One in four people with mental illness experiences violence of some type in a given year, a much higher rate than the rest of the population, according to a new analysis of research on the subject.
The "meta-analysis" of 21 studies between 1990 and 2010 found the odds of physical, sexual or partner violence for people with a mental illness to be almost four times higher than for adults without any disability – and far higher than for individuals with other disabilities (“Mentally ill often targets of violence,” MedPage Today, Feb. 27).
The researchers said the strict criteria they established for including studies in their analysis probably resulted in underestimating the victimization of people with disabilities.
"Lifetime exposure to violence, and the proportions of individuals with disability who are directly threatened with violence or otherwise live in fear of becoming a victim, are likely to be substantially higher than our estimate," the authors wrote in "Prevalence and risk of violence against adults with disabilities: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies" (The Lancet).
It is a sad commentary on the nature of public interest that the estimated 1% of individuals with untreated severe mental illness who commit acts of violence grabs so many headlines while the 25% of those who fall victim to violence generate so few. It is equally difficult to fathom how critics can find involuntary treatment more unacceptable for those in need of treatment than the high chance they’ll become victims of violence.
"Prevalence and risk of violence against adults with disabilities" is available only to Lancet subscribers or those who pay a fee to view it. For Dr. E. Fuller Torrey's backgrounder on violence against the mentally ill, read "Victimization: One of the consequences of failing to treat individuals with severe mental illnesses."