June 02, 2014
1 min read

Screening could predict violence risk among veterans

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A five-item screening tool may help identify veterans are higher risk for violence, according to recent study data published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Violence toward others has been identified as a serious problem in a subset of military veterans,” the researchers wrote. “This study assessed the predictive validity of a brief screening tool for violence in veterans that can help clinicians prioritize risk assessment and identify potential avenues for reducing violence.”

Eric B. Elbogen, PhD, of the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and colleagues evaluated 1,090 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by survey and conducted in-depth assessments of 197 dyads of veterans and collateral information to determine the effectiveness of the Violence Screening and Assessment of Needs (VIO-SCAN) to identify problems with violence and potential candidates for a comprehensive risk assessment.

Survey participants had lower incidence of risk factors compared with in-depth assessment participants. This was true for financial problems (38% of survey participants vs. 41% of in-depth assessment participants), witnessing others wounded (40% vs. 46%), posttraumatic stress disorder (18% vs. 29%), alcohol misuse (24% vs. 31%) and history of violence or arrests (22% vs. 47%).

“The VIO-SCAN does not replace fully informed clinical decision making; instead, it provides a springboard for further assessing risk and protective factors and identifying the potential need for a more comprehensive risk assessment that might include measures such as the Classification of Violence risk and the HCR-20 (with the caveat that validation in veterans is limited),” the researchers wrote. “It is hoped that the VIO-SCAN will provide clinicians with a systematic method for identifying veterans at higher risk of violence, as well as an opportunity to develop plans collaboratively with veterans to reduce risk and increase successful reintegration in the community.”

Disclosure: The study was funded in part by the Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Office of Mental Health Services; the National Institute of Mental Health; and the Office of Research and Development Clinical Science and Health Services, Department of Veterans Affairs.