Adoptees face higher risk of mental illness, study shows

Accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz adopted at birth

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was adopted at birth. 

New studies suggest adoptees face a higher risk of mental illness and suicide, but efforts at the state Capitol to help adopted children find their birth parents, which could reduce some anxiety, have gone nowhere. 

For the second year in a row, state lawmakers failed to give a full hearing to legislation that would allow adoptees access to their original birth certificates. 

“Statistics are higher for mental illness and, um, things like suicide among people who are adoptees,” said Rep. Richard Stark, who was adopted.

“I searched for 30 years” said adoptee Dr. Mark Pamer.

Not knowing their birth parents leaves many adopted children feeling lonely, restless and with a sense of not belonging.

“You have all these questions, but you have no answers, and it nags at you -- it nags at you,” Pamer said.

Pamer, who was adopted as a child, has made researching the impact of adoption his lifelong mission.

“In my own case, there was always a drive to know who I was from at a biological level,” Pamer said. 

Pamer didn’t speak specifically about accused Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

“You see an over-representation of adoptees in the mental health systems, which all occur when the person finds out they were adopted, because at some psychological level, the rug is pulled out from under you as to who you are in a biologic level,” Pamer said. 

Many adopted kids don’t want to find their birth parents, but many who do say it does provide closure.

Lee Peterson’s son found her 49 years after he was adopted.

"We’re developing a relationship," she said. "We’ve had a lot of building blocks (and) we’ve had a lot of up and downs” Peterson said.

Stark, who is one of two Florida lawmakers adopted at birth, said he plans to reintroduce the birth certificate legislation this fall. He is term-limited out of the state House after this November. 

The other, Orlando Rep. Jason Brodeur, is running for the State Senate.