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A look at mental health, following FBI report on Virginia Beach mass shooting

The FBI report reveals the shooter’s mental health struggle for years leading up to the 2019 mass shooting. A mental health expert offers insight into key findings.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The FBI’s behavioral analysis unit says that the Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooter held perceived workplace grievances as early as 2014 and in turn, isolated himself over time. The report also refers to the shooter’s significant mental health stressors but points out those alone can’t explain the attack.

RELATED: FBI: Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooter 'motivated by perceived workplace grievances, which he fixated on for years'

Kurt Hooks, the CEO of Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center, explains that studying behavior is complex. 

“There could be all sorts of explanations, so the more subtle patterns of behavior over time are a little more difficult. But I think if we see more extreme changes over a shorter period of time, then those might be more informative,” he said. 

While a complicated topic, Hooks describes some of his takeaways from the FBI’s findings. 

“It seems there is a mental health component that has been simmering for a number of years. Perhaps, that’s not the whole answer in this particular case. But the opportunity for us to have a dialogue about that,” said Hooks. 

When asked if it could be a matter of awareness for co-workers or a matter of self-reflection, Hooks responded, “I think a combination of both.”

Experts say that the pandemic, extra stress in the workplace or loss of work, plus pent-up emotions are driving a push to seek help. 

“What we're experiencing as a mental health provider in the community is we are seeing an increase in individuals reaching out,” said Hooks.

He emphasizes that it’s OK to ask for help. He realizes that, oftentimes, it’s about taking the first step. That could include talking to a trusted person, like a friend, family, or -- preferably -- a mental health professional. 

One local hub resource is the VB Strong Center. It’s a City of Virginia Beach and Sentara Healthcare partnership that stems from the 2019 tragedy at the municipal center.

VB Strong wants to be “a 'starting point' for the journey of healing to those directly impacted by the May 31 shooting.”

The VB Strong Center has a 24/7 hotline at (757) 507-7200.