Study finds people with bipolar disorder no more violent than anyone else

A new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry has concluded that people with a serious mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else – unless they abuse drugs or alcohol.

The study, by Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry, examined the lives and behaviour of 3,700 people in Sweden who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The team, led by consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Seena Fazel, wanted to examine the public perception that there is a link between the disorder and violent crime.

Commenting on the study’s findings Dr Fazel said: “The relationship between violent crime and serious mental illness can be explained by alcohol and substance abuse. If you take away the substance abuse, the contribution of the illness itself is minimal.

“It’s probably more dangerous walking outside a pub on a late night than walking outside a hospital where patients have been released.”

Dr Fazel added that all over Europe patients had been reinstitutionalised because of “this view that people with mental illness are a high risk … there’s a lot of stigma”. He said a solution would be to tackle drug and alcohol abuse across the whole population.

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