January 17, 2011

A Biopsychosocial for Jared Lee Loughner

For those who are new to the social work field, the biopsychosocial is a tool mental health professionals utilize to capture relevant biological, psychological and social information about a client. In any psychiatric inpatient setting, the biopsychosocial not only provides a holistic vantage point from which to understand the client, but it also allows the treatment team to start connecting the dots and formulating an action plan to treat mental illness.

While it is a travesty that Jared Lee Loughner never entered treatment, I believe social work professionals and students can benefit immensely from identifying and understanding the warning signs of someone who could commit such a horrific crime.  

The following is a brief and speculative biopsychosocial of Loughner, based off of internet articles and the like:

Loughner is a 22 year-old, white male that has reached a state of crisis after attempting to assassinate Representative Gabrielle Giffords, successfully killing five other individuals, and severely wounding 14 others. Loughner's homicidal ideation towards the Congresswoman started in 2007, after receiving an invitation to a local meet and greet with the politician. 

Loughner's erratic and disturbing behavior started to unfold in 2007. Loughner was fired from a minimum wage job, let go from a volunteer position at an animal shelter, and had several bizarre confrontations with classmates at his local community college. Pima Community College police were contacted five times within an eight month span. As a result, Pima Community College required that he seek a mental health screening, to deem that he was no longer a danger to himself (suicidal ideation) or a danger to others (homicidal ideation). It is likely that the patient reached his breaking point after he was asked to leave Pima Community College. 

In regards to his mental health status, it is clear that Loughner is suffering from a severe and persistent mental illness. YouTube videos and other internet rants on social networking sites, reveal that Loughner exhibited extremely disorganized thinking and bizarre thoughts. Additionally, Loughner harbors extremely paranoid and persecutory delusions, including the belief that the U.S. government is responsible for the terrorist attacks that took place on 9/11. Loughner perseverates on numerous other conspiracy theories such as the belief of a new currency that will result from a New World Order, the idea that the government brainwashes individuals by controlling their grammar, and a belief that NASA conducts fraudulent spaceflights. The individual was also reportedly obsessed with lucid dreams, mostly because of his ability to transfix his mind in an alternative state where he could live a different reality. These obsessions and delusions allude to a possible thought or psychotic disorder. 

Additionally, Loughner has a history of drug abuse, as evidenced by an alcohol poisoning incident that led to his withdrawal from high school in 2006, and a drug paraphernalia possession charge in 2007. The U.S. military also rejected Loughner's application in 2008, due to his admitted use of marijuana. His drug history potentially points to a drug induced psychosis. 

Loughner's rants on various internet sights also reveal that he was antisemitic and anti-religious. Loughner's deteriorating mental state was exacerbated by social isolation. 

In hindsight, it is clear that Loughner needed to enter treatment long before he committed the horrific events that took place on January 8th, 2011. However, it is important for mental health professionals and those training to be, take the time to evaluate the warning signs that Loughner exhibited. I believe it is a lesson to all of us that we not only pay greater attention to those we interact with, but also encourage family and friends to look for these same warning signs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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