Prior to intervening in a situation involving aggression and the potential for violence, an assessment of both the risks and most effective response should be made.

At times a practitioners might decide that direct intervention is likely to further escalate the situation and that it is better to monitor the situation to determine whether it is resolved naturally.

Even in situations that require urgent attention some form of assessment and judgement is required. In these cases, youth AOD practitioners are supported by clear and established practices that all practitioners and organisational management understand. 

The key considerations in deciding on a course of action to prevent escalation of aggression and violence are:

Is the client (or others) being aggressive known? - If yes:

  • What is the nature of the clients relationship with the service/practitioners?
  • Does the client have a history of becoming aggressive?
  • Has the client experienced serious trauma and is there a history of emotional dysregulation?
  • Is there a history of the client using aggression and violence to manipulate or control a situation through intimidation and threats?
  • Does the client have their own preferred self-management techniques to de-escalate and prevent aggression and violence being the result?
  • Are there cultural issues or gender issues that need to be considered?

Does the aggressive behaviour follow a typical pattern? - If yes:

  • Are the triggers known?
  • Are their usual waning signs of escalation?
  • Is the escalation usually rapid or does it build up slowly?
  • Is the aggression usually verbal or physical?
  • Is the aggression usually directed at others, self or property?
  • Is the aggression directed at a particular person?
  • Are weapons typically used?
  • How long do incidents typically last?
  • Are their any approaches to de-escalate that are known to be effective with this client?
  • Does the client experience any post incident depression?

Are there AOD issues that are influencing the client’s behaviour? If yes is the client:

  • Intoxicated and on what substance or substances
  • Irritated as a result of a hang over or coming down
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms withdrawal
  • Frustrated through not being able to obtain substances

Are there predetermined organisational practices that apply to this situation?

  • Are there procedures for managing potential incidents involving aggression and violence   
  • Is there a management plan in place that needs to be followed for a particular client or a group of clients
  • Does anyone need to be notified (on-call, case manager)

What are the environmental considerations?

  • Is the client isolated/alone?
  • What is the level of risk to other clients or visitors?
  • Are others contributing to the escalation?
  • Do people need to be moved to a safe place?
  • Are other clients being triggered and potentially becoming violent or aggressive?
  • Are there any potential weapons or objects that could pose a threat nearby?
  • Where are exit routes exist and how easy is it for the client to withdraw from the situation?
  • Is there a safe private space (with appropriate exits and that can be monitored by other staff) that the client can be moved to if necessary?

What staff and resources are available to assist in implementing de-escalation strategies?

  • How many staff members are available to assist?
  • Who is the best person to take the lead role? 
  • How will other staff support the staff member taking the lead role?
  • What will the roles of other team members be?
  • Is organisational back-up or police involvement required?

Important note!
When approaching and interacting with someone who is demonstrating aggressive behaviour always check carefully that the person is not holding a weapon and also look around the immediate area for potential weapons.

At no stage should staff attempt to disarm a person who may be armed with a weapon, particularly an edged weapon or firearm, they should exit the area immediately along with all other people in the vicinity and police should be called.