E. Texas experts say community responsible for mentally unstable

Alleged shooter Jared Loughner
Alleged shooter Jared Loughner
Christina Taylor Green's family gathers to bury her Thursday afternoon.
Christina Taylor Green's family gathers to bury her Thursday afternoon.
Christina Taylor Green was killed in the shooting rampage.
Christina Taylor Green was killed in the shooting rampage.

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - Jared Loughner is charged in the Arizona shooting, but apparently there were clear signs of mental health issues long before.

The family of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green buried their little girl in Tucson Thursday afternoon.

It's the first of six funerals for the victim's of Saturday's shooting rampage at Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford's meet and greet.

Giffords was among the 14 wounded -- and continues to show signs of progress.

"We start searching why and I think it's not a question of why, it's what can we do to prevent this," said Dr. Debra Burton, a licensed professional counselor. "Let's do gain an understanding of where, if there was a ball dropped, where it was dropped so that that won't happen again."

Loughner apparently exhibited serious signs of mental health problems in school.

"He had enough symptoms that warranted a university college saying don't come back until you're evaluated," said Burton.

Just this year, campus police were called five times for disruptions involving the alleged shooter, and in May a teacher requested police protection from Loughner.

East Texas mental health officials said a community has a responsibility to report individuals displaying behavior like Loughner's.

"I think the best, first line of defense is just being aware and when you notice behavior that you're not comfortable with, just start talking," said Paul Jackson with The Burke Center.

One out of four adults will have a mental health issue. Jackson said it's nothing to be ashamed of, but it is something that needs to be addressed.

"Mental health conditions can start earlier on, as early as age 14, but there are always signs, what we have to do is pay attention to those signs and then be willing to follow through and get some help," Jackson said.  "The first step is to assess the situation, see whether or not their suicidal or homicidal.  The next one is to listen non-judgementally so you can get all the information out so you can tell what they're thinking and what's in their mind and then give support.  Let them know that there's help available that other people are getting help and that they too can get better and recover."

While it's not common, he said mental health problems can turn violent.

Local counselors hope this tragedy will do more than raise immediate awareness.

If someone is in danger of hurting themselves or others, health professionals say report it immediately.

Authorities can order a mental evaluation to determine if they need to be committed to a mental health facility.

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