Stigma

CLAIM: Doesn’t talking about violence just add to the stigma of mental illness?
FACT: Not talking about violence reinforces stigma against everybody with mental health problems.

 

Public awareness of mental health

In recent years public knowledge and awareness of mental illness has increased significantly in Britain.

Many people know that mental illness is common – particularly anxieties, panic attacks, eating disorders and depression. Many people will either have experienced this for themselves or know someone who has and will have great sympathy for them. They know that such patients are very rarely violent.

Violence

But with over 40,000 physical assaults on NHS Staff in mental health services each year in England and more than 100 mental health murders annually they also understand that some mentally ill patients can be very violent indeed and can commit terrible crimes.

This is a serious amount of violence and it appears to be increasing.

The public has a right to be concerned.

Stigma

The public’s association of mental illness with violence is probably one of the major causes of stigma against mentally ill individuals.

This violence is a fact. The most effective way to decrease stigma is to reduce the incidence of violent crimes by the mentally ill.

Denying the problem will just feed the stigma.

A way forward

Targeting effective treatment and care on those that need it most.

If the public had confidence that mental health services were

  • taking violence seriously – and not minimising its scale or impact,
  • were offering timely and good quality care,
  • were learning the lessons from previous incidents,

Then

  • the numbers of violent incidents would come down, and
  • the stigma against the mentally ill in general would inevitably decline.

Stigma is a real problem for some people with mental illness and we should do our best to eradicate it.

Tackling violence is an integral part of the solution.


SOURCES

Assaults on NHS Staff
There were 38 958 physical assaults on NHS staff in mental health and learning disability
settings recorded in England in 2008/9. (Physical assault defined as “The intentional application of force to the person by another without lawful justification, resulting in physical injury or personal discomfort”)
NHS Security Management Service: Reported assaults against NHS staff in England 2008-9
http://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/2948.aspx

100 mental health homicides
See Numbers.

See also:
Treatment Advocacy Center, Arlington, Va. United States.
http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21&Itemid=50

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