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James Gilligan    

Psychiatrist & Expert on Violence

An acclaimed psychiatrist, Dr. James Gilligan is the author of Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic and Preventing Violence: Prospects for Tomorrow, among many other books. Much of his life work has consisted of researching the various biological, psychological, and social phenomena that increase rates of violence - including the prevalence and availability of guns - and that decrease rates of violence - such as limiting the prevalence, lethality, and availability of guns.

Dr. Gilligan has concluded that violence is always a desperate and risky attempt to gain respect, attention, and recognition for oneself or for the group with which one identifies. This theory is able to explain a whole range of violent behaviors, from individual (homicide and suicide) to collective (war, terrorism, and genocide) and enables doctors to devise and test practical methods to prevent violence. Through his work among the most violent people our society produces - in prisons and in prison mental hospitals - he has become one of the leading exponents of shifting our emphasis from punishing violence after it occurs to preventing it before it happens.

Dr. Gilligan has appeared in several Emmy-nominated documentary films for television and has appeared on Peter Jennings' newscast and Ted Koppel's Nightline as well as a CBS Town Meeting on the juvenile justice system hosted by Dan Rather. He has discussed his books on NPR's "Fresh Air," "The Connection," and numerous other radio and television programs throughout the US, Canada, England, and other countries.

Dr. Gilligan served as the psychiatric consultant and advisor for Martin Scorsese's film Shutter Island, which was based on a fictionalized account of the history of the Massachusetts prison mental hospital during the time Dr. Gilligan was its medical director. Ben Kingsley played the role of "Dr. John Cawley" based on Dr. Gilligan.

Dr. Gilligan is on the faculty of New York University where he is clinical professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine, adjunct professor in the School of Law, and collegiate professor in the School of Arts and Science. For the Department of Psychiatry, he serves as a consultant and supervisor on the evaluation and treatment of the violent mentally ill.

Speech Topics

Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others

Politicians and the political process, even in ostensibly democratic countries, can be deadly. James Gilligan has discovered that for the past century, when Republicans have gained the presidency, the country has also repeatedly suffered from epidemics of violent death. Rates of both suicide and homicide have sky-rocketed. Due to social and economic distress, inequality and loss, unemployment, recessions, poverty, bankruptcy, and homelessness also ballooned to epidemic proportions. When that has happened those in the population who were most vulnerable have "snapped," with tragic consequences for everyone.

A Psychiatrist Goes To the Movies (and Vice Versa): Dr. Gilligan & Shutter Island

Shutter Island, Martin Scorsese’s October 2009 film, stars Ben Kingsley in the role of "Dr. John Cawley," a character loosely based on Dr. James Gilligan.

Dr. Gilligan provides commentary in the DVD of the film, and receives screen credit as the psychiatric consultant. He lectures on his experiences in working on the film, as well as his extraordinary tenure working at one of the country's most notorious mental institutions for the criminally insane.

The Key to Understanding & Preventing Violence

Political and Economic Causes and Cures of Violent Crime in the US


Punishment Fails. Rehabilitation Works. - Room for Debate ...

James Gilligan, a clinical professor of psychiatry and an adjunct professor of law at New York University, is the author of, among other books, "Preventing ...

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