May is Mental Health Awareness Month

(KGTV) – This week, our nation once again suffered the grief and pain of yet another mass shooting. Precious children are taken by a gunman to fight and bent on taking their lives.

In 2021, we witnessed 693 mass shootings. Each time we realize how it could have been prevented.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the day before the tragedy in Texas, I spoke exclusively with Arlene Holmes, whose son James killed 12 people and wounded 70 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado nearly 10 years ago.

Holmes says the anniversary of the Colorado tragedy should focus on the victims. So we’re now focusing on the victims in Texas.

But she agreed to the interview before Tuesday’s shooting due to May’s focus on mental health.

It was July 20, 2012, when James Holmes broke into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during the midnight screening of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” and opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 70 others. The San Diego native, who was in Colorado attending college, was convicted of 165 counts. He is serving life in prison without parole.

“When my son graduated with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience, he came home from college and was quiet and sitting there. You didn’t get out of work and get a job, and you do things and I just went crazy, the exact opposite of what he needed. He needed someone to see. Didn’t He could,” Arlene shared.

Arlene, James Holmes’ mother, says that not a single day goes by that she does not think about the effects of her son’s horrific actions. Innocent lives lost, families destroyed, others harmed medically and psychologically, and feel obligated to learn about mental health awareness and share that knowledge with others.

“If people are caught before psychosis, before they are detached from reality before having delusions, before they go buy that gun when they have never bought a gun before. If you can catch that before and get them into a treatment worth trying.”

For years now, the former registered nurse has been self-teaching and talking to colleges and nursing schools about signs of mental illness, resources for help, and ways to report a potential problem person in the workplace and in schools. It’s not easy, she stressed, but if we, whether or not we know someone with a mental disorder, are all looking for knowledge, it’s best to get to know and report a potentially dangerous person.

“I mean, my son was getting good grades, he was going to school every day. So, I was using the wrong scales kind of. And I needed to look more at the big picture. Of what was going on. He was in isolation,” Holmes said.

One of the hallmarks of schizophrenia, the mental illness her son was diagnosed with, is not expressing yourself and not talking much. Holmes says Every Mind Matters provides education on how to ask open-ended questions, such as “Can you tell me some of the things you’re thinking of?”

As the National Alliance recommends on their website on mental illness, among many topics, you can find other ways to encourage a person to connect. Many shooters post online or write statements.

“My son wrote everything down in a notebook. So just because someone isn’t talking to you doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t much going on inside.”

The National Institutes of Mental Health reports that 50% of people with a mental health disorder show signs before age 14.

“My son started showing signs of puberty. The difficulty is that they are similar to other teenage behaviors. Is it typical behavior or is there something else to it?”

If you think something is wrong, says Holmes, keep trying to speak up, go for a second opinion, or outside the family, report the strange behavior to the appropriate person at your workplace or school. Most universities have anonymous reporting websites on their web pages.

“Part of the problem is just leaving people alone and not following through,” Holmes said.

But Holmes maintains that you may not be able to do this on your own. You have no control over whether a person with a mental illness goes to the doctor or takes their medication. All you can do is talk to them about your concerns, even if you are rejected.

“Or you get an irritable reaction that makes you shiver. You still have to. I guess I’d say just wait there. It’s not easy.”

Holmes believes that if we collectively include mental health education in our entire lives, we will better recognize those critical differences. Difficulty expressing, feeling happy, staying motivated, and showing emotion, we can much faster identify those rare instances when mental illness descends into psychopathic insanity.

“If we can stop anyone. I will keep talking.”

You can find more information about tags, resources, and organizations on these websites: