According to recent research and the latest medical study certain violence risk factors associated with mental illness can be predicted. The researchers identified 3 specific factors that could up the odds of violent behavior by an individual who has been diagnosed with mental illness. These risk factors are the use of alcohol, being the victim of violence and behavior that is violent, and engaging in violent behavior. Mental health professionals should pay close attention to these three risk factors in order to predict which mentally ill patients may become violent in the future. Early intervention by mental health professionals could minimize or even eliminate the risk of violence in this class of patients. The recent study utilized a database with information on more than 4,400 cases and patients who were diagnosed with some form of mental illness, and these mental disorders included bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.
North Carolina State University associate professor of psychology Dr. Sarah Desmarais was one of the co-authors on the research study paper concerning the link between violence risk factors and mental illness. According to Desmarais “Our earlier work found that adults with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators —and that is especially relevant to this new study. One of the new findings is that people with mental illness who have been victims of violence in the past six months are more likely to engage in future violent behavior themselves. We found that these risk factors were predictive even when we accounted for age, sex, race, mental illness diagnosis and other clinical characteristics. This is useful information for anyone working in a clinical setting. But it also highlights the importance of creating policies that can help protect people with mental illness from being victimized. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it makes for safer communities.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers believe that gender roles and violence may be linked after the latest research findings. The researchers wanted to understand masculinity, and the behavioral health outcomes and injuries that can occur when masculinity and gender roles are involved. The researchers determined that when men feel that they are not living up to the traditional masculine gender roles and norms then these individuals may be more prone to violent behaviors and outbursts. The research focus was on masculine discrepancy stress, which is stress that happens when a man feels that he is not meeting the traditional gender norms for males. These individuals often feel that they are not as masculine as the typical or average man and this causes stress, and they can be more prone to violence as a result of these feelings and perceptions.
According to statements by the study authors in the Injury Prevention journal “Gender role discrepancy and associated discrepancy stress, in particular, represent important injury risk factors and that prevention of discrepancy stress may prevent acts of violence with the greatest consequences and costs to the victim, offender, and society. Masculine socialization and acceptance of gender norms may induce distress in boys and men.” A link to substance abuse was not discovered however, and the study team explained this by saying “This may suggest that substance use/abuse behaviors are less salient methods of demonstrating traditional masculinity in contrast to behaviors related to sex and violence, perhaps due to the potentially private nature of the habit.”
The link between mental illness and violence have led to individuals who have a mental illness being singled out or viewed with fear instead of compassion. Numerous studies and statistics show that people who are mentally ill are much more likely to commit suicide than they are to direct violence at someone else. In the USA alone in the year 2013 16,000 homicides were committed, and only 5% or around 800 of these homicides were committed by someone with a mental illness. In the same year 41,000 people commuted suicide in America, and around 90% of these individuals had at least one form of mental illness. These numbers show that someone who is mentally ill is more likely to harm themselves than they are to be violent with others.
The key to stopping violence and lowering the suicide rate is effective treatment for mental illness. Often individuals who have mental problems fall through the cracks. Treatment may be difficult to obtain, and mental illness can affect the thinking and decision making that the individual engages in. Many are calling for better mental health services and earlier intervention, and some are advocating for a return of policies from the past when the mentally ill were locked up indefinitely. Politicians rarely point out the suicide rate for mentally ill people while at the same time they are quick to blame mental illness when a mass shooting occurs and the perpetrator suffered from a mental condition. Until treatment for mental health is available to everyone who needs it there will be incidents of violence but these are much smaller than the number of people who take their own lives because they are mentally ill.
substance abuse, violence, suicide
There are proven links between substance abuse, violence, and suicide. Drug and alcohol abuse increase the risk that an individual will either become violent towards others or attempt to take their own life. There is some ambiguity in the studies and statistics though, because individuals who have substance abuse issues may also suffer from mental disorders that can play a role as well. Anyone who has an undiagnosed mental illness may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self medicate, and in these situations it can be hard to determine what was caused by the substance abuse and which actions and behaviors are actually the result of an underlying mental disorder that has not been accurately diagnosed and effectively treated.
Substance abuse has the ability to lower inhibitions, and in some cases violence is the result of this. When someone is drunk or high they may lash out in ways that would not occur when the individual is sober. Acts of violence may also increase the risk of suicide, especially if the individual feels that they can not control violent tendencies. If the person feels depressed or has emotional pain on a constant basis then this can also cause suicidal thoughts. When substance abuse is added into the mix then the person is more likely to act on an impulse to harm themselves or others because the drugs or alcohol use eliminates any restraint that they might have. Since around 90% of suicide attempts can be linked to mental illness it is important that any mental disorders are accurately diagnosed and substance abuse is avoided.