Mental illness symptoms to look for in loved ones

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - It’s been more than 3 months since 19 year-old Austin Harrouff was arrested and later charged for killing a Martin County couple.

The FSU student is accused of stabbing John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon to death. He was allegedly found eating the flesh of one of his victims.

According to toxicology results, Harrouff was not on any mind-altering drugs at the time of the attack. His attorney claims the teen is “struggling with severe mental illness.”

“Mental illness is a biological disorder,” explained Jeff Shearer who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with Tykes and Teens in Martin County.  

He has not examined Harrouff, but we asked him to talk in general about what parents should look out for if they fear mental illness in their own kids.

Shearer said there two types of symptoms, he calls positive and negative symptoms.
 
“Positive symptoms are the symptoms that are new. Those would be hallucinations you could see some mania like staying up all night."
 
He described negative symptoms has skills or characteristics your loved one may have lost. For example, your child may have had good social skills or hygiene but no longer has those skills.
 
How does mental illness present itself?

Shearer says typically its a quick on set with a fast downward spiral. Then there is a less common way it presents. 

“There are some kids where it occurs over a long period of time where there is a slow downgrade,” he said. 

And according to Shearer, that’s when it can be more difficult to treat and identify. 

Shearer describes mental health as a continuum, some people may go through circumstances that create mental health issues while for others it’s biological. 

He also says quick treatment can be crucial. 

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