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Sometimes connecting the dots isn’t enough

Mental health has again entered the nation’s consciousness. Friday night, a 22-year-old man killed six people in Santa Barbara, Calif. He emailed a 140-plus page manifesto to his parents and others detailing all the times he was rejected by women.

The tone in his manifesto indicated he wanted revenge for all women.

He was clearly mentally ill. But, the difference with this story is his parents were aware of it and they were worried about it. But, even still, their efforts were not enough to prevent the tragedy, even as they connected the dots.

As soon as his mother received her son’s manifesto via email she immediately went to his YouTube page. There she found a video titled, “Retribution.” From there she called the police and drove from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to try and find her son.

Unfortunately, she was too late. Six people, including her son, were already dead. Thirteen more were injured.
She connected the dots. But, even connecting the dots and having involved parents couldn’t have prevented this tragedy.

This 22-year-old had been in therapy for most of his life. His mother had called the police on him a few weeks ago after seeing some of his other YouTube videos.
The police interviewed him after that call. The signs were there. There just wasn’t much that could be done. He didn’t have a criminal history. The police had nothing to arrest him on.

An email received at KTAR wrote of similar problems after trying to find a relative help. There’s just nowhere to turn, the email said. “No one will help us,” the emailer said. “They will not do anything until he does something they can arrest (him for).” A KTAR texter said the same thing. Therein lies a major problem.

Even when all those dots are connected there isn’t much the police can do. They don’t have the power to arrest people simply because they are mentally ill. They shouldn’t.

But should there be an in-between step? A place where parents or friends can call? A step before someone has to get arrested? Maybe the answer is more cross-trained police officers who specialize in mental health issues? Where is that acceptable line?

Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe all this is impossible. Either way, it’s worth finding out if something more can be done.