Stigma Contributes to the Risk of Violence by Persons with Mental Illness [2018]

It is widely documented that persons with mental illness (MI) experience much stigma, contributing to undesirable outcomes for persons with MI and posing barriers to their psychosocial rehabilitation. It is our argument that stigma and violence have a reciprocal relationship. In particular, stigma increases the risk of violence by this population by acting as a barrier to treatment participation and by increasing criminogenic risk factors among this population. Discrimination in social relationships, housing, and employment increases the likelihood that persons with MI will experience substance abuse, unemployment, stressed family relationships, antisocial characteristics, and less engagement in prosocial activities, all of which are known to increase the risk of criminal behavior. It is well documented that family members are the most common victims of violence by persons with MI. However, many family victims do not report acts of violence to authorities due to fear of exacerbating the stigma of MI. As such, not only does stigma increase the risk of violence by persons with MI, it also decreases the likelihood that family victims will report violence, preventing them from receiving victim services and other valuable supports. Reduction in stigma may be an essential element of a comprehensive approach to decreasing the risk of violence by persons with MI and increasing reporting and service use among family members who have been victims by persons with MI.

Travis Labrum, Peter Simonsson, Phyllis L. Solomon
Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health, December 2018, Volume 5, Issue 2