Do stalkers pose a risk to self, as well as others?
We shouldn’t ignore the potential for self-harmful behavior in stalkers, concludes an article recently published in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology.
Researchers Troy McEwan, Paul Mullen and Rachel MacKenzie conducted a three-year follow‐up of 138 patients referred to a mental health clinic in Melbourne, Australia, that specializes in assessing and treating stalkers.
High rate of suicide
Three of the 138 patients (2.2 per cent) committed suicide during the follow-up; a rate that is small in absolute terms but much higher than would be expected.
In fact, about 80 times higher than the rate in the general population, and about six times higher than the rate in psychiatric patients or community‐based offenders.
The three patients had a history of suicidal ideation or intent at the time they were first assessed in the clinic.
Prevention and protection
Prevention of self‐harm among stalkers is important for humanitarian reasons, of course. But it is also important for protecting victims.
Threat assessment professionals know all too well that it is never a good thing when perpetrators think too much about death: what starts as suicidal ideation or intent can rapidly switch to a homicidal or homicidal‐suicidal focus.
Threat assessment professionals may be found liable if they fail to identify or respond appropriately to obvious warning signs of suicidality that arise during evaluations.
McEwan, T., Mullen, P., & MacKenzie, R. (2010). Suicide among stalkers. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 21, 514–520. DOI: 10.1080/14789940903564370
Assessing the risk of terrorism
Prisons around the world are potential training grounds for global terrorist networks, posing many problems when assessing and managing terrorism risks.
Convicted terrorists and other prison inmates who have been recruited into terrorist networks while incarcerated for other crimes are residing in many prisons around the world.
Should these terrorists and potential terrorists be released? When? Under what conditions? How do we protect the public?
National security, law enforcement, and corrections agencies in many countries have dealt with domestic terrorist groups for years.
The difference now is that terrorists incarcerated in local prisons could be connected to global networks. No more can threat assessment professionals rely on local knowledge to assess and manage terrorism risks.
Against this backdrop, efforts are underway in many countries to develop more systematic procedures for assessing and managing terrorism risks.
In a recent report prepared for the Canadian government, Elaine Pressman reviews some of the major risk factors that may be associated uniquely or specifically with terrorism – as opposed to more general forms of criminality and violence.
Pressman uses this review as the basis for developing structured professional judgment guidelines, the Violent Extremist Risk Assessment or VERA.
The VERA is a must-read for all threat assessment professionals who may encounter terrorism. It should spur discussion, stimulate research, and improve practice with respect to this critical problem.
Pressman, D. E. (2009). Risk assessment decisions for violent political extremism, 2009-02. Ottawa: Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Government of Canada.
Handbook of Violence Risk Assessment
This is a great reference book for threat assessment professionals who use actuarial or structured professional judgment tools in the course of their work.
The first two chapters provide an overview of violence risk assessment, and each of the remaining 11 chapters reviews specific tools.
The review chapters were written by authorities; in fact, most were co-authored by one or more of the people who developed the instruments.
The review chapters include basic information about the format, development, intended applications, and administration of the instruments – some of which is very difficult to find anywhere else in print.
Examples and bonus
The review chapters also include case examples, so you can see how the developers intended the instruments to be used and their reported findings.
As a bonus, instruments used for assessing children and adolescents are also reviewed, in addition to those for assessing adults.
Otto, R. K., & Douglas, K. S. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of violence risk assessment tools New York: Routledge. [ISBN 978-0415962148]
Industry associations news
Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Message from Keith Dormond, President
Membership in industry associations can help prevent violence.
In 2008, for example, the Vancouver Police Department received a complaint that a US citizen was threatening to kill his ex-wife and her family, who resided in Canada.
The threats were made from his home in the US via social networking sites and email.
He was arrested trying to cross the border into Canada and detained for psychiatric evaluation, but escaped back to the US and continued to make threats until he was arrested again at the border in 2010.
Collaboration and information sharing in this case was facilitated by CATAP and ATAP. After receiving the initial complaint, Canadian police – members of CATAP – used their association's resources to identify US police who were members of ATAP.
US police investigated the suspect, conducted a threat assessment, and shared their findings, including their recommendations for risk management, with Canadian police.
- The CATAP Board of Directors is working hard to create educational and benefits for its members: We are expanding our training. For example, in addition to the usual program at our Annual Conference in Banff, Alberta, September 20-24, 2010, we are offering a 2-day workshop on the assessment of psychopathy using the PCL-R.
- We now offer continuing education credits through ConCEPT. These credits will help establish members' expertise. Also, ConCEPT is an approved provider of CE credits for mental health professionals in Canada and the US.
- We provide forums for communication with CATAP members and other threat assessment professionals through our website and Linkedin
Visit CATAP for more information.
Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals Annual Conference
April 12-15, 2011
Tallinn, the beautiful and historic capital of Estonia, is the site of the next AETAP Annual Conference. The venue is the Swissôtel Tallinn, Estonia's only 5-star hotel. A special feature of the 2011 conference is a 1-day expert seminar on explicit threats, led by Dr. Lisa Warren.
Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Upcoming Meetings
November 11, 2010
Colorado Chapter Meeting
November 17, 2010
Washington, D.C. Chapter Meeting
November 18, 2010
Arizona, Chicago, and Los Angeles Chapter Meetings
December 14, 2010
Northern California Holiday Lunch Meeting
December 15, 2010 San Diego Chapter Meeting
ProActive ReSolutions Inc. Threat Assessment and Management Workshop
October 25‐29, 2010
Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Annual Conference
September 20-24, 2010
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