It’s been a while, hasn’t it, since we’ve heard tales of dangerous lunatics wandering our streets?
Well, in truth it hasn’t, but let’s just go with that optimistic thought, shall we?
The other day a tsunami of media outlets, from Fox to the BBC, told us that…
‘Depression linked to violent crime, study finds’
The Telegraph declares…
‘Depression to blame for 32,000 violent crimes a year, says Oxford University’
Others, thankfully, are a little more circumspect
‘Why linking depression to violent crime could be a red herring’
There are, give or take, a zillion types of (clinical – a condition diagnosed by some manner of health professional) depression.
So what folk, with the condition, should we be fleeing from?
I’ve got to say, I’m a little frustrated that I haven’t been able to get my hands on the original article – so I’m relying on the sensationalist reportage of the media, who really love this sort of thing, as a basis for my rapier like reply.
To be fair, some, like the BBC, managed to print the caveat, stated clearly by the author, Prof Seena Fazel, that
‘One important finding was that the vast majority of depressed persons were not convicted of violent crimes…’
But I imagine that’ll be lost on many people who’ve already been dragged in by those crowd pulling headlines.
Ok, let’s imagine that you’re someone with a mental health problem – it could be depression – it could be something else. Let’s look at this violence that the media has located purely in you – that’s solely down to your condition – this violence that has nothing to do with anything other than your mental malady…
It doesn’t take much thought or effort to find other factors, life pressures, that may influence your behaviour…
If we look at hate crimes against people with mental health problems, it doesn’t take much of a search to find papers like this –
‘It has long been known that people with mental health problems experience high levels of crime and harassment. Surveys by mental health charity MIND reported that 50% of respondents had experienced harassment in the workplace or community (Read & Baker, 1996) and 71% harassment, physical or sexual violence, theft or mistreatment (Mind, 2007). Sixty percent of people who use community mental health services have been victimised (Kelly & McKenna, 1997) and 41% harassed, compared to 15% in the general population control group (Berzins et al, 2003)’
There are other, more institutional, forms of prejudice against people with mental health problems…
For example, people in this group are far more likely to have their benefits sanctioned – that is, having them stopped for anything between a week and 3 years. There are emergency payments – but many folk aren’t informed about these…
You look for a job, a stressful process at the best of times. Do you disclose (even that word implies something seedy, to be hidden) that you have a mental malady?
You know there are laws in place to protect you –
but, at the same time, you know employers can make up a variety of politically correct reasons as to why they didn’t employ you.
What about those gaps in your CV? What do you tell them…?
What if you get the job and then tell them about your malady at a later stage?
Does this give them grounds to dismiss you?
What about the systems that are there to support you and nurture you with your mental health problem?
For many, the first point of contact with any services is via the police – many of these experiences are fabulous. I’m happy to report that 3 out of 3 of my mental health involvements with our boys in blue have been great. They’ve been understanding, caring and empathetic.
But what of the near 3000 people with mental health problems who have died in police custody since the turn of the millennium?
Apparently with no prosecutions
Do you think you might consider resisting arrest? Do you think this might be recorded as a violence against the police statistic?
What about the cuts in mental health services? The same services that were looking pretty brittle before austerity cleaved great disproportionate chunks out of them.
People with mental health problems find themselves in desperate situations – no services and nowhere to go.
Mental health practitioners, experiencing intolerable stress because of cuts and/ or the long term sickness of their colleagues, find themselves at times, blaming their punters for this desperation. Labels like ‘Attention Seeking’ and ‘Codependence’ abound.
People with mental health problems find themselves being redefined away from services – ‘You’ve only got a touch of schizophrenia…’
Many go to A & E as a last resort – some have self harmed – some suicidal – some are told by some inadequately trained staff ‘We’ve got patients with real problems,’ or something very similar.
It may be down to attitudes similar to this that 30 thousand people with a mental health problem die prematurely and needlessly every year from preventable physical maladies.
So, next time you read a headline that screams
‘Depression linked to violent crime, study finds’
What would you do in this situation?
How would this version of the world effect you?
Limited access to work.
Discrimination – both visible and invisible.
I’m sure there’s more…
I wonder if Prof Seena Fazel factored in all of these and more extraneous variables when considering his apparent conclusions?
So, if anyone has access to the original paper…you know where to forward it.
Walk a mile