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Identifying People At-Risk for Violent Behavior

by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.

Chairman, National Center for Emotional Wellness

CEO & Creator,

The best way to prevent a violent act is to identify individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others. Immediate action should be taken to investigate whether a potential perpetrator has a plan or means of harming themselves or others. Always remember that nearly all violent acts are precipitated by leakage, meaning that someone knew something.

Below is a comprehensive checklist of warning signs indicating an elevated violent behavior risk. The more items on the list that apply to an individual, the greater their potential for engaging in aggressive actions.

❐ has engaged in violent behavior in the past

❐ expresses self-destructive or homicidal ideation

❐ has described feelings of hopelessness

❐ has a history of self-destructive behavior

❐ gives away possessions

❐ articulates specific plans to harm oneself or others

❐ appears withdrawn

❐ appears/acknowledges feeling depressed

❐ exhibits signs of antisocial behavior

❐ engages in bullying others

❐ evidences a significant change in mood

❐ has difficulty with impulse control

❐ experiences sleep and eating disturbances

❐ evidences significant changes in behavior

❐ has experienced a traumatic event

❐ engages in substance abuse

❐ has been a victim of child abuse

❐ has become involved with gang activity

❐ has experienced a significant loss

❐ evidences a preoccupation with fighting

❐ has a history of antisocial behavior

❐ frequently watches programs/movies with violent themes

❐ evidences a low tolerance for frustration

❐ evidences a preoccupation with games with violent themes

❐ externalizes blame for their difficulties

❐ evidences a preoccupation with guns and other weapons

❐ has harmed animals

❐ has access to a firearm or other weapons

❐ has engaged in fire-setting

❐ has brought a weapon to school

❐ evidenced frequent disciplinary problems

❐ exhibited poor academic performance

❐ talks about not being around

❐ has been truant from school or work


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