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Facts on Violence and Persons with Mental Illness
Voices VS Violence

Research has shown that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses.

Public perception has assumed mental illness to be linked with violence. Violent behavior of persons with mental illnesses represents only a minor contribution to all violence crimes. In a recent study by the NIMH Epidemiological Catchment Area Study, it was estimated that 90 percent of persons with current mental illness are not violent.

Recent research reported by the American Psychiatric Association suggests that a small subgroup of people with severe and persistent mental illness is at risk of becoming violent. However, with treatment and taking prescribed medication, these people are no more dangerous than the general population.

Violence against people with mental health problems is a serious issue and a chronic problem for those who experience it. Studies indicate ongoing fear, social isolation, and lack of confidence as a result of violent incidents.

In a Canadian study, verbal/emotional abuse was reported as the kind of violence most commonly experienced by persons with mental illness. It was reported as the worst form of violence experienced, with physical and sexual abuse ranking second and third.

High quality and accessible treatment services must be made available to all persons with mental illness. Providing consistent therapeutic services, medication as appropriate, and comprehensive social support is the best way to prevent violent behavior among the small minority of persons with mental illness who are at risk of violent behavior.

Training to improve awareness of the problem of violence against people with mental health problems, specifically those working in the mental health system, helping agencies and the police force should be implemented.

Continued funding and greater expansion of community-based public mental health services must be of the highest priority to reduce the numbers of persons with mental illness who are so often victims of violence as well as the small subset who are at increased risk of violent behavior.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Fact Sheet: Violence and Mental Illness, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Violence and Psychiatric Disorder in the Community: Evidence from the Epidemiological Catchment Area Surveys.

Swanson, J.W., Holzer, C.E., Ganju, V.K., and Jono, R.T. (1990) Hospital and Community Psychiatry. 41, 761-770 American Psychiatric Association,. 1884

Canadian Mental Health Association. (1993). Violence Against People with Serious Mental Health Problems, by Jim Ward Associates. Toronto: Canadian Mental Health Association.

Canadian Mental Health Association, 1993.

National Mental Health Association. (1995). National Mental Health Association Position Statement, Violence in America: A Community Mental Health Response. Voices Vs. Violence, MHA Program Series, Vol. 1, National Mental Health Association.

Canadian Mental Health Association, 1993.

National Mental Health Association. (1995). National Mental Health Association Position Statement, Violence in America: A Community Mental Health Response, Voices Vs. Violence, MHA Program Series, Vol. 1, National Health Association.

Information provided by the NMHA.