ATLANTAContrary to common stereotypes, individuals with major mental disorders are more likely to become victims of violent crimes when they are experiencing an increase in symptoms than they are to commit crime, according to a new study by Brent Teasdale, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Georgia State University.
Teasdale found that patients experiencing delusions, hallucinations and worsening symptoms generally are most likely to become victims of violence. In addition, individuals with mental disorders are particularly vulnerable for victimization during times of homelessness and when suffering from alcohol abuse.
"They actually have higher rates of victimization than they have of violence commission, which I think is counter to the stereotype that highly symptomatic, obviously delusional, visibly mentally disordered people are dangerous, unpredictable and violent," Teasdale said. "There's no one size fits all approach to these delusions, but the odds of victimization are multiplied almost by a factor of two when a person experiences these delusions."
Teasdale analyzed data from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study, a longitudinal study of psychiatric patients released from three psychiatric hospitals in Pittsburgh, Pa., Kansas City, Mo., and Worchester, Mass. During the MacArthur study, participants were interviewed every 10 weeks for one year about violence committed against them, stress, symptoms and social relationships.
When individuals with mental disorders experience increases in delusions, symptom severity and alcohol problems they may be more focused on their internal states and have fewer cognitive resources available to devote to interactions with other people, Teasdale said. Other research suggests that victimization happens because caretakers may be driven away, leaving the disordered unprotected.
"If the stigma is that those are people we need to protect ourselves from, one of
|Contact: Leah Seupersad|
Georgia State University