The crimes make headlines. The causes rarely get the same level of attention.

Young men who are full of potential, suddenly commit horrific crimes -- from mass shootings to attacks on individuals.

Mental illness can overtake a young person suddenly.

Depending on the situation, there can be a very short window of time to get help before someone deteriorates to the point where they are capable of committing a crime that would seem unimaginable.

That is the nightmare Theresa Castile is living.

Her son, Denzel, made honor roll his senior year at Sandusky High School and was determined to get a college education.

Just four months after going to college, during a trip home, Theresa noticed a dramatic change in him.

Denzel suddenly seemed distant.

"He was totally far off. It was almost like talking to someone who wasn't there," says Theresa.

The change was so extreme she took Denzel to the hospital. Theresa says after an evaluation she was told Denzel was stressed out but that he was physically fine.

She says she was told he would work through his issues and that if he wanted to go back to college she should let him go.

Concerned over his condition, Theresa convinced Denzel to stay home and rest for the week.

Days later, at his grandparents' house, the 19-year-old snapped.

Relatives called police. In front of family and officers Denzel grabbed his 11-week-old cousin, Athena, and stabbed her to death.

Theresa says Denzel does not remember the attack.

"All he remembers is fire. His body was hot as fire. Thank God he can remember that. He didn't know. The people at the mental institution had to tell him what happened. He didn't know," she said.

Erie County public defender Jeff Whitacre had his client admitted to a psychiatric hospital following the attack in May 2012.

Doctors say Denzel is not competent to help in his own defense. Whitacre says Denzel is suffering from hallucinations and religious delusions, believing is hears the voice of the devil.

Denzel is now diagnosed as profoundly mentally ill. His condition: schizoaffective bipolar disorder. His attorney said when he met Denzel in the jail, it was immediately clear to him the young man was mentally ill.

"This is by all accounts is someone who (is) young, intelligent, liked by teachers, liked by principals, friends. To go from that going off to college, having such great promise, to all of a sudden alleged to be in the middle of that, you have to stop and say what's going on here," he said.

As horrific as this crime is, it not hard to find crimes with common threads:

  • At Sacramento State University 19-year-old Quran Jones picked up a baseball bat and destroyed his dorm room. When his roommate walked in, he beat him to death with the bat. The two were friends. Jones is now diagnosed with a sudden onset of schizophrenia.
  • Twenty-year-old Jared Lee Loughner was the gunman behind the mass shooting in Tucson that injured congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was kicked of a junior college over concerns about his mental health. Now diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, his behavior had deteriorated over several years.
  • James Holmes, the gunman in the Colorado movie theater massacre, is being treated for schizophrenia. At age 24 he had dropped out of a PhD program.

Although mental illness happens in women as often as it happens in men, it tends to develop in men at an earlier age.

"Schizophrenia typically evolves in late teens into early adulthood," says clinical psychologist Dr. Steven Neuhaus.

Neuhaus says appearances can be deceiving.

Young people at the age where they may head off to college look mature, but their brains are still developing. Mental illness can be triggered by a number of things: a chemical change in the brain, drugs or stress.

Any major life change -- like going off to college -- can be fun and exciting but still stressful.

Neuhaus says the sudden loss of a support system and familiar setting can have a traumatic effect.

"Can be various forms of stress such as leaving home, leaving one's safe environment. Some of it can be departure of home and drug use that liberates underlying vulnerabilities," he said.

Symptoms of mental illness can vary. A few listed by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Extreme feelings of guilt
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

As young people take on more independence, families face the challenge of figuring out what is a normal personality change and what is cause for concern.

Neuhaus says relying on trusted relationships and early intervention is important.

"If someone is just beginning to fall apart, if they are losing the ability to function in different domains, take the bigger step and intervene and sometimes force contact with a health professional before situation deteriorates," he said.

Theresa did try to get help for her son but was told he would work through his issues.

Her message to parents is that if you feel there is a problem, go with your gut and do everything you can to get help. Don't listen when others tell you to just wait.

"Follow you heart. Keep going," says Theresa.

Mental illness can be challenging to diagnose. If someone is over 18, it can be difficult to force them to get help.

Cleveland has a very strong chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Its website describes the mission: NAMI Greater Cleveland provides free support, education, advocacy and resources for individuals with mental illness and their family members. Visit the site HERE.

How drug use and mental illness are related:

How major life changes can trigger mental illness:

Mental illness symptoms to look for:

Getting help for someone over 18:

Read or Share this story: http://on.wkyc.com/1bKzP9x