9OYS Continuing Coverage: Mass shooting in Tucson
Loughner shows schizophrenia symptoms; experts react
Reporter: Jessica Chapin
Web Producer: Layla Tang
TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - The public is receiving new insight about accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner's mental state. A 24-page court document reveals Loughner has been pacing his cell, crying for hours at a time, and claiming to hear messages from a radio. They are clear signs of schizophrenia.
H. Clarke Roman is the executive director of Southern Arizona's National Alliance on Mental Illness. He is familiar with the signs.
"Someone who's hearing voices, a different part of the brain is generating exactly the same nerve signals going into the decoding part of the brain so the voice that's being generated internally is just as valid, just as real," Dr. Roman explained.
Those symptoms are part of what's keeping Loughner from standing trial. 9 On Your Side reporter Jessica Chapin asked Roman if he thought Loughner could fake the disease.
"I don't think so. I don't think anybody would really even know how to fake the symptoms," he responded. "And I believe Jared Loughner's not faking."
Schizophrenia is a disease that impacts the thought process. Symptoms can include audio and visual hallucinations. It's estimated that more than 2 million Americans have schizophrenia. One of those is David Cole. He's a NAMI volunteer who was diagnosed 10 years ago.
"I heard voices at times," he said. "Pretty much thought that the world was out to get me."
Cole's parents realized he needed treatment. Cole says managing his disease takes patience and a strong support group. Those are uncertain factors for Loughner at this time.
"It's a long journey," said Cole. "He'd have to be willing to do it and not be forced because if it's forced it's never going to work."
It took several rounds of medications for Cole to find one that suppressed his symptoms. Doctors sometimes spend years, even decades finding the right combination of medicine for an individual with a mental illness.
However, it's a battle Cole says can be fought with success.
"If you're on medications and you're taking the steps to better yourself and going through treatment, going to support groups," he said, "then you have a fighting chance to actually live a great life and continue to move on."
Loughner's next competency hearing will be in September. He has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges.