Study: Mentally ill more likely to be victims than perpetrators
Posted February 25, 2014
Research, conducted in part at North Carolina State and Duke universities, shows that people who are mentally ill are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than they are to be the perpetrator. The study, which also included work at RTI International, the University of California, Davis, and Simon Fraser University was funded by a grant from the National Institute for Mental Health.
The researchers surveyed almost 5,000 adults with mental illnesses about whether they had either committed a violent act or been the victim of one.
They found almost 31 percent had been a victim during the six months prior to the study, but only 24 percent said they had acted violently.
Dr. Sarah Desmarais, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work, said,"We hear about the link between violence and mental illness in the news, and we wanted to look not only at the notion that the mentally ill are a danger to others, but the possibility that they are also in danger.”
“We also found that participants who had been victims of violence were 11 times more likely to commit violence,” Desmarais said. “This highlights the need for more robust public health interventions that are focused on violence. It shouldn’t just be about preventing adults with mental illness from committing violent acts, it should also be about protecting those at risk of being victimized.
“For one thing, it’s the right thing to do,” Desmarais adds. “In addition, while correlation is not necessarily causation, preventing violence against the mentally ill may drive down instances of violence committed by the mentally ill.”
The paper, “Community Violence Perpetration and Victimization Among Adults With Mental Illnesses,” is published online in the American Journal of Public Health.