Violence in society

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7363.507 (Published 7 September 2002)
Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:507

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Contribution of mental illness is low

  1. Elizabeth Walsh, clinical lecturer.,
  2. Thomas Fahy, professor (sppmemw@iop.kcl.ac.uk)
  1. Section of Forensic Mental Health, Guy's, King's College, and St Thomas's School of Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, London SE5 8AF

    As increasing numbers of mentally ill patients have been treated and reside in the community, public concern about their potential for violence has increased. Fear and stigma of mentally ill people have been exaggerated by high profile and occasionally sensationalist reporting of rare, albeit tragic, violent acts1

    Are people with mental illness more violent than other people? An influential German study published in 1973 led to the belief that people with mental disorder were no more likely to be violent than the general population.2 This view remained unchallenged until the late 1980s. The best epidemiological data on violence and mental disorder come from the American ECA (epidemiologic catchment area) study.3 Self reported violence in the past year was measured among a representative community sample of 10 059 individuals. The prevalence of violence in people with no psychiatric disorder was 2%, and it was much higher in young men. Violence was reported in 8% of people with schizophrenia. People with alcohol (24%) or drug misuse or dependence disorders (34%) presented the highest risk. This study clearly shows that the increased risk of …

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