Mental Health Warnings Preceded Arizona Rampage

World | January 11, 2011, Tuesday // 10:32|  views

Jared Lee Loughner, shown here in a mugshot, is charged in the shooting that left six dead and 14 wounded including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Laughner has a minor criminal record dating back to 2007. Photo by Pima County Sheriff's Department

Mental health treatment years ago could have helped Arizona gunman to work out his problems before he allegedly unleashed terror on the crowd, a top state health official told

Dr. Laura Nelson, deputy director for behavioral health at the Arizona Department of Health Services, told the state has no record of Loughner, 22, seeking mental health treatment in the public system.

"I truly believe that it could have (helped)," Nelson said.

The report points out that colleagues and acquaintances have expresseded concern, particularly over the past year, about Jared Lee Loughner’s mental state, but no evidence has yet emerged showing he sought treatment.

Nelson, while careful not to offer a diagnosis of Loughner, described in general terms a mental illness profile that would sound familiar to anyone following Loughner's case. The doctor said that schizophrenia, as well as bipolar disorder, often stay dormant until the college years.

"Many times, more serious mental illnesses will become much more evident in the late teenage years, early adulthood," she said. For schizophrenia patients, she said, they may be predisposed to the illness but not 't show it until the symptoms are set off by a "trigger."

That could be a traumatic event or substance abuse, including the use of marijuana – a drug Loughner apparently used quite a bit. The symptoms, Nelson said, are hallucinations, paranoia, "losing touch with reality" and becoming "socially withdrawn."

Nelson said mental illness alone typically does not make people violent. But she said substance abuse can contribute and that people who have "anti-social behavioral tendencies could be prone to violence."

Jared Loughner, 22, faces several charges and a death sentence over the attack on Saturday that left six people dead and more than a dozen wounded.

Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head, remains in a critical condition but doctors say the swelling in her brain has stabilised.

Among the dead were a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge.

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Tags: Jared, Loughner, Barack Obama, Gabrielle Giffords, attack, shooting, Arizona, dead, wounded, US, Gunman, Jared Loughner, Laura, Nelson


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