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January 12th, 2011
11:03 AM ET

Detecting and treating the warning signs of mental illness

On May 25, 2007 31-year-old police officer Jason West was responding to the report of a large fight on Altamont Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. When he arrived at the scene, one of the young men, Timothy Halton Jr., fired multiple shots at West before attempting to shed his clothes and flee the scene.

Timothy Halton Jr., then 29 years old, is now serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole for killing Jason West that day.

And similar to the story we hearing this week with the case of Jared Loughner and the shooting in Tucson, Arizona...the warning signs were there. Halton had a prior convictions. He was convicted of assaulting a police officer. He had displayed violent behavior in the past, convicted on domestic violence charge. But he was also mentally ill, suffering as a paranoid schizophrenic. If Halton had been accurately diagnosed and comprehensively treated from the beginning, could a tragedy have been prevented?

Jeannette Halton-Tiggs is the mother of Timothy Halton Jr. and Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is the chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. They talk to Alina Cho.

Filed under: Crime • Health • Mental Health
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Julie

    Mental illness is one thing, but, when some of these people on drugs, they never come "normal". Many doctors frequently give out medications, that people think they need to take something.
    Met a lot of people in my life tainted with presciption drugs, and alcohol. Some never cared what drugs they took. looking for the next pill. of any kind. I never fill any prescriptions unless, I go and look up what they are for and the side effects, usually, I read and say NOPE>. I take an aspirin. that is all.
    I had co student in school that once took some meth or something, he was real smart before this, He never could get back to normal. He is adult supervised in foster care. Never to return normal again. No therapy in the world is going to help him. His mind is gone, gone, gone. He gets paranoid if his shoe laces not tied. I have seen many. Say no to all drugs and alcohol.

    January 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  2. Mark Psinas

    People become what they are treated as being.

    "What's your reaction to "People become what they are treated as being"? I would say it's illuminating, and it's not true. However, it only takes a minor modification. There is a tendency for people to become the way they are treated as being. And under certain circumstances, the tendency may be very strong. And in others it may be weak."
    – Ossorio, 1996

    Dr. Lieberman, much like the effects school bullying can have on people, perhaps giving the bullied more reason to believe there is something wrong with them (whether it be stereotypic degredations, inability to defend oneself, or something else), isn't it true that those close to someone (their beliefs about them their ways of acting around them) can influence ones mental health?

    In other words, shouldn't just as much attention be directed toward the ways one deals with someone, as should the one that gets dealt with?

    I ask this because, after watching this video, I assume that such could be interpreted in ways that promote those without degrees to diagnose stereotypic degredations on ones mental stability (as they might, in fact, be just as or more lacking in stability, or have a less clear outlook on reality than the one they are attempting to dominate socially).
    You say "you have to recognize that there are signs that there could be problems with the persons mental functioning... error on the side of caution. Be overly inquisitive, and overly proactive." You compare physical symptoms to mental problems, recognizing the physical like the mental, and referring one with such symptoms to a doctor for evaluation. But, I thought that the mental-side was a lot more complicated than that?

    I guess what I am trying to say isn't to "not look for sign or symptoms," but to look at yourself before you look at anyone else. And, I think this deserves just as much attention as what is being broadcast in this video.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  3. Steve

    As all of this is discussed, debated, and otherwise thought about, I felt it important to note a very important thing. We continually hear this theory, coming from far right politicians and pundits primarily, that violent tv and video games, Heavy metal and rap songs, and other violent imagery in our culture is a root cause of increased violence in our youth. Today we have a prime example of a disturbed young man committing egregious acts of violence and now there is no way that images of crosshairs over people and "don't retreat, reload" has nothing to do with it? I think not.

    January 12, 2011 at 1:52 pm |