The parents of a 22-year-old man caught inside a heavily-vandalized Westview Elementary School in a public letter have outlined his lifetime of what they called mental illness.
Michael and Laura Roden, who adopted Aaron Roden when he was three weeks old, said he was an "angry" child during his early years at school.
They say it was in middle school "when hell came to visit." They said he became "defiant and unmanageable."
The parents said he was sent to a wilderness school and to counseling, but it did not help. They said he has never had a full mental evaluation because insurance would not pay for it.
The Rodens said after he left home he got into more trouble and was incarcerated for a year. They said he was such a problem in jail that he was put into solitary confinement.
Ms. Roden said, "An estimated 30 percent of the inmate population in this country suffer from mental health issues, but rather than treat them, our society has chosen to warehouse them for awhile and then put them back on the streets to repeat the cycle. The total inadequacy and callousness of the health insurance industry in regards to mental health treatment compounds the problem.
"Aaron is bright and personable, and was trying very hard to put his past behind him and start a new life. He had moved to Chattanooga and had enrolled to start college. He was looking forward to the future. However, a series of events over the past two weeks caused him to spiral downward again, and we have been told he attempted to take his own life by overdosing.
"Our son is not a criminal. Our son has an illness that needs to be properly assessed, diagnosed and treated, just like any other. Society's fear, shame and otherwise inability to deal with mental health illness has been devastating to our country. Each time Aaron is sent away, we experience a "death." but with the added terror that this dreaded cycle will repeat again and again.
"We love our son. Aaron is 22 and should have a long life ahead of him. He has many of the tools to be a successful adult and productive citizen. We would have thought that would be what society would want. It is our prayer that he gets the treatment he needs. We ask for your prayers as well."
Michael Roden is an assistant district attorney in Nashville.