People with mental illness rarely kill strangers says new report
People with mental illness rarely kill strangers, says a
new report published today from the National Confidential
Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental
The Confidential Inquiry, a national research study funded
by the Department of Health in association with the Royal
College of Psychiatrists, based at the University of
Manchester, has found that 10 per cent of victims of
homicide by people with mental illness were strangers
compared to 26 per cent of victims of people without
mental illness. 82 per cent of victims of homicide by
people with mental illness were family members.
Professor Louis Appleby, Professor of Psychiatry and
Director of the Inquiry said:
"The public fear of mental illness is partly based on the
belief that the mentally ill are a major risk to strangers. Our
report shows that most killings are in fact committed by
people without mental illness. In homicides by people
with mental illness, the victims are usually family
members; both patients and their families deserve the full
support of mental health services. "
The Inquiry report is based on 479 suicides by people
under mental health service care, and 238 homicides by
people with or without a history of mental illness,
notified to the Inquiry in the year from April 1996.
Further key findings include:
13 per cent of the suicide cases were psychiatric
in-patients at the time of death, while 28 per cent had
been discharged from in-patient care within 3 months of
In most suicides, suicide risk was judged to be low at the
final contact with mental health services.
Mental health teams reported that better compliance with
treatment was the main factor that would have made
suicides less likely.
Less than a third of suicides were being treated under the
Care Programme Approach, the system for supervising
vulnerable patients in the community.
Professor Appleby continued:
"The figures show how difficult it can be to predict who
will commit suicide. The recognition of suicide risk is now
a key area for further study by the Inquiry. Our future
findings will form the basis of training for front line mental
health staff. "
Key findings also include:
17 per cent of those convicted of homicide were found to
have had symptoms of mental illness at the time of the
5 per cent of those convicted of homicide had symptoms
of psychotic illness, eg. delusions and hallucinations.
People with mental illness who committed homicide had
a lower rate of previous violence than non mentally ill
Alcohol and drugs were less likely to have contributed to
the offence in the cases of those with mental illness.