Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old whose alleged shooting rampage claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month, was sick. His family knew it. His neighbors knew it. Local law enforcement and mental-health professionals knew it.
Yet, like so many tragedies involving the seriously mentally ill, no one was able to prevent the rampage. Why?
As the family member of someone with serious mental illness, and as someone who has spent 30 years helping other families with seriously ill members, the answer is clear: The system often prevents relatives from getting help for loved ones who have serious mental illness until after they have become a danger to themselves or others. Too often this means after someone — often a family member — is injured or killed.