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Violence Towards People with Mental Health Problems

February 3, 2012

In 1993 CMHA conducted a cross-Canada study of violence towards people with mental health problems. The study focused on people who had experienced violence after becoming consumers of mental health services. It identified that the homes, public places and hospitals are the places where violence is most often experienced by people with mental health problems, and that family members, mental health service consumers and service providers are those most likely to be violent towards them.

The study also found that, although physical violence is the most obvious kind of violence suffered by people with mental health problems, verbal and emotional violence are seen as being equally prevalent and harmful.

Violence plays an enormously negative role in its effects on the quality of life of people with mental health problems, yet it is too easily overlooked as a major cause of suffering. Only through raising the general societal level of the negative effects of violence on people will there be a reduction in this destructive behaviour.

Principles

  • Violence, of any kind, towards people with mental health problems must not be tolerated.
  • Violence should not only be condemned, but must be addressed as a major and immediate problem by all sectors of society.
  • Power differentials in families, in institutions, and in service provider settings tend to provide the conditions that encourage violence from those in authority’ to those with little authority. Consequently, these power differentials which encourage violence should not go unchallenged.

Recommendations

The CMHA urges consumers, family members, service providers and policy makers to deal with the problem of violence towards people with mental health problems by taking the following actions. It is recommended:

  • That educational resources such as Dealing With Violence Towards People with Mental Health Problems be used to help raise awareness of the issue and to deal with the issue.
  • That all service provider agencies working with people with mental health problems work to encourage a positive non-authoritarian approach in the work they do, and that they work cooperatively with users of their service in the development of anti-violence initiatives in their communities.
  • That service provider agencies, in conjunction with consumers, develop policies such as a Consumer Bill of Rights to ensure that consumers are treated with respect and dignity.
  • That Boards of Education look to the development of non-authoritarian, non-sexist and anti-violent curricula, and that those institutions with input into mental health education ensure that anti-violence initiatives and attitudes become an integral part of their curricula.
  • That mental health consumers and service providers work cooperatively to ensure that any consumer settings create and maintain supportive environments and that they encourage non-violent interactions through the development of challenging and positive activities.
  • That consumers, family members and service providers work with local planning authorities to ensure safe and supportive public environments.

December 1996

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