Modest link between mental illness and violence
- Contrary to popular belief, the relation between mental dis-order and
violence is modest, say John Monahan and colleagues of the MacArthur Foundation
Research Network on Mental Health and the Law. Their US$8-million research
was presented at a conference on mental-health law in Phoenix, Arizona,
USA, on Jan 9-10. The findings, which will be fully available in July,
are the culmination of 8 years of research in which 1000-plus patients
with mental disorders were assessed in the hospital and periodically in
the community to measure violence during the first year of their release.
This was then compared for violence with a large random sample of people
in the general population.
- The researchers found the link between mental disorder and violence
to be only modestly greater than chance. Previous research which confirmed
this however, could not be put to use to improve the accuracy of clinical
assessments. The researchers pointed out that better ways had to be found
to improve clinical risk assessment, enhance the effectiveness of clinical
risk management, and provide information for the reform of mental-health
law and policy. Accordingly, the researchers proposed risk-factors for
violence in a public-health setting (panel).
- Monahan and colleagues asked two further questions. How does the rate
of violence by former mental patients compare with the rate of violence
by other members of the community, and are the risk factors for violence
any different among former mental patients than among other community members?
- They did a second study of 500 people from the same community in which
former patients lived and found that patients with mental illness, and
those with major mental illness, such as schizophrenia, were no more violent
in absolute terms than people in the general population. However, patients
with mental illness who undertook substance abuse were more likely to show
violent behavior. Satvinder Juss
- DJ Jaffe, NAMI Board member brings up the following good points:
- Comment by DJ on the above:
- It looks like it might have the same fault as much other research,
in that it looks at people in hosp and in community. This means that folks
in jail suicided homeless or in prison are excluded. Excluding these folks
is one way people get violence stats artificially low.
The other question is how did they define mental illness? Did they assume
25% of pop is mentally ill (sic) or did they look at the 2.8% with chronic
and persistent NBDs. IOTW, their research may be right if applied to the
20% of pop, but not if applied to the 2.8% of adults over 18 w/nbd.
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