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Myth / People with schizophrenia are likely to be violent.

Fact / Mental disorders and violence are closely linked in the public mind. Sensationalized reporting by the media (when was the last time you read a headline, "Sane Man Murders Family of Four"?) bears much of the blame, as do television and movie portrayals of crazed axe murderers. Another contributing factor is the popular misuse of psychiatric terms like "psychotic" and "psychopathic." The stereotype of the violent mental patient causes public fear and avoidance of the mentally ill.
     People with mental illness in general are no more dangerous than healthy individuals from the same population. Individuals with schizophrenia do show a slightly elevated rate of crimes of violence, but such acts are almost always committed by those who are not receiving proper treatment. In fact, people with schizophrenia are far more likely to be violent toward themselves than toward others. Forty to fifty percent of people with schizophrenia attempt suicide; ten percent succeed.

Eight Things to Keep in Mind About the Stereotype of Violence:

  1. Treatment dramatically reduces the risk of violence. Early treatment may also help with the confusion and suffering that occur when there is a complete psychotic break.
  2. The risk of violence is not necessarily due to schizophrenia, but rather to a combination of disorders.
  3. The contribution of those with schizophrenia to the overall incidence of crime is relatively small.
  4. The violence associated with schizophrenia is most often directed at a family member and in fact more likely to injure themselves.
  5. People with schizophrenia do not pose a risk to children.
  6. Risk of violence in those with schizophrenia appears to be very similar to that in the healthy population, when substance abuse is factored out.
  7. Risk of sexual offenses associated with schizophrenia is low.
  8. Only a small percentage of those with schizophrenia are responsible for the violent behavior that occurs in association with the disorder.

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