MIAMI (CBS4) – As we learn more about Jared Loughner and the possibility he may have been exhibiting early signs of mental illness, we wanted to speak to an expert about identifying the signs and how parents could prevent a similar tragedy.

Loughner is known as the 18-year-old alleged gunmen believed to have lashed out in a mass shooting that killed 6 people in Tucson, Arizona, but as we mourn the loss of life what we do not know is what could lead a young man to carry out such a tragedy.

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“I think it was a disaster and something that could have been avoided,” said a south Florida mother who wished not to be identified. Her son is 30 years old and a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.

“Once he became paranoid, he started having unusual behavior. I said something is wrong. I have to seek help,” said the woman to CBS4’s Jorge Estevez.

Forcing her son to get help was tough. He was an adult.

“They said, they have to be a threat to themselves or to others. So when they are a threat to themselves or to others, how can you stop it.  You can’t. It’s too late,” said the woman.

Loughner’s parents, Randy and Amy, released this statement:

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“There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don’t understand why this happened.”

Experts say there is a way to distinguish between eccentric teenage behavior and signs of mental illness.

“Once this illness becomes established these individuals lose the ability to understand that they are ill,” said Dr. Richard Steinbook, Director of Residency Training at The Miller School of Medicine

Some signs people should look out for include:

 

  1. Reclusive Behavior
  2. Irrational Thinking
  3. Hallucinations
  4. Delusional Behavior

 

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“If it is such a preoccupation that people live in an unreal world, then, I think, we have to pay attention to it,” said Dr. Steinbook who said the secret to battling mental illness is awareness, a burden we should all share.