Standards for Threatening Behavior


Early Warning Signs

None of the following warning indicators alone is sufficient for predicting mental health problems, aggression and/or violence. When presented in combination, they indicate the need for documentation and further analysis to determine an appropriate intervention. Remember to know your limits and it is always better to act sooner rather than later.

Academic Indicators

  • Missed assignments
  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • A drop in grades
  • Repeated absences from class
  • A negative change in classroom performance
  • Verbal aggressiveness in class meetings
  • Disorganized or erratic performance
  • Continual seeking of special accommodations (late papers, extensions,
    postponed examinations, etc.)
  • Essays or creative work that indicate extremes of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair

Personal / Interpersonal Indicators

  • Tearfulness
  • Unprovoked anger or hostility
  • Emotional response is an over-reaction/under-reaction
  • Excessive dependency
  • Expressions of hopelessness, worthlessness, fear, humiliation, boredom, grief, or powerlessness
  • Exaggerated personality traits (e.g. more withdrawn or animated than usual)
  • Direct statements indicating distress, family problems or other difficulties
  • A hunch or gut-level reaction that something is wrong
  • Expressions of concern about a student in the class by his/her peers

Physical Indicators

  • Deterioration in physical appearance
  • Visible changes in weight
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Coming to class bleary-eyed, hung over or smelling of alcohol
  • Appearing sick or ill

Safety Risk Indicators

  • Any written note or verbal statement that has a “sense of finality” (suicidality)
  • Statements to the effect that the student is “going away for a long time”
  • Severe depression
  • Any history of suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Giving away of prized possessions
  • Self-injurious or self-destructive behaviors
  • Out-of-control behavior
  • Essays or papers that focus on despair, suicide, death, violence, or aggression
  • Verbal or written (e-mail) threats of harm to self or others
  • Prior violence

Warning Signs for Violent Behavior

  • Direct statements of the intention to harm oneself or others
  • Threats of impending harm to self or others such as, “People better be careful
    or they’ll be sorry”
  • Social isolation
  • Fascination with weapons and violence
  • Possession or access to weapons
  • Deep and disproportionate feelings of anger and being disrespected
  • Lack of empathy
  • History of problems with authority figures
  • Academic difficulties
  • Significant changes in mood, behavior, appearance, sleeping/eating patterns
  • Statements suggesting the settling of affairs such as saying good-bye or giving away possessions
  • History of harming animals
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