Schizophrenia group warns of killings and suicides

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MORE THAN 40 people have died at the hands of diagnosed schizophrenics or other seriously mentally ill people in the last two years, according to the National Schizophrenia Fellowship.

The NSF survey also shows that at least 100 mentally ill people have committed suicide in the same period, during which the policy of closing mental hospitals in favour of 'care in the community' has been accelerated.

Fred Carney, of the NSF, said schizophrenics were naturally no more violent than anyone else. But, he said, care systems had to be in place to look after them. 'People are being discharged to absolutely nothing. Hospital closures have put the social services under enormous stress.' He added that 17 to 18 per cent of schizophrenics attempted suicide.

Last week, reports of two killings by mentally ill people focused concern on the 'care in the community' policy. Both the young men involved committed random attacks, and had been discharged from hospitals and left uncared for despite having histories of violence.

The schizophrenia organisation, Sane, said yesterday that it was surprised that NSF's figures were not higher. 'Since we opened our helpline last year we've had more than 70,000 calls, many of them from people in fear of their lives or from sufferers frightened of what they might do,' a spokeswoman said.

About 20,000 schizophrenics have been released into the community since 1984, and 35,000 psychiatric beds have been withdrawn.