This weekend’s Tucson shooting spree left many people wondering what was going on in the mind of the suspected gunman.It is too early to know the mental condition of Jared Lee Loughner, 22, but experts say it is not uncommon for people in his age group to experience their first serious episode of mental illness, reports USA Today. “It is a vulnerable age. These types of disorders have a genetic basis to them, but that’s not the whole story. Many of these illnesses are responsive to the environment, the transition into adulthood,” says Glenn Saxe, chair of the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center.
Why the late teens and early 20s are a vulnerable time for those prone to mental illness probably is the result of a combination of factors, says Alec Miller, a professor of psychiatry and chief of child and adolescent psychology at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. “There is a biological piece, then you add certain life stressors at that time of life: going to college or leaving home for first time; having a first, profound and intimate breakup. They don’t have the same kind of support that they had when they were 14, 15, 16,” Miller says. Loughner exhibited disruptive behavior before this weekend’s shooting and was suspended from college in September. One of Loughner’s teachers, Ben McGahee, said after just one week of classes, Loughner proved so disruptive and belligerent that “I remember going home and thinking to myself, ‘Is he going to bring a weapon to class?’ “