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Police investigate mental state of Fox45 suspect

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Posted at 6:28 PM, Apr 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-29 18:29:17-04

The father of Alex Brizzi said his son had started showing erratic behavior several weeks before Thursday's incident where he walked into Fox45 Baltimore wearing a hedgehog onesie and claimed he was wearing a bomb.

Ed Brizzi added that there had been incidents in the past few years where his son had to be hospitalized, but overall he thought he was okay.

Mental health experts said that's the situation for a lot of people suffering with mental illness and that appearances can be deceiving.

“People put on a mask often and so what is going on [in their mind] is not what's showing [on their face]. So this young man may or may not have shown symptoms up until his break,” said Sherry Welch, executive director of NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore.

Ed Brizzi said the strange behavior leading up to Thursday's incident started two weeks ago.

“He came up to me and said 'Dad, I've found Jesus. I've found God and they gave me a vision that the world is going to end on June 3rd,' and he says. 'I've got to tell the people,'” Brizzi said.

He added that his son experienced other mental breaks, including in 2012 when he tried to overdose on Aleve, and more recently when he spent four days in the hospital.

“He was taking a walk and he passed out in somebody's yard and somebody called the police saying someone's in our yard and the police came and it took seven policemen to hold him down and they sent him to St. Agnes Hospital,” said Brizzi.

Doctors there told him that his son was dehydrated. After that he returned home and Brizzi said his son seemed to be doing okay.

“He's just a really nice kid but he had these problems every once in a while where he'd kind of have a meltdown,” Brizzi said.

It's in hindsight that some are now wondering whether something could have been done sooner. However, experts say in any case, it's challenging to get someone treatment if they don't seek it themselves.

“If they're an adult your options are limited,” Welch said.

Brizzi is 25, beyond the 18-year threshold of parental control, even if his parents wanted to force him into treatment they would have had to do so through an emergency petition.

“You can have them committed to a hospital, you can have greater control with what is happening with them at the moment because they are out of control,” Welch said.

A petition is only temporary, while a mental illness is a longer struggle, and it's one NAMI tries to help parents and caregivers navigate.

“Consulting an attorney is important, finding an advocate who has been through a like scenario is important, but also having that information about what is out there and what's available and that's part of what we do,” Welch said.

She wants parents to understand there's no shame in asking for help and that mental illness, like any other disease, isn't something that goes away over time.

“You're not just going to convince someone that they're going to get better. There really has to be a treatment plan and can you manage it for the long term? Absolutely,” added Welch.

NAMI also advises that if someone is showing erratic behavior the caregiver's first call should be to the primary physician or a crisis hotline, but if they think that person might harm themselves or someone else they shouldn't hesitate contacting police.

"As parents we love our children and we want them to love us and we fear for what can happen to them, and so very often the idea of putting them into any kind of system is scary but many times that is the best thing you can do for your loved one," Welch said.

For more information on mental illness and available resources, click here.