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People with mental illness are two and a half times more likely to be the victoms of homicide than others in the general population. While homicides and other crimes committed by people with mental illness take the headlines, as victims of violence, mentally ill people don’t get a lot of attention.
A new study examines the characteristics of homicide victims across England and Wales between January 2002 and December 2005. Researchers found that almost 1500 people were victims of homicide and 6% had been treated for mental illness in the year before their deaths. A third of them were killed by people with mental illness. Alcohol and drug use as well as a history of violence also figured prominently among the victims and perpetrators.
“Historically, society has been more concerned about the risk of patients committing violence than in the vulnerability of patients to violent acts,” noted study leader Professor Louis Appleby from The University of Manchester in the UK. “However, our findings show that specialist mental health providers in England and Wales can expect one of their patients to be the victim of homicide roughly every two years.”
“Assessing patients for risk of suicide and violence is common practice, but screening for risk of becoming victims of violence is not. Understanding that a patient’s risk can depend on the environment they are in – for example their use of alcohol or drugs, or their contact with patients with history of violence – are properly assessing these risk factors should become a key part of clinical care plans,” noted Prof. Appleby.
Alyssa Rheingold from the Medial University of South Carolina suggests that risk factors among patient victims such as substance use, low socioeconomic status type of psychopathology, and engagement in behaviors that increase risk could be targeted. “Research must be undertaken to inform the development of a more comprehensive model to address the multifaceted manner in which individual and environmental characteristic contribute to risk,” she noted.
Source: MedicalNewsToday, The Lancet Psychiatry
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