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The prevalence of victimization and violent behaviour in the seriously mentally ill

Abstract

This is a report on a project funded by the Criminology Research Council. The project aimed to determine lifetime rates of different types of victimisation in a population of psychiatric inpatients and to examine the associations between a history of victimisation and measures of adverse outcome. The study was based on a survey of 130 patients with a range of psychiatric diagnoses admitted to the psychiatric ward of a public hospital in Adelaide. Outcome measures were lifetime history of victimisation, as measured by the Traumatic Antecedents Questionnaire, and aggressive feelings and behaviour, as measured by the Aggression Questionnaire and the Past Feelings and Acts of Violence Scale. The study found that a lifetime history of victimisation was reported in 87.7% of patients. Victimisation was associated significantly with receipt of the disability support pension and number of previous psychiatric hospitalisations, both measures of more adverse outcome. The report concludes that the association between high lifetime rates of victimisation in psychiatric patients and adverse outcome may have both clinical and policy implications for the long term management of people with mental illness independent of the presenting diagnosis. Future mental health reform policy needs to take account of the fact that the community environments where patients are often placed are associated with high rates of crime and violence, and may therefore mitigate against resolution of chronic psychiatric illness.

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