Risk of violence among patients in psychiatric treatment: results from a national census
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionNordic Journal of Psychiatry. 2017, 71 (8), 551-560. 10.1080/08039488.2017.1352024
Background: Adverse media coverage of isolated incidents affects the public perception of the risk of violent behavior among people with mental illness. However, the risk of violence is studied most frequently among inpatients, which falsely exaggerates the prevalence of people with mental illness because the majority of individuals receive treatment as outpatients. Aim: To estimate the prevalence of the risk of violence among inpatients and outpatients in psychiatric treatment, as well as the associations with gender, age, socio-economic status and co-morbid substance use disorders in all major diagnostic categories. Methods: We conducted a national census of patients in specialist mental health services in Norway, which included 65% of all inpatients (N = 2,358) and 60% of all outpatients (N = 23,124). Results: The prevalence of the risk of violence was 32% among inpatients and 8% among outpatients, where 80% of the patients in specialist mental health services were outpatients. If we weight the prevalence rates accordingly, less than 2% of the patients in specialist mental health services had a high risk of violent behavior. Conclusions: The stigma attached to those with mental illness is not consistent with the absence or low to modest risk of violent behavior in 98% of the patient group. Substance use disorders must be given priority in the treatment of all patient groups. Mental health care in general and interventions that target violent behavior in particular should address the problems and needs of these patients better, especially those who are unemployed, have a low level of education and have a background of being a refugee or an immigrant.