Deborah Weisbrot, MD Quoted in New York Times Article on Warning Signs of Violent Acts


Deborah Weisbrot MD was quoted in a front-page article in the New York Times titled “Warning Signs of Violent Acts Often Unclear.” The article, written by Benedict Casey and Anemona Hartocollis, addresses the hazards involved in identifying potential mass murderers and reporting them to authorities.

Dr. Weisbrot, who is the director of the department’s child and adolescent outpatient clinic, is a nationally recognized expert in the psychiatric assessment of students who threaten violence. Her article “Prelude to a School Shooting? Assessing Threatening Behaviors in Childhood and Adolescence” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACP) in August 2008 is one of the only articles in the medical literature to present an evidence-based approach to the topic.

In the New York Times article Dr. Weisbrot described the characteristics common to people whose threats of violence should be taken most seriously. “What they have in common is a kind of magical thinking, odd beliefs like they can read other people’s minds, or see the future, or things happening in their dreams come true,” she is quoted as saying.

In her JAACP article, Dr. Weisbrot described the same signs in more technical terms, noting that clinicians should be alert to “signs of the student's dark, inner rage, particularly in the context of social isolation from family and peers as well as the student's emotional disconnection during the interview. Furthermore, intense immersion into fantasy combined with less-than-secure reality testing should also arouse concerns. When an adolescent's odd beliefs or magical thinking are combined with suspicious behaviors and/or paranoid ideation, an intensified perception of dangerousness may occur.”