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Patients Suffering From Severe Mental Diseases Are At Risk Of Being Crime Victims

People suffering from severe mental illnesses (SMI) are eleven times more at risk than general population from violent crimes. The research report//, which was published in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, said that one in every four severely mentally ill person is at risk from being the victim of violent criminal acts.

Symptoms associated with severe mental illness, such as disorganized thought processes, impulsivity and poor planning and problem solving may compromise one’s ability to perceive risks and protect oneself, the authors suggest. Other factors correlated with victimization, including substance abuse, conflicted social relationships, poverty and homelessness, are also common among persons with severe mental illness.

Researchers from Northwestern University, Chicago had administered the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to 936 randomly selected patients from 16 outpatient, day or residential mental health agencies in Chicago, comparing the results to data from the 32,449 participants in the annual NCVS conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Over one quarter of the SMI sample had been victims of a violent crime (attempted or completed) in the past year, 11.8 times higher than the NCVS rates; nearly 17 percent of the SMI sample had been victims of completed violence, the authors report. More than 21 percent of persons with SMI had been victims of personal theft (theft of an item from one’s person), more that 140 times higher than the NCVS rates. Nearly 28 percent of persons with SMI had been victims of property crimes, approximately four times higher than the NCVS rates.

Among persons with mental disorders, victimization can exacerbate existing disorders, increase the likelihood of service use and hospitalization, and substantially diminish quality of life. Moreover, victimization increases the likelihood of re-victimization and is associated with p
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