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Nov 09 2009

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Warning Signs of Workplace Violence

By Douglas Clark, Fox23.com

Two mass shootings in two days. Friday a gunman opened fire inside an office building in downtown Orlando. And we know the shooting suspect from Fort Hood, army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hassan, was shot four times and is in a coma. He’s accused of killing 13 people and wounded 38 others. The army says some of the injured may not survive. Fox 23’s Douglas Clark has more now on the warning signs of violence.

A major factor that drives people to violence is stress. And even though we’re talking about workplace violence, the stress can come from home as well as from the job. The shootings Thursday involved an army psychiatrist, who had the difficult task of counseling soldiers returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he feared going overseas himself.

Family members say Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan devoted much of his life to the military and did not make many friends. That may provide insight into why he turned to violence.

“Normally when you go home and have a bad day, you talk to your friends, you talk to your family, you cope in different ways. But if you’re socially isolated, you actually lose that resource for coping. And without that, things can build up over time,” says University of Tulsa psychology professor Brad Brummel.

While tragedies like this are not always preventable, experts say there are signs to look for in a co-worker, that may suggest they’re about to do something drastic.

“Someone who normally says, ‘I don’t like my boss, my boss is so frustrating,’ then says things like, ‘This is the last straw. Something is going to change.

I’m going to stop the situation.’ Or if they’re posting things on the internet about possible violent reactions,” says Brummel.

So if you spot the signs in a co-worker or friend what do you do? Experts say it’s best to not over-react. Help them find a support system so they can work through their problems.

“Maybe you say, ‘Let’s go talk about this after work,’ instead of ignoring it,” says Brummel.

But if you think the person is capable of violence, you should report it to your supervisor.

It’s important to keep in mind that out of all the people who exhibit the signs, an extremely small percentage of them will actually turn to violence. And many of them also have a psychological disorder that makes it harder for them to cope with stress.

Family members of Nidal Malik Hasan say he had been harassed about being a Muslim following the 9/11 attacks and wanted out of the army.

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