Local Mental Health Experts Weigh in on Isla Vista Suspect

Experts told NBC7 that though a tragedy similar to what occurred in Isla Vista is difficult to predict, there are signs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A San Diego psychiatrist talked with NBC 7's Vanessa Herrera about the the warning signs presented by suspected gunman Elliot Rodger before his violent rampage. (Published Monday, May 26, 2014)

    As many are left wondering what more could have been done to prevent Friday's mass shooting in Isla Vista, local mental health experts say events such as these can be difficult to predict.

    Six UC Santa Barbara students were killed and several people were injured in a stabbing and shooting spree on Friday. The crime was allegedly committed by lone gunman, 22-year-old Elliot Oliver Robertson Rodger, who died from a gunshot wound to head after a gun battle with deputies.

    NBC San Diego spoke with local mental health experts who said it can be hard to detect when a tragedy like this will happen.

    "In San Diego it's real easy to predict when it's going to be sunny. It's much more difficult to predict when it's going to rain. And the same thing with rare events in mental health,” said Dr. Mark Kalish, referring to Rodger's state of mind leading up to the crime.
    Kalish added even the most trained mental health doctor would struggle to determine that something like this could happen, even with warning signs, such as the kind allegedly left by Rodger.
    As news of the crime spree began to circulate, so did videos and a 141-page manifesto linked to Rodger in which he outlined his grisly plans.
    "I'll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one, the true alpha male," the man identified as Rodger says in the video.
    “He was frustrated, angry, felt picked upon, felt isolated, and alone," Kalish said of the video.
    An attorney for the family of Elliot Rodger said Rodger was diagnosed with a form of Asperger's Syndrome.
    Two years ago, the syndrome was brought up in another mass shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut where the suspect, Adam Lanza, was also diagnosed with it.
    To be clear, Kalish said there is nothing to suggest people with Asperger's Syndrome are any more prone to violence. In fact, he continued, people with Asperger's Syndrome may be even less prone to violence because of the lack of social interaction.
    "What I think these two cases do have in common, is in both cases the individuals felt that they were bullied and probably were in fact bullied and their inability to cope with that bullying... led to a tragic outcome,” Kalish added.
    It's been reported that Rodger’s family and authorities attempted to help Rodger in the past. However, Rodger's age may have may have complicated things, according to David Peters, a local marriage and family therapist.
    According to Peters, police cannot detain an adult – nor can therapists or doctors force a patient into a mental hospital -- unless that patient poses a clear and immediate danger to themselves or others.
     
    "We have got legal protections for everybody,” Peters explained. “And it takes a very clear risk to take someone's rights away. And in our country, we don't take people's freedoms away very easily. It's just a decision we've made in our society."
     
    Peters also noted that privacy laws prohibit therapists and physicians from even talking with family members of an adult patient, about that patient’s condition, without the patient’s expressed approval.
     
    “It's very painful for family members when they know an adult member of their family is getting worse and worse in their illness."
    Kalish said there's no way to determine when a violent outcry will happen but there is one warning sign parents and other adults can look for.
    "Prior episodes of violence, of violent acting out, of emotional dis-control, would all tend to be predictors of violence,” Kalish said. “Again, the more recent the history of violence, the more it is of predictive value."
    When asked what more a parent could do, Kalish put it simply: “Love your kids every day.”

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