Victimization of people with enduring mental illness in the community



The deinstitutionalization of care for the mentally ill has been in vogue for about fifty years. Broadly speaking, this transition can be seen to exhibit the following main trends: a dramatic decline in the inpatient population of psychiatric hospitals, coupled with a corresponding increase in community facilities such as psychiatric units in general hospitals, day hospitals, and day centres. It has been claimed that deinstitutionalization ends previously enforced seclusion, enhances human dignity and allows individual privacy. The deinstitutionalization movement has inevitably led both to large numbers of former long-stay patients being cared for in the community and to significant numbers of individuals developing enduring mental illness in the community without ever having had a long inpatient tenure. The findings of recent studies (Gould 1992, Brockington et al. 1993) suggest that there is a positive public attitude towards the mentally ill. However, Kelly (1997), while carrying out Quality of Life research, found that over half of the community-based long-term mentally ill he surveyed reported that they had experienced harassment/victimization. This paper is not a report on the Quality of Life research but a discussion on the theme of victimization that has emerged from the study. The extent of the problem is discussed as are the implications for mental health professionals.