Are people with mental illness more violent than the rest of the population? If you only listen to the media, you are sure to answer, “Yes”. However, most of us know that the media is not the most reliable source of information. In fact, the media has a Tendency to bend the facts, plucking out stories and statistics that colour the truth in order to popularize their Medium. Most people who have mental health problems experience symptoms, and gradually recover. They may pick Up where they left off, or head in a new direction in life.
Everybody’s experience of mental ill health is Different and everybody’s recovery is therefore individual. For a minority of people, the symptoms of their mental health problem might lead them to act strangely or Breach the peace. A still smaller minority of these may become a risk to themselves, the people around Them or the public. It is misleading for the media to imply that people with mental health problems are likely to be dangerous, or To focus coverage of mental illness on rare tragedies.
Similarly, suggesting that violent or criminal behaviour Is a symptom of mental health is inaccurate, and fuels the fear and misunderstanding that lead to stigma. Open discussion of all issues around mental health promotes understanding and reduces stigma. The relationship between mental illness and crime is complex and there are a number of confounding factors Which can cloud the evidence: 1. the mentally ill tend to drop in social economic status, which means that they May live in more violent communities:
2. Psychiatric categories of mental illness tend to involve violence in their Definition, consequently the mentally ill are violent because they are required if they are so categorised and: 3. The public may be more alarmed by a given level of violent behaviour if that person shows signs of mental Illness. As a consequence the violence of the mentally ill may more readily reported to the police (Ref forensic and criminal psychology chapter 20 page 368 Dennis howitt 3rd edition) “People with mental health problems are upset by the way they are portrayed in the media.
Terms like Schizophrenia, depression or anxieties are replaced by bonkers, nutter, psycho or loony. Whenever there is a Crime, it is a “nutter” that did it, even if there’s no link to mental health problems. These terms confuse People, do nothing to educate the public, and are very hurtful to people who live with mental ill health. ”A tiny minority of people with serious mental health problems might at some time be a threat to themselves Or the public. This risk can be reduced still further by early support, and an individually managed care plan that treats the Patient as a person, capable of recovery.
A modern NHS network of secure care facilities allows people to beTreated appropriately, at the right level of security. Appropriate procedures ensure people may only rejoin Their communities when they are ready, and not before. Many people who have at one time or another been treated in secure care move on successfully to the Community. Many people who are treated in low and medium secure care arrive there simply because their Needs are too complex for regular NHS care, and often, as their illness stabilises, they are able to move back Down through low secure and back to regular NHS care.
Some patients in the State Hospital will never be able to progress down the ladder of security. Others are Able to move on. All patients are individuals, and should be regarded as such. Where stigma and discrimination results in increased social exclusion, where attitudes prevent or delay the Establishment and delivery of appropriate care, or where fear of reprisal prevents clinical staff speaking to Patients, any risk are increased, not decreased. As a group, people with mental health issues are not more violent than any other group in our society.
The Majority of crimes are not committed by people with psychiatric illness, and multiple studies have proven that There is very little relationship between most of these diseases and violence. The real issue is the fact that people With mental illness are two and a half to four times more likely to be the victims of violence than any other group In our society. A small group of people with mental illness (those with severe and untreated symptoms of schizophrenia with Psychosis, major depression or bi-polar mood disorder) may have an increased rate of violence.
In this group, Individuals who are suffering from psychotic symptoms that cause them to feel threatened or manipulated by Outside forces have a greater tendency towards violent behaviour. In spite of this, with early assessment and Appropriate treatment, individuals with severe illness are no more dangerous than the general population. Community treatment programs have also been found to be helpful in the management of behaviours that lead to crime.
We want to emphasize that the actual number of people who belong to this group is extremely small, particularly When compared to the overall number of people who are coping with mental illness. Unfortunately, the media spotlights this small group of individuals, unfairly painting all people with Mental illness as potentially violent criminals.
There is no doubt that the results of a rampage can be tragic, But the media tends to exploit the drama and leave out the context. Aside from the group of severely ill individuals, multiple studies have shown that mental illness alone does Not incline a person to violence.
Instead, it is the influence of “co-variants” (factors that are present in Addition to mental illness) which increase the risk of violent behaviour. In fact, the presence of co-variant Factors is a strong indicator for violence in any individual, regardless of whether or not they have a mental illness. Some co-variants are •A history of violence:
One of the strongest predictors of future violent behaviour is a past history of violence, whether it was experienced as an observer, a victim or a perpetrator. •Substance use problems: Whether it is drugs or alcohol, use of either substance seems to increase the •Likelihood of violence by sevenfold.
In fact, some studies show that substance use problems increase the risk of violence in any individual far more than the effects of a major mental disorder. •Socioeconomic environment: Not surprisingly, homelessness, lack of social support, poverty and inadequate housing has also been found to contribute towards violent behaviour. •Gender and youth: Being a young, male adult can also add to the risk factors associated with violence. Remember – a person with co-variant factors but no mental illness is far more likely to commit acts of Violence than someone with mental health issues and none of the co-variants.
Investigation of the link between mental illness and violence is important but it could be argued that up until now it Has dominated our thinking too much, which has led to the neglect of other important considerations. It is as Valuable to identify and evaluate effective treatment models such as cognitive behaviour therapy and assertive Community treatment in order to relieve suffering and prevent future violent behaviour in this vulnerable group. Finally, we are all surrounded by hazards in our daily life yet there remains intense media and government Attention upon the danger of violence posed by people with a diagnosis of mental illness.
This creates a vicious Cycle in which the public becomes fearful thereby increasing social exclusion and stigma of those who are Already suffering greatly from their mental illness. Poor mental health has substantial personal and economic impacts across the European Union. Stigma and discrimination associated with poor mental health exacerbate these impacts. Consistently evidence points towards strongly negative attitudes towards people with mental health problems: in particular there is an inaccurate view that they represent a danger to the community, a view strongly reinforced in the media.
Negative attitudes are not only found among the general public, but even among mental health professionals. This and other elements of stigma increases social distance: it for instance reduces the likelihood of an individual becoming employed or accessing health care services. It is important that strategies to counter stigma are evidence-based. While there has been much research on stigma, particularly in Germany and the UK, evidence on effective and cost effective interventions remains highly limited and steps to plug this gap in our knowledge through careful evaluation of different interventions in different contexts would be well merited.
Interventions need to be able to reduce the social distance that leads to the stigmatisation, prejudice and social exclusion of many of our fellow Europeans. Promising programmes include initiatives to help people return to work and education/awareness campaigns that are targeted at segments of the population most likely to come into contact with people with mental health needs. People with mental illness are really the vulnerable ones.
They not only battle a disease that is invisible, They battle society’s perception of who they are and what they do. Violence is not only a physical threat; it Can also be an emotional, intellectual and spiritual attack? The stigma we place on mental illness is an Assault on a person’s dignity and an insult to their humanity. I do not believe that people that suffer from a mental illness are at increased risk of violence