Programme week commencing 27th September, 2012, sent to us by Mary Nettle while she was on holiday as her contribution to the International Day of Peace 21st September. We agreed at the beginning of the year one of our aims was to make our members more aware of Mental Health.

As a media consuming public, we are often led to believe that people with mental health problems are violent. Like the Norwegian shooter case once again proved, mass murderers are deemed as “mad” even before any psychiatric evaluations, movies often portray criminals as having mental health problems, and the sensationalist press hardly shies away from associating negative character traits with mental illness. Therefore, it is no wonder studies show that people significantly overestimate the probability of violence linked to mental health problems, a perception which only leads to further discrimination and victimization of this already-excluded group.

Actually, the truth could not be further away. Mental health problems are not, and never were predictors of violence. Instead, research shows that people with mental health problems are 2.5 times more prone to becoming victims of violence themselves, compared to other members of society. Women with psychosocial disabilities, whose testimonies about their experienced aggression are interpreted as symptoms of mental illness, are also more likely to suffer violence or sexual abuse. Moreover, according to the World Health Organization, children with mental health problems or intellectual disabilities are 4.6 times more likely to suffer from sexual violence compared with their non-disabled peers. This is largely due to stigma, discrimination, or ignorance about mental health problems, along with greater vulnerability to violence and a lack of appropriate support.

Therefore, on Peace Day 2012, as part of the Peace One Day ‘Reducing Domestic Violence’ Coalition, Mental Health Europe would like to set the record straight on violence and mental health. The two are surely connected, just not the way you might to think. Whether through forced treatment, constant bullying, or flat-out aggression, persons with mental health problems experience a higher degree of violence than the general population. They are victims, not perpetrators. Moreover, the financial crisis has further deteriorated this situation, as a poll from the Unite Kingdom shows that 46% of the disabled people interviewed feel that attitudes towards them have worsened in the past year.

While it is difficult to change perceptions, a good first step is making easily-accessible information on mental health available to all. Governments should take the lead in adopting and implementing anti-discrimination legislation, fully respecting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and promote educational projects on mental health, aimed at the larger public. Also, it is crucial to get the media on board in fighting stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems, and put an end to this senseless violence.

People with mental health problems are just that – people, who, like all people, have problems. With a 25% rate of mental health problems through the European Union, they could be you, me, your friends or loved ones.

It is easy to condone violence aimed at people perceived as different. But it is never acceptable or moral. Mental health problems are really the last bastion of discrimination. On, Peace Day, and any other day, we should help it fall.

Silvana Enculescu

Information and Communications Manager
Mental Health Europe – Santé Mentale Europe aisbl
Boulevard Clovis 7, B-1000 Brussels


If you have any questions or observations about this article or Mental Health in general please leave a comment for Mary to reply to, thank you Mary for this informative article.


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0 thoughts on “Mental health problems are linked to violence – just not how you’d think!

  1. Mary Nettle says:

    Sorry to see no comments yet but this has not been up long. I have lots to say on this subject as somebody who has been living with a mental illness diagnosis for many years. People do not like talking about it although it is very common and this makes people and their families afraid to ask for help. This is changing but way too slowly,people in the public eye like Steven Fry talk about it and now even MP’s BUT we need to address our fears and bring this hidden invisible disability in to the open. World Mental Health Day is soon 10 Oct and there will be things happening in your local area to raise awareness. Look at the Time to Change website for more info, ask me, talk to people on trains in your offices bring up the subject of mental health do not be afraid of the subject please.

  2. Janice Mason says:

    As I was reading the article It made me wonder how you actually talk about it to others, it’s not a subject easily dropped into a conversation and as you say it is an invisible thing in society so not widely talked about. But people do talk about films and what’s on the news, so they are key things we can use to stimulate conversation. So the next question is, what do we actually talk about from a positive point of view? Does all discussion have to be defensive? I hope not.

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