Mental Health and Violence

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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...
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