Mental Health and Violence Myths and Facts
The link between mental health and violence is widely assumed across all sections of the society. It is believed that those with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (BD) display violence behavior, with a tendency to commit serious offenses, including assault, theft and homicide, among others.
Public opinion surveys suggest that many people think mental health and violence go hand in hand. In fact, research suggests that this public perception of mental health and violence does not reflect reality. Most individuals with mental health disorders are not violent. Although a batch of people with mental health disorders does assaults and violent crimes, findings have been inconsistent about how much mental health contributes to this behavior and how much substance abuse and other factors do.
One violent event leads to various other additional effects
During the course of the study, about 3,000 respondents answered questionnaires related to mental health and violence and its victimization. The study involved addressing the following two fundamental questions:
•    If someone is victimized, is he or she more likely to mental health and violence?
•    If someone is violent, is he or she more likely to mental health and violence?
According to Richard Van Dorn, lead author of the study, "The answer is yes, to both questions." This implies that the vicious cycle mental health and violence extended beyond one random incident. The cascading impact of mental health and violence was more profound in people with substance. For example, drug abuse was found to be associated with committing violence, while alcohol abuse was a leading indicator of being victimized.
Apart from mental health and violence, the study also highlighted that affective symptoms such as anxiety, depression, etc., were closely linked to violence. As explained by Sarah Desmarais, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the paper, "The more pronounced affective symptoms were, the more likely someone was to both mental health and violence and be a victim of violence."
Even one incident involving mental health and violence can be disastrous, owing to the prevailing bias and misconception in the society. Whether a victim or a perpetrator, the price is often paid by the mentally ill. According to the researchers, even a single event of victimization was responsible for causing seven other effects, such as psychological symptoms, homelessness, becoming perpetrators of violence, among others. These seven effects in turn triggered an additional 39 effects.
In order to prevent this vicious cycle, the study called for investment in community-based mental health treatment programs. Community-based welfare programs are more effective in reducing mental health and violence events than waiting for patients to show up in the legal records as either victims or perpetrators of violence, said the researchers.
Help is just a call away
For most patients with mental health and violence problems, the path to well-being and recovery begins at home. Most mental health disorders can be managed with medications, therapy and counseling. Advancement in technology has given considerable leverage to mental health treatment. Apart from the family, community health centers have till date shown considerable efficiency in taking care of the mentally ill.
Mental health disorders can have an adverse impact on personal and professional life of an individual. Untreated mental health disorders also take a toll on the health of caretakers, family members and friends. However, mental health disorders are treatable and recovery is possible through evidence-based diagnosis and treatment programs. Many people with a mental health problem like anxiety or depression lead productive lives and do well in their respective fields.