All Patients with Mental Disorders Are Not Violent

The world keeps developing and our ways of thinking keep changing due to exposure to different developments around us. Although the way the society thinks of mental illness has changed, it has not changed as much as it ought to.

One of the major problems that mentally ill patients face, especially in collectivistic societies, is being termed as violent people. Many people still hold on to that misconception that every mentally ill patient is a violent person. The reverse is the case really; being mentally ill does not automatically make one violent. Even those that exhibit violent tendencies act that way not because they want to hurt others, but because it is a form of coping mechanism. Violent behaviours amongst mentally ill people is an externalized expression of symptoms and a way of dealing with conflict, fear, and goal-blockage.

People with mental disorders have a lot going for them, especially those in countries that think being mentally ill is something to be ashamed of. When patients are accused of being dangerous, it can have a demoralizing effect on their visions for relationships, employment, housing, and social functioning. A study stated that symptoms of psychiatric illnesses, rather than the diagnosis itself, appear to exhibit or show tendencies of violent behaviours. Another study by Harvard (2011), shows that not all people suffering from major mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia have high tendencies of acting violently, but rather people with the illness and history of psychotic thoughts that influence their behaviours that stand a higher risk of acting violently when they have symptoms of some mental disorders. Also, when a personality disorder happens in combination with another psychiatric disorder, the blend may escalate the risk of violence. Patients suffering from hallucinations or delusional thoughts are also at a higher risk of exhibiting violence because they may abide by their irrational thoughts hence misinterpreting the actions of others as dangerous, thus respond violently. On the other hand, patients with symptoms of social withdrawal, sleep-wake disorders etc. are at a lower risk of acting aggressively.

There are as many mental disorders that patients are at lower risk of acting aggressively just the way there are some that patients are at higher risk of acting violently.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Saratu Abubakar is a young lady who majors in Journalism and minors in Psychology at the American University of Sharjah. She is passionate about mental health and aims to pursue a masters in social psychology after her undergraduate. She loves writing and that has led her into writing a fictional novel.

Mental Health Matters: Let’s Break The Silence Africa

As part of the run up to World Mental Health Day, Aware Africa, a Nigerian owned mental health awareness platform, ran a social media campaign – #MentalHealthMatters #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica – calling all mental health enthusiasts to lend a voice to mental health in Africa. Our founder took to our Instagram page to lend her voice.

Here’s what she had to say –

My name is Hauwa and I believe #MentalHealthMatters. #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica.

I choose to speak because I know firsthand what it means to live with a mental disorder. I know what it means to be misunderstood. I can relate to anyone who is in denial or confused with the voices they hear and things they see. I know what #psychosis, #delusions and #paranoia feel like. I have had my fair share of #panicattacks and extreme #mood cycles. #Suicidal? You’re not alone.

Most of all, I know what stigma feels like and the many forms it comes in. Your judgment being questioned, your opinions discounted and utter derogatory statements and actions towards you. Mental health is not an easy topic, but how can we continue to swear the oath of silence when suicide rates are spiking and more and more people fall into the troughs of #depression, #anxiety, #bipolar, psychosis and the likes.

I speak for everyone like me and everyone who chooses to damn the consequences. #LetsBreakTheSilenceAfrica