LifestyleMental Health


Experts say pandemic and poor mental health playing a role in workplace shootings

Posted at 6:20 AM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 06:20:09-04

(WSYM) — Another day and another tragic shooting in the country. This time an employee opened fire on colleagues at a California rail yard.

The suspect turned the gun on himself after gunning down eight others and wounding at least eight more. This mass work shooting comes a month after another occurred.

RELATED: 8 killed in mass shooting at San Jose light rail yard; suspect also dead

San Jose is the latest city to confront the aftermath of another tragic and far too common mass shooting after an employee returning to work took many lives.

Mass workplace shootings have happened in America at least 44 times since 1982, according to data compiled by Statista.

The coronavirus pandemic playing a role, according to experts. Before the virus began coursing through the country, five people killed by a co-worker at Molson Coors headquarters in Milwaukee happened in February 2020.

Then, the virus seemingly paused the other health crisis plaguing the U.S.

The casualty count wouldn't rise to a high level again until more than a year after Milwaukee. And April of this year in Indianapolis, eight FedEx workers were killed by a former employee. Then the latest eight in San Jose.

"All the research that’s been done shows that depression is up over 50%, anxiety is up over 28% percent," said Kent Sharkey, president and CEO of Ulliance. "Alcohol says national are up over 70%. So we as humans when we’re under pressure and we try to cope with that sometimes there’s healthy coping mechanisms and sometimes there’s unhealthy.”

Sharkey added, "Employees bring those issues into the workplace; they can’t just leave them at the door."

RELATED: How many mass shootings have there been in 2021?

Former FBI Special Agent Andrew Bartnowak tells 7 Action News, that although these crimes may not be fully preventable, more can be done.

“We need to be more proactive. We need to learn how to connect the dots.," Bartnowak said. "We need to go ahead and recognize signs of individuals at our workplace who may be suffering from events. Whether it's divorce, whether it's financial issues."

The signs were there in Michigan's most high-profile mass workplace shooting in 1991, according to After-Incident reviews. Five people were killed, including the shooter at the Royal Oak post office. It was one of a series of post office shootings that prompted the phrase "going postal"

"Historically, employers were not all that concerned about behavioral health. They viewed that as very personal right," Sharkey said. "We’ve really seen a big change over the last 10 to 15 years and particularly this year. Everybody’s coming back into the workplace and that’s going to create a tremendous amount of feelings. Anger being perhaps one of them.”

And Sharkey says that so often in these situations, people after the fact admit that they did notice something off.

If you do see a sign, say something to human resources. Even if it turns out to be another, Sharkey says it's good to have a second opinion and often there will be a change in that coworker's behaviors.

He adds that very rarely do people snap suddenly.