In the wake of a mass shooting like the one in Aurora, Colo., we often ask ourselves whether it could have been prevented. We all struggle for answers, and we especially want to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The truth is, James Holmes sent signals that he was sick.
Even his own mother appeared to have known he was not mentally well. Early on the morning of the tragedy, when a news reporter asked her at her home in San Diego, about her son's involvement in the mass shooting, she is reported to have told them they had the right person, that she needed to call the police and fly to Colorado immediately.
The question is, when you know someone is not mentally healthy, what, if anything, can you do?
By all means, the best thing you can do is get the troubled individual professional help. Use every bit of influence you have with this person to make an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist.
So many things can cause a person to become delusional and violent, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug abuse, delusions, even a brain tumor or an infection of the central nervous system.
Unfortunately, many people who know someone, even love someone, who has so obviously spiraled downward, minimize the danger. They don't think he would ever do anything to hurt anyone.
Often they are wrong.
If you know someone who needs professional help, but don't know where to turn, first contact a mental health professional yourself and get advice about how to handle it. Don't rest until the person you're concerned about has been seen.
Keep in mind there are many holes in America's mental health system, so be tenacious. You may have to shop around a bit for the right doctor or therapist.
Furthermore, disturbed individuals sometimes are seen and moved out of the system prematurely. And in a free country such as ours, sometimes people slip through the cracks.
But when it comes to mental health, we should adopt the motto, "if you see something, say something."
Of course, show your concern with gentleness and love. But keep in mind, family members can, in some cases, have people involuntarily committed to mental health institutions to receive the help they need. The laws vary from state to state, so contact your local mental health center for details.
If you are faced with a mental health emergency, you should call 9-1-1.
How do you know when someone you know is in need of help? The most glaring of all warning signs is when that person hears voices. Get help right away if you, or someone you know is hearing voices.
Often these voices are saying things unpleasant, sometimes even directing the person to engage in violent behavior. This is evidence of a distinct break with reality and the person hearing voices needs immediate help.
Other warning signs are when the person speaks of doing harm to himself of others, has become increasingly withdrawn, and has developed a drug habit.
I watched a video obtained by ABC News of James Holmes just a few years ago giving a presentation at some sort of science fair. He looked and sounded so normal, even sweet and innocent.
Then just weeks before the mass shooting he applied to a gun club. When the gun club owner telephoned Holmes to discuss his application, the gun club owner said Holmes' voice mail was so bizarre it was indistinguishable at times.
He described twisted, animal-like noises and ramblings that were so strange, that he told his employees to turn Holmes away if he ever showed his face at the gun club.
How did Holmes devolve from the first guy to the second guy?
Mental health professionals will tell us in the months to come. But if only someone responsible would have evaluated him in the months before the shootings instead, just think what might have been prevented.