Public interest in better identifying people in crisis has increased in recent months, said Gibb, whose group helps sponsor Mental Health First Aid classes across the country aimed at preparing people to spot signs of trouble and intercede.
"Calls to us increased quite dramatically after Tucson," Gibb said.
Any talk of violence, either to oneself or to others, should be considered a clear warning sign, both men said.
"When you talk about things that are uncomfortable and potentially violent, in our culture that is highly unusual, threatening and should give someone pause," Wise said.
It's even more worrisome if the person has no idea that the way he or she is talking or acting is disturbing those around them. "If he has no sense of how he affects others, that's a sign of trouble," Wise said.
People should especially be on alert if a person who has been agitated and talking of violence for some time suddenly becomes calm and placid. That could mean that the person's internal conflicts are over, and he or she is intent on action.
"When they set up a plan, they no longer feel conflicted," Gibb said. "They can almost feel euphoric because they've made that decision."
A past history of violence is another predictor of whether someone with a mental problem might act out. Drug and alcohol use also can be a warning sign, particularly with someone who has already been acting strangely, Gibb and Wise said.
People exhibiting these warning signs should be confronted, but gingerly, they say.
Wise recommends having a heart-to-heart talk with the person in a public place. "Let them know, 'Hey, you're scaring me a little bit,'" he said.
Reaching out to the person's friends and family is important, too, he said. The more people who know about the problem, the more likely the person will be willing to accept help from someon
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