed. As the tale is investigated, Adam’s parents divorced and his mother and Adam were in, with retrospect, a very toxic relationship. Nancy Lanza’s dynamics are unclear, but I agree that her mental health was critical factor in the mental health of her son. This is not the “blame the parents” discussion, but rather an appreciation that Adam grew up in the context of a single parent without siblings, and as such, his environment needs to be understood in order to understand Adam. Changing his environment through helping Nancy Lanza cope with her son, could have made an impact. As we agree that this is all speculation, the point is only to point out the complexity of sociopathic behavior.

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