by mentally ill at record low, states new research
by Angela Hussain
number of homicides by mentally ill people is at its lowest ever
level for more than fifty years, according to new research.
from 2004 show there were less than 20 killings per year in England
and Wales by people with a mental illness, a study in the British
Journal of Psychiatry reported.
is the lowest ever level since the 1950s, and is
largely due to improved treatment, including medication, say the
study's findings are likely to call into question how best to assess
the number of killings attributable to mental ill health.
The government-backed National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide
and Homicide by People with Mental Illness reported that in 2004
there were 64 homicides by people who had had contact with psychiatric
services within 12 months of the offence.
states there are a steady 50 homicides per year by people with a
“history of mental illness”
this month's British Journal of Psychiatry (BJP) study stated homicides
by people with a mental illness has been in a steep decline since
1970 when it peaked 120 homicides per year, to around 30 in 2000
and 20 in 2004.
acknowledge that the "discrepancies" between the BJP study
and the national inquiry figures are largely due to how homicides
by people with a mental illness are recorded.
The BJP results were based mainly
on court verdicts of "diminished responsibility” to indicate
whether a killer had a mental illness. The
national inquiry statistics are based on people who had previous
"contact" with psychiatric services.
But psychiatrist Matthew Large,
lead author of the BJP study, believes its figures are advantageous
in that it recorded whether a homicide was committed because of
mental illness, and not other factors.
"The advantage of the legal
definitions used in [our] study is that the court has considered,
usually with care and expert advice whether mental illness was a
causal factor in the homicide,” Dr Large told psychminded.co.uk
"Mentally ill people may be
more likely to commit a homicide for reasons other than mental illness.
For example, patients with severe mental illness often drift to
less economically favorable conditions where violence is more common.”
Dr Nicola Swinson, a clinical research
fellow for the national inquiry and also a researcher in the BJP
study, said the "discrepancies" between the studies were
due to how the presence of mental illness was measured.
"As regards the most reliable
way of measuring rates of mental illness, it really depends on what
you're interested in," she said.
"At the inquiry...what we focus
on is those in contact with services, as this would seem to be the
most appropriate way of looking at potential changes to practice
and policy within mental health services, and therefore at improving
clinical care and reducing risk."
critics say "sensationalist" media reports of killings
by people with a mental illness led to the new "draconian"
mental health act which comes into force in three months.
new law allows the use of community treatment orders which aim to
ensure that certain community patients diagnosed with a mental illness
take their medication, and so are less likely to commit violence.
policy officer Alison Cobb blamed media coverage for misconceptions
about violence and mental illness.
number of homicides committed by people with mental distress have
long been a tiny fraction of the total," she said.
due to sensational media coverage of one-off cases, there has been
a widespread misconception that they are more common than they really
of British Journal of Psychiatry paper, entitled: Homicide due to
mental disorder in England and Wales over 50 years
Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness
– Annual homicide figures January 17th 2008
Andrew Bee, student, Open University
August 10, 2008
Interesting article. At the beginning of the article it says murders
are lower due to better medication concordance.
near the end, it says about the new 'draconian' act which will force
people to take their medication. Medication works and keeps people
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