Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Study Suggests Factors Predictive of Violent Behavior in People With Mental Illness

Results from a meta-analysis in Psychiatric Services in Advance shows that three factors may be associated with an increased risk for adults with mental illnesses to commit community violence in the near future. They are alcohol use, exhibiting violent behaviors, and being a victim of violence within the past six months. The findings, the authors suggested, have the potential to help mental health professionals identify those patients who may be at risk to be violent, allowing intervention and possible prevention.

The analysis included information of more than 2,500 individuals from five previous studies with mental illnesses—including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorder—who were surveyed at both baseline and six-month follow-up on their exposure to violence (being a perpetrator or victim), alcohol and drug use, psychiatric symptoms, and psychiatric hospitalization in the past six-months. Violent behaviors ranged from pushing and shoving to sexual assault and assault with a deadly weapon and were assessed by the MacArthur Community Violence Screening Instrument. Data were adjusted for age, sex, race, and primary diagnosis.

“This study provides empirical evidence for three proximal, clinically relevant indicators in the assessment and management of short-term violence risk among adults with mental illnesses,” the study authors wrote. “Although clinicians may never be able to answer the public calls for the absolute prediction—and prevention—of violence by adults with mental illnesses, attending to these indicators in clinical practice should assist in the identification of persons [who may be] at heightened risk of community-based violence.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “What Is My Duty to Warn?"

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