Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mental Health Labels and Violence

Originally posted December 2005

By Alison McCook Reuters Health
August 1, 2005, NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -

More than one-quarter of people with severe mental illness say they were victims of a violent crime within the past year, giving them a more than 11-fold higher risk than that seen in the general population, according to new study findings. Study author Dr. Linda A. Teplin of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, noted that for people without mental illness, being the victim of a crime can be very upsetting; the effect could be even more destabilizing for someone who has a mental illness."

Imagine if you're already vulnerable," she said. Teplin explained that people with mental illness are likely more vulnerable to crime than others because they often live in poor communities with a higher crime rate, and because their illness may make them unable to make safe decisions, such as avoiding an empty, dark street. "So many of the symptoms of mental illness can make you more vulnerable," she told Reuters Health. She added that many people are likely to be surprised by the findings, given the stereotype that people with mental illness are dangerous, rather than at risk of being victims themselves. As an illustration of this bias, Teplin and her colleagues found 13 times more research about people with mental illness as perpetrators of violent acts than as victims of violent acts. "We don't think about their vulnerability to victimization," she said in an interview. However, research suggests that between 4 and 13 percent of people with mental illness perpetrate crimes, making them much more likely to be the victim of a crime than its perpetrator, Teplin added.

As part of the study, the researchers interviewed 936 people with severe mental illness who were being treated at outpatient, day or residential facilities in Chicago. They found that, within the previous 12 months, people with severe mental illness were several times more likely to be victims of a number of crimes, including rape or sexual assault and property theft. For instance, people with mental illnesses were 140 times more likely to report having things stolen from their person. Often, what's stolen is relatively minor, but the incident can make people feel more anxious and vulnerable, which can worsen their mental illness, the authors note in the Archives of General Psychiatry. All told, they estimate that 3 million people with severe mental illness are victimized every year in the U.S. alone.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Leon Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School in Boston notes that this study may actually underestimate the rate of violence against people with mental illness, since it did not include people who are so ill they are unable to seek treatment, and they are likely at an even higher risk." Whether the true ratio for crimes of violence is 8 times or 12 times or 15 times that of the population rate, it clearly constitutes an enormous burden superimposed onto the already high personal costs of severe mental illness," he writes.

SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry, August 2005

Source: Reuters HealthThis 'Mental Health E-News' posting is a service ofthe New York Ass'n of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, a statewide coalition of people who use and/or provide community mental health services dedicated to improving services and social conditions for people with psychiatric disabilities by promoting their recovery, rehabilitation and rights.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

You should read a book called "WOMEN WHO LOVE PSYCHOPATHS" about what pathological people do to their victims (those in any sort of relationship with them)