A Dangerous Son

Synopsis: Documentary following three families each coping with a child affected by serious emotional or mental illness. The families explore treatment opportunities and grapple with the struggle of living with their child's condition.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Liz Garbus
90 min


Tavi, I can't believe

you just did that.

Well, he--

I told you!



All right, forget it.

We're going.

Come on, Elexa,

let's go.

(girl crying)

You have

to maintain yourself.


Don't ever bring

your son here.

(crying continues)

Shut up!



I'm upset! I'm upset!

I don't care!

You don't hit her!


No, 'cause you don't know

what the f*** is why!

Damn it!

Stop it!

(crying continues)



Ow. Stop.

'Cause I'm not

in a good mood...


...is the hell why.


Stop! Stop.

Oh my God. Elexa!

Damn it, Ethan, knock it--

knock it off now. Now!

No, don't. No, Ethan!

Why don't you guys get

the f*** outta here, dumbass!

I'll kick your ass!

Shh! God damn it. Stop.


...hit the chair with?

Shut up!

(Elexa crying)


What did you

do that for?



I'm upset!

Okay. You can be angry

at Uncle Tavi.

You don't need

to be angry at Elexa.


Because I'm not

in a fricking a**hole mood.


Okay, but she didn't

do anything--


I'm not in a fricking

a**hole mood!




Liza Long:

I'd been trying for years

to get help for my son.

I... I was desperate,

and I thought

I was the only mother

in the entire world

who felt the way I did,

the only mom.

How can I not get

my child help?

Surely all the other mothers

are getting their child help.

Why not me?

What's wrong with me?

Creigh Deeds:

You know, I used

to worry that--

that Gus was gonna wind up

at a jail or a hospital

or-- or homeless.

Um, all of those

would be preferable

to the situation I'm in now.

If a state senator,

um, someone who's run

for governor,

whose name's

been in every paper

of the commonwealth--

if I can't get the help,

what does that say

about ordinary people?

We don't treat

mental illness the way

we treat other diseases,

and so the care

is just not available.

(Elexa crying)

(crying continues)


All right.

Thomas Insel:

Somebody once said that

a serious mental illness

is any mental illness that

affects somebody you love.

And in a way,

there's something to that.

I'm not

in a good mood!

For people

who have serious mental illness

and who are not treated,

there's a tendency

to violence,

especially towards the people

that they're closest to

and, most of all,

towards themselves.

And only about half

of the children who have

a mental disorder

are going to receive

any kind of care whatsoever.

(rain pattering)

All I get is people

that want to just sit there

and lecture me.

I need to do this.

"Do you understand that

your son's gonna do this

and that your son is this way?

Do you understand?"

As if I'm in denial

of something,

as if I might be able

to get some extra help,

but I'm just not wanting to.

And it is so frustrating

and so exhausting.

I can only stick

to my guns so far, Tavi,

because it becomes

too dangerous,

and that is why you're right.

Giving in to him in the end--

in the end

isn't the best idea,

because it does make him

more manipulative

and more worse.

Yes, but not giving into him

when he's really persistent

is also just as dangerous.

And that is why

the behaviorist already said

that he doesn't believe that--

anything I can do at this point,

he doesn't believe

there are any consequence--

he doesn't believe

I can do anything, myself,

at this point.

You think that--

Tavi, you think that,

but I hate to say it,

you think that,

but it isn't same.

You can train a dog easier

that a child like this.



When he started

being aggressive,

he was only about

two and a half, three.

I was worried then.

You ask a doctor,

they can't tell you

what he'll be capable of.

They don't know where

he's gonna go or what

direction he's gonna take.

(sighs) I just can't help

myself, 'cause...

it's just what I usually do.

I don't know

how to control my anger.


Gosh, only if someone

was a lifeguard.


What'd you say?

I said if only there was

a lifeguard who could...

help me...

try to control myself.

'Cause you know lifeguards

are good, right?

Yeah, they save everyone,

even when they drown.

(kids chattering)



Vontae is 12.

Well, he'll be 12

in October.


In the beginning,

he was talking about

he just wanted to die.

Now he's talking about

hurting other people.

He don't express

himself verbally,

but he's real good expressing

himself at writing.

So if he gets upset,

and I'll go in the room

and I'll see all these signs

all over the bed--

"I hate myself,"

"I can't control myself,"

and just stuff like,

"I'm no good,"

and "I'm better off dead,"

and stuff like that.

I don't never take stuff

like that as just talk.

I feel like if it's

in you and you saying it,

then it's a possibility.

That's how I feel.

'Cause why would you say

something like that?

I'm just doing

my part on my end

to make sure he knows

that I love him

and to know that

I'm there for him.

At the time

of the school shootings,

my son had been

in an acute care psychiatric

hospital for two days.

It is the scene

of one of the worst school

shootings in the history

of the United States,

and we can report to you

that police have now identified

a school shooter

as Adam Lanza.

Newswoman 2:
Police are trying

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Jenny Raskin

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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