California Murder Spree Raises Questions of Mental Health System, Warning Signs

Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl BenzioSays Lack of Decision-Making Skills Is Factor, Family and Friends Can Sometimes Help
June 2, 2014

Philadelphia, PA—The recent California murder spree that left seven people, including the killer, dead has reignited dialogue and debate over our nation’s mental health system and over whether it’s possible to identify warning signs that an individual is struggling with a potentially dangerous mental health issue.

Before shooting six people and then turning the gun on himself, the perpetrator of the recent Santa Barbara killing posted a YouTube video in which he outlined his rage against women for refusing him sexually and said he would “take great pleasure in slaughtering” his victims. On discovering the video, his parents rushed to intervene, but tragically, it was too late.

Dr. Karl Benzio, founder, executive director and a psychiatrist at the Lighthouse Network, an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, says many mental health issues stem from lack of healthy decision-making and coping skills.

“At some point in our lives – and probably at many points – each one of us will face situations that are painful, disappointing, even devastating,” Benzio said. “Whether it’s broken or non-existent relationships, business or personal failure, or the betrayal or death of a loved one, painful experiences and situations are unavoidable. The only thing over which we have any control is our decision on how we respond to life’s onslaughts. Some people respond by denying a problem exists, some by turning to prescription medication or illegal substances as an unhealthy coping mechanism, and some, sadly, by giving into anger and rage until these spill over into harmful actions against themselves or others.”

Benzio adds that while each person is ultimately responsible for his or her own decisions and actions, friends and family members can be alert to warning signs that may indicate an underlying problem.

“At Lighthouse Network, we are often contacted by parents and loved ones of those struggling through life’s storms. Just as it’s critical that struggling individuals not deny the reality of their situation, it’s also important that friends and family members who are concerned over a loved one not deny that their loved one may need professional help.”

According to Mental Health America, warning signs in adults that may indicate a mental health issue include:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

In younger children, warning signs include:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Benzio adds that while these signs may seem overwhelming, help is available, and the most effective help for long-term recovery is Biblically based treatment.

“The key when facing any of these signs, whether in ourselves or in others, is first, to recognize that they exist and second, to choose to address them through healthy and Biblical decision-making and coping skills,” Benzio says.

Lighthouse Network offers a free, 24-hour helpline, 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242) for those who are struggling and for their family and friends. Lighthouse Network also provides online resources for those concerned about a friend or a loved one. Visit

Lighthouse Network works to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

Lighthouse Network’s web site,,provides information to those struggling to find help for their addiction problems, as well as to family members searching for help for a loved one. Topics addressed include alcohol abuse, addictions, and other mental health or life management issues.

Lighthouse Network offers several resources for those struggling with addiction and their families, such as Stepping Stones, a free daily devotional for managing life’s stressors and storms and equipping readers with healthy decision-making skills. Visit to read the devotionals and sign up to receive them daily via email.

For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit or call the Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242)

To schedule interviews with Dr. Karl Benzio at Lighthouse Network, contact Deborah Hamilton at, 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096.

Lighthouse Network is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that offers an addiction and mental health counseling helpline providing treatment options and resources to equip people and organizations with the skills necessary to shine God’s glory to the world, stand strong on a solid foundation in the storms of their own lives, and provide guidance and safety to others experiencing stormy times, thus impacting their lives, their families and the world.

Dr. Karl Benzio, M.D. is the founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network. With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Benzio went on to medical school and then specialized in psychiatry. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students counseling and conflict resolution skills in Uganda and Kenya; leading a behavioral health team into post-Hussein Iraq to equip health care specialists with treatment and assessment skills and successfully testifying for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives opposing legislation for Plan B contraception administration and for President George Bush’s Council on Bioethics regarding Right of Conscience. His specialties include Adolescents, Addictions, Decision-Making, Infusing Spirituality into Practical Treatment Modalities and the Ramifications of Decision-Making on Social Policy.


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