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At Risk, Yet Dismissed

Monday, 07 October 2013 Mind

New report on experiences of people with mental health problems as victims of crime

A new report has today highlighted the experiences of people with mental health problems who have been a victim of crime.

The report follows research by Victim Support, Mind, the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, in collaboration with University College London.

‘At risk, yet dismissed’ reveals that people with mental health problems are:

  • three times more likely to be a victim of crime than the general population
  • five times more likely to be a victim of assault and rises to 10 times more likely if you’re a woman
  • more likely to be a repeat victim of crime
  • far less likely to be satisfied with the service they receive.

It is the first UK survey on crime against people with severe mental health problems. The findings paint a stark picture of the risks and the barriers people with mental health problems face in getting the help they need.

The authors today publish specific recommendations for police and the criminal justice system, the health service, housing and other agencies and charities and call for an urgent national debate across Government on how to respond to the needs of victims of crime with mental health problems.

Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:

"Being a victim of crime is a horrible experience for anyone to cope with but when you have a mental health problem the impact on your life can be even worse. People with mental health problems have an equal right to justice, yet this report reveals that this is not the reality for far too many of us.

It is completely unacceptable that the police, healthcare staff and others who are supposed to support victims of crime may be dismissive of or not believe a person’s experience, or may even blame them for the crime.

We are calling on the police, commissioners, healthcare staff, support agencies, local and national government to work together and improve services for people with mental health problems who are the victims of crime."

Victim Support Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

"It is nothing short of a national scandal that some of the most vulnerable people in our society become victims of crime so often and yet when they seek help they are met with disbelief or even blame. It is unacceptable that the criminal justice system fails to meet the needs of people with mental health problems when this report shows all too clearly the terrible impact of crime on them.

There must be an urgent debate across Government, commissioners, criminal justice agencies and the voluntary and public sectors on how best to begin a swift and effective process of reform. We look forward to making a key contribution to this debate.

The three year study was funded by The Big Lottery Fund and interviewed a random sample of 361 people with severe mental illness in London. In-depth interviews were conducted with 81 people with mental health problems who had been victims of crime during the last three years."

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb commented on the report:

"This report makes for uneasy reading and I welcome the important work that Victim Support, Mind and others have collaboratively undertaken to bring this to the public’s attention. We want to make sure that people with mental health problems feel safe and supported, especially if they have been a victim of crime.

We are rolling out liaison and diversion services to police services across the country.  This identifies when someone in a police station has mental health problems so they can be referred to the right mental health services and are given the help and support they need.

Additionally, the Department of Health is working jointly with the Home Office in piloting street triage services where mental health nurses join officers on the beat. This ensures those in a crisis can receive the most appropriate care and attention. We are also working with the Home Office, police and other partner organisations to develop a Concordat detailing how good crisis mental health care should look in all areas of the country.

Improving the lives of those who suffer from mental health problems is an absolute priority for this Government. However, society as a whole must realise that to help this incredibly vulnerable group of people, we have to come together and combat the myths and stigma that surround mental illness.

We have made some progress but the stark findings of this report illustrate that there is still a long way to go. I am determined to do what I can to address this."

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