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Identifying People At-Risk for Violent Behavior

by Dr. Mark Lerner 

Chairman, & CEO, The National Center for Emotional Wellness

The best way to prevent a violent act is to identify individuals who are at risk of danger to themselves or others. Immediate action should be taken to investigate whether a potential perpetrator has a plan or the means of harming oneself or others.


Following is a checklist of warning signs. The great the number of endorsed items, the greater

the risk for violent behavior.


❐  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❐  appears withdrawn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


© 2023 by Dr. Mark Lerner, The National Center for Emotional Wellness, Inc.

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