By Lana Turnbull
How many times have I come to the conclusion of production on another issue of Well-Being with a heavy heart after another mass shooting or terrorist attack. How many towns, cities, colleges or schools will now be remembered not for all of the positive, remarkable, and loving acts that have taken place there, but for the heinous acts that have now made their names synonymous with tragedy – Columbine, Newtown, Aurora, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Boston, Charleston, San Bernardino, and now Orlando (ironically, home to the “happiest place on earth,”) and this is by no means a complete list.
In almost every case, there were similarities that can’t be ignored. Family members and friends didn’t see it coming, but in hindsight, recall warning signs that something was wrong. In the aftermath of another terrible attack, there seem to be so many common threads, woven through the lives of the attackers. They had become more isolated, were described as loners. They may have exhibited signs of mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, anger issues, and problems on the job or in school. They may have had few, if any friends. They may have been bullied or ridiculed by others. They may have been obsessed with violent video games and movies. They may have shown an interest in radical ideologies. They may have shown an abnormal fascination about others involved in mass shootings or terrorist attacks. They may have made people feel uncomfortable to be around them. These impressions were each just bits and pieces of a picture that no one saw completely enough to sound an alarm.
So how can we do a better job of recognizing the warning signs and putting the picture in focus before it’s too late. First we need to speak up if we have concerns about someone’s behavior, whether it’s a friend, a relative a coworker, or someone we encounter online or in the community. The hardest part is knowing what to say and when to say it. While I was looking for answers I came across an article that was published in Esquire in October of 2014. In it was a list of questions that the Secret Service developed for the purpose of assessing threats. It occurred to me that having these questions might help someone who is hesitant about speaking up to the authorities. It’s not rocket science, but it may help someone take the right steps and alert law enforcement to a possible threat.
• What brought this person to your attention?
• Does the person harbor a grievance or carry a grudge?
• Have there been attempts to resolve the grievance?
• What are the person’s successes?
• Is there anything for the person to hang on to?
• Has the person communicated an intent to attack?
• Has the person written anything, anywhere, about his or her intentions and ideas?
• Has anyone been alerted? Has anyone been “warned away” – say, from school, work or a specific location on a certain day?
• Has the person shown an interest in other attacks or other attackers? In assassins? In mass murders? In terror or terrorists? In weapons?
• Has the person developed a plan?
• Has the person acquired weapons?
• Has the person practiced with weapons?
• Has the person surveilled an area of attack? Has the person rehearsed the attack?
• Is the person capable of an attack? Is the person organized?
• Does the person have access to a weapon?
• Is the person trying to gain access to a weapon?
• Is the person depressed? Hopeless? Desperate? Suicidal?
• Has the person experienced a recent setback or failure?
• Does the person see violence as an acceptable way to solve problems?
• Is what the person says about himself or herself consistent with his or her actions?
• Are other people concerned about the person’s potential for violence?
• Where is the person on the pathway to violence?
Asking these questions might not prevent another horrendous attack on innocent lives, but at least having a point of reference for assessing our concern can’t hurt, so ‘if we see something, we can say something.’
Source: Esquire, October 24,. 2014, “How to Stop Mass Shootings – Why do Mass Shootings Keep Happening,” By Tome Junod