(June 20, 2014) Individuals with untreated serious mental illness, especially women, are extremely vulnerable to being victimized. A recently updated Treatment Advocacy Center backgrounder reviews existing studies on this association and offers summaries of them.
Victimization of persons with severe psychiatric disorders, the backgrounder says, “frequently involves acts such as theft of clothing or money but also includes assault, rape, or being killed.” These disturbing acts are unfortunately quite common, according to research on the subject. Some of the key research findings the background refers to are:
1. A 2014 analysis of five American studies of victimization among adults with mental illness that found that 31 percent of study participants had experienced at least one episode of physical violence;
2. A 2012 meta-analysis of victimization studies that found that 24 percent of mentally ill individuals had been victimized; and
3. A 2009 review of victimization studies that found victimization to occur more frequently among individuals who were also abusing drugs and/or alcohol and among those with the most severe symptoms.
Also of particular note is a 2002 North Carolina study that showed that individuals with severe psychiatric disorders were victimized only half as often when on outpatient commitment orders as compared to their peers who were not participating in outpatient commitment.
The victimization of individuals with serious mental illnesses is a disgraceful consequence of the failure to provide these individuals with timely treatment that could reduce their vulnerability. Our backgrounder, “How often are individuals with serious mental illness victimized?” can help advocates to educate stakeholders in their communities about one of the biggest reasons to support better treatment standards and assisted outpatient treatment laws.
For access to more of our backgrounders, which summarize information about severe mental illness, policies and programs related to its treatment, and the consequences of lack of treatment, visit the “Reports, Studies, Backgrounders” page on our website.
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