About 2 million employees are affected by workplace violence every year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
This is not simply a case of the 24-hour news cycle maintaining a captive audience with fear mongering. In addition to the reported cases of workplace violence, who knows how many go unreported?
A prevalent common denominator is untreated mental illness.
Because diagnosis and treatment of mental illness hasn’t progressed much in recent decades, we need to encourage lay people to be vigilant toward those expressing tendencies that indicate the potential for violence due to mental illness.
As someone who has personally suffered the destabilizing effects of dissociative identity disorder (DID), I am familiar with indicators of mental illness which may lead to violence.
A few include:
1. Marginalized or bullied students/coworkers. Students interviewed at the Murrysville, Pa., high school, where 16-year-old Alex Hribal is accused of stabbing 21 people, have said Hribal is a shy person without violent tendencies. The FBI, however, has found evidence that he was bullied online. Human beings are social creatures which almost always require companionship for mental well-being, especially for the development of a juvenile. Be sensitive to those who are socially challenged; pressure from bullying can have catastrophic consequences.
2. A consistent and emphatic victimization position. After pulling out a pistol and yelling what can be translated in English as “God is great!” Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan pulled out a pistol and killed 13 unarmed people in Fort Hood. Later in court, when Hasan was representing himself, he justified his actions by saying he was defending a group of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, including a man named Mullah Omar. Those who perpetrate terrible violence often do so, citing justice from a victimized position.
3. Readily apparent indicators of paranoia and a history of violent reactions. Aaron Alexis, the former Navy man who was discharged from the service for a violent altercation, was nonetheless allowed to work in the Washington Navy Yard as a contractor. He eventually shot and killed 12 people, and critically injured three. The FBI later said that he was under “the delusional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves,” or ELF. These are clear red flags of mental illness that were ignored.
4. An aggressively litigious nature. The Guinness Book of World Records named Jonathan Lee Richards the most litigious man, having had court filings against Martha Stewart and New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick, among many others. Having heard of his new title, he filed a suit against the record-holding institution. Richards also is a former federal prisoner. Outrageous legal action is another form of confrontation from those who constantly perceive grievances.
(About the writer: Mohinder Goomar is a former medical doctor who, after emigrating from India, became board certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology and became an American citizen. He was chairman of the surgery department at Saratoga Hospital, in New York, and had a private practice for head and neck surgery. After experiencing mood swings and a distortion of judgment, Goomar was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID). He was rehabilitated at a facility and lost his medical license for two years — to be followed by reinstatement of the license.)