May 17, 2019 6:30:00 AM EDT  |  Culture  |  Security

Mental Health Awareness Month: Active Assailant Awareness and Prevention

For week 3 of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re shedding light on a common, yet inaccurate, notion that all active shooting events are caused by mental health disorders.

You can also catch up on our previous Mental Health Awareness Month posts here:

Active Shooter Case Study: Washington Navy Yard Shooting

On September 16, 2013, Aaron Alexis, a Navy contractor employee with a Secret clearance arrived at the Washington Navy Yard. He had legitimate access to the Navy Yard as a result of his work as a contractor employee and used his valid building pass to gain entry to Building 197. Shortly after his arrival in the building and over the course of about one hour, Alexis used the Remington 870 shotgun and a Beretta handgun he obtained during the attack to kill 12 individuals and wound 4 others before he was shot and killed by law enforcement officers.

Click here to read the full case study. 


In the case study above, the DoD found several vulnerabilities throughout Alexis’ military and contractor service. If those involved had taken appropriate actions to address those vulnerabilities in advance, this horrific incident may have been prevented. The vulnerabilities include an incomplete background investigation for his security clearance, as well as lack of security reporting on his adverse information. The DoD highlights the fact that his employer did not report behaviors that were indicative of psychological instability and neither Alexis nor his employer sought assistance from a mental health professional.

mental-health-awareness-month-stressorsThe FBI indicates that there are multiple stress factors that contribute to an attack. Mental health is classified as one of the common stressors.

However, it is important to distinguish that the stressors and diagnoses of mental health are two different things. Most active shooters did not have a confirmed mental illness diagnosis, but many suffer from one or more of the stress factors.

Violence is often not tied to a mental disorder. Most people who have a mental health issue are never violent and are simply in need of treatment and support.

Furthermore, when someone does have a mental health issue, the decision to seek treatment is viewed as a positive sign that an individual recognizes that a problem exists and is willing to take steps towards resolving it. For the vast majority, seeking professional help does not adversely impact their career.

How can I help?

If you know someone is struggling, support and encourage them to seek help. If you are someone who is struggling with a mental stressor, talk to someone! Markon offers an Employee Assistance Program at no cost to you (please contact HR for more info).

For any questions regarding how you can get help, please reach out to Human Resources at

Please note that you can also report concerns and adverse information without fear of reprisal to

Questions, comments or feedback:

Please reach out to HR or Security with any questions or feedback on this initiative.

New call-to-action

About the Author

Juliana Lee

Juliana Lee

Juliana Lee joined the team in 2018 and brings over 15 years of marketing, communications, and design experience to our team. She leads Markon's marketing and corporate communications functions in addition to supporting a variety of corporate initiatives. A DC area native, Juliana holds a BA in Communications from the University of Maryland College Park (Go Terps!), as well as multiple marketing certifications from HubSpot and the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) designation. Previously, she led marketing communications for Meridian Imaging Solutions, a Konica Minolta company, as well as providing strategic support for B2B, B2C, B2G, and government clients through marketing consultancy District Smarketing, LLC. A two-time recipient of the Gold President's Volunteer Service Award from President Obama, Juliana is passionate about giving back to the local community. She is an active member of the Markon Cares corporate philanthropy group and supports the firm's STEM outreach initiatives. Outside of work, she is an active volunteer for A Space of Her Own, which empowers under-served girls through arts, carpentry, and creative one-to-one mentoring.