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World Psychiatry. 2003 Jun;2(2):121-4.

Violence and mental illness: an overview.

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  • 1Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Abramsky Hall, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada.


THIS PAPER EVALUATES THE RELATIONSHIP OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND VIOLENCE BY ASKING THREE QUESTIONS: Are the mentally ill violent? Are the mentally ill at increased risk of violence? Are the public at risk? Mental disorders are neither necessary nor sufficient causes of violence. Major determinants of violence continue to be socio-demographic and economic factors. Substance abuse is a major determinant of violence and this is true whether it occurs in the context of a concurrent mental illness or not. Therefore, early identification and treatment of substance abuse problems, and greater attention to the diagnosis and management of concurrent substance abuse disorders among seriously mentally ill, may be potential violence prevention strategies. Members of the public exaggerate both the strength of the association between mental illness and violence and their own personal risk. Finally, too little is known about the social contextual determinants of violence, but research supports the view the mentally ill are more often victims than perpetrators of violence.

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