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Psychiatric, Learning Disorders Common in Students Who Make School Threats

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 14, 2023 -- Students who make threats toward others at school have diverse psychiatric profiles and often do not receive recommended treatments, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Deborah M. Weisbrot, M.D., from Stony Brook University in New York, and colleagues assessed characteristics of students who make threats toward others at school. The analysis included child and adolescent psychiatry threat assessment evaluations of 157 consecutive school-referred youths in kindergarten through grade 12 between 1998 and 2019.

The researchers found that the mean age of referred students was 13.37 years, 88.5 percent were male, 79.7 percent were White, and 51.6 percent were receiving special education services. Nearly half had a history of being bullied (43.4 percent), 52.2 percent had traumatic family events, and 5.1 percent experienced physical abuse, 5.7 percent sexual abuse, and 36.3 percent verbal abuse. Psychiatric diagnoses most commonly included attention-deficit/hyperactivity, learning, depressive, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorders, usually in combinations. Half had a history of medication treatment (50.3 percent) and one-third had psychotherapeutic interventions (36.3 percent), even though recommendations were made for psychotherapy (79.9 percent), medication (88.5 percent), or both (70.1 percent) more often.

"Psychiatric evaluation of students who issue threats of any type can lead to revelations about psychiatric diagnoses and crucial treatment and educational recommendations," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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