Mentally ill are ‘victims’ and not ‘perpetrators’ of violent behavior is myth: Study

Mentally ill are ‘victims’ and not ‘perpetrators’ of violent behavior is myth: Study

Mentally ill people are mostly sympathized with as they are usually looked upon as the victims of violence. Previous researches and common beliefs point to the possibility of mentally ill persons being victims of danger, and brutal and insensitive people around them. However, a recent study by the RTI International, North Carolina State University, the Duke University and the Arizona State University pointed at the risk factors that increase the likelihood of mentally ill people getting involved in violent behavior.

Interestingly, the study can also explain the mindset of the gunman Omar Mateen, who was behind the recent Orlando nightclub shooting, as his ex-wife has been claiming that Mateen was mentally unstable. The study, titled “Proximal Risk Factors for Short-Term Community Violence Among Adults With Mental Illnesses,” came up with characteristics of mentally ill people that would help psychologists and psychiatrists identify them as possible warning signs and provide help to the patients if necessary.

The study, published in the journal in Psychiatric Services in February 2016, looked at a database of 4,480 adults with a history of mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. They agreed to answer questions regarding their acts of violence and being victimized by threatening and intemperate behavior during six months prior to the study. The scientists had collected the database based on prior studies that had dealt with issues ranging from antipsychotic medications to various methods of therapeutic interventions.

All the studies dealt with different issues and had separate goals, but the common string among them was questions concerning violence and the extent of their victimization. Throughout the study, the scientists looked for details which would help decide about the conduct, actions and attributes predictive of violent behavior over a period of six months. The scientists said that various determinants of violent behavior ranged from pushing and shoving, to sexual assault, apart from an attack with a lethal weapon.

Alcohol increased likelihood of violent behavior in mentally ill people

Three risk factors were identified to forecast violent behavior in mentally ill people. The researchers found that the likelihood increased when the individual used alcohol or had been indulging in violent behavior over the past six months or if the mentally ill person had been subjected to indiscriminate violence during the past few months.

Co-author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, Sarah Desmarais, said, “This is useful information for anyone working in a clinical setting. But it also highlights the importance of creating policies that can help protect people with mental illness from being victimized. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it makes for safer communities.”

The study dispels the earlier myth that mentally ill people are only subjected to violence and can rarely go berserk themselves. Desmarais added, “Our earlier work found that adults with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators – and that is especially relevant to this new study.”

The study that received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)  helped negate conclusions of a 2014 study titled “Community Violence Perpetration and Victimization Among Adults With Mental Illnesses” about mentally ill people not capable of showing violent behavior. The previous study showed that adults afflicted with mental illnesses were more likely to be victims as they encountered violent outcomes at increased rates.

Road to recovery

It is possible to gain complete recovery from mental illnesses. While taking care of the loved ones who are mentally ill, it is imperative to understand that a certified medical practitioner experienced in treating psychological disorders would help in quick and smooth recuperation of the patients. At the Florida Mental Health Helpline, you may get information about various facilities for mental disorder treatment in Florida. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-846-5588 or chat online for further information.