LOWER SWATARA TOWNSHIP, Dauphin County, Pa. --- On April 20, 1999, Sue Klebold's life changed forever.
Her son, Dylan, alongside a friend, shot and killed 13 people and injured 24 hours at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado before killing themselves.
“I know that my son caused terrible, terrible suffering. He took lives, he injured people so that they have to live with terrible injuries for the rest of their lives and that’s not something I will ever get over or fully accept," said Klebold.
On Monday, Klebold spoke before a crowd at the Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre located on the campus of Penn State Harrisburg about her son, the incident, and mental health issues, such as recognizing signs of suicide, self-harm, and harm to others.
Klebold said her son was a "brilliant kid" who was a structured thinker who took pride in being self-reliant.
She said he was never diagnosed with a learning problem or a disability.
She described him as someone who did good things, had a good heart, but something went wrong.
She said his behavior started to change during his junior year of high school. He got in trouble with the law and at school on three separate occasions within a 14-month period.
Following the shooting, Klebold read in her son's journal that at the age of 15, he said he was "in agony," expressed interest in committing suicide, and detailed self-harm.
She is describing her experience, in detail, with hopes of helping someone recognize the red flags in someone they care about, believing a "significant" number of people are struggling with mental health issues.
“These thoughts are signs and indicators that their minds, their brains are not working in a healthy way. And I really think those are the people we need to pay attention to because there is time to help them before they get to sort of a stage four condition," said Klebold.
Klebold said she believes tying mental health issues with violence does more harm than good, saying people going through mental health issues are no more or less dangerous than someone who isn't.
She believes a way to address the challenges of mental health and preventing violence is to dive into the issue of suicidal thoughts.
“I was analyzing my own son’s involvement and I realized that his own suicidality played a part in his taking part in an event such as this. So if we can address the suicidality of people who are on this path towards violence towards others, that is something we can do to try and prevent them," said Klebold.
She said she believes when tragedies such as the Columbine shooting occur, people grasp for answers out of fear and lack of understanding or control.
She said knowing the warning signs are more effective than what she calls "wishful thinking."
“We would very much love to see a simple solution and a simple explanation for why these terrible tragedies happen. There is no simple solution, there is no simply explanation," said Klebold.
She said she took notes during her own recovery and search for making sense of the incident and wrote a book, "A Mother's Reckoning," about her experience.
Profits from her book are donated to charitable organizations and research focusing on mental health issues.