Once upon a time, you knew your neighbors and co-workers, you knew their families, and you knew enough about them to think you were part of their family.

Our Gazette-Virginian family is much like that. We look out for one another, and that’s what makes the mass shooting in Virginia Beach last Friday so puzzling.

We all like to think we know the person who works with us, but we are not mind readers.

Nevertheless, it seems that more and more of us are living on the edge these days, whether from financial pressure or relationship issues.

But, the way people relieve their frustrations is becoming more and more violent and frightening.

Judging from news reports after the shooting, there was little indication that the gunman in this case would embark upon the rampage he did.

The names of the victims were released on Saturday, and 11 of the 12 killed worked for the city of Virginia Beach.

I went to college with a number of Virginia Beach residents, and none of them were listed as among the 12 murdered on Friday.

Unfortunately, random acts of violence occur more frequently than ever before, and one of my best friends, a licensed professional counselor with a Masters from Virginia Commonwealth University, will tell you a primary reason is the lack of counseling services available to those with the potential for these kinds of acts.

I’m not one to label anyone diagnosed or not diagnosed with mental illness as showing a propensity for violence, but I do feel that availability of counseling may prevent slaughters such as the one that occurred on Friday.

The issue, as always, is funding, and each governing body, from the county through the state and federal government, feels the monetary pinch for providing such services.

It’s almost impossible to predict when someone will “go off,” as some of the inmates called it when I worked at Powhatan Correctional Center.

This issue goes beyond simply gun control, in my opinion. Instead, we need to look at the person behind the weapon.

There needs to be a “stop gap” in place to help stem such incidents, but who needs treatment and when?

At what point does someone realize they need counseling, and who wants to admit it? And how is that treatment provided and at what cost?

Those are questions that beg further discussion, lest we see more tragedies such as the one in Virginia Beach.

Let’s not stigmatize the issue of mental health, but bring it into the light of day where we can see it for what it is and deal with it.

Doug Ford reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.

Doug Ford covers news and sports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him at dford@gazettevirginian.com.