Mentally ill at risk of violent abuse

Mentally ill people living in the community are twice as likely as members of the general public to be the target of violent abuse.

As many as 16 per cent of patients with psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and manic depression, were victims of violence in the past year, compared with just under 7 per cent of the general population.

These alarming findings were revealed in a study published last week by the Institute of Psychiatry in London. It is based on interviews with 708 patients with psychotic disorders living in four inner-city areas.

The study comes as the Home Office finalises plans to introduce legislation to enable psychiatrists to lock up mentally ill people they consider to be dangerous but who have not committed a crime.

The Independent on Sunday is leading a high-profile campaign, backed by psychiatrists and mental health campaigners, calling for the Government to respect the rights of the mentally ill.

Dr Elizabeth Walsh, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, who carried out the research, said it showed only a small number of those with mental illness were dangerous. "We are always reading in the media about how people with severe mental illness are dangerous," she said. "We may see them as a risk but we are probably a greater risk to them."

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