Psychiatric patients more often victim than perpetrator of violence

27 September 2019

Research has revealed that psychiatric patients are more exposed to violence than people from the general population. How can new interventions help these vulnerable groups so that they are less easily the victim of violence?


Over the past 10 years, NWO in collaboration with Stichting tot Steun VCVGZ (Christian Organisation for Innovation in Psychiatry) has developed 12 large research and innovation projects. The research in the programme “Violence against psychiatric patients” indicates that violence against psychiatric patients in the Netherlands is a real, serious and widespread problem. During the accredited closing congress on Thursday, 7 November 2019 in De Doelen in Rotterdam, the researchers will present the outcomes of the projects and the possibilities for applying these in practice. The State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, Paul Blokhuis, will open the congress.

Different perspective

For many years, attention was merely paid to the risk that people with a Severe Mental Illness (SMI) pose for society. Little is known about the victimhood of this vulnerable group. If patients are the victim of violence, then this often concerns theft, street robbery, physical or emotional abuse, sexual violence, threats et cetera. Only some of the patients discuss this violence with their care provider. Care providers therefore have a limited view of the problem. The results from the studies provide insight into the size of the problem and the associated risk factors. The research examined social context, processes and consequences of victimhood. What does it do to their self-esteem and social functioning? Discovering these processes is necessary for the development of interventions for victims in this group.

Examples of interventions developed:

Virtual Reality Aggression Prevention Training (VRAPT)

The VRAPT is a new way to contribute to a safer rehabilitation process. The researchers expect that as a result of this training, the patient will less easily become a victim and initiator of aggression as well as less impulsive, excitable and sensitive to provocation. It will also ensure a safer work climate for care providers in psychiatric institutions.

Improved violence prevention needed among victims of partner violence

Partner violence is a serious problem for public health that is widespread in all social strata. Partner violence is more repetitive than other types of violent crimes and that means preventing it is a top priority. Research has revealed that 50 to 70 percent of the victims who leave their partner due to violence return to the same partner and become victims again. The victims often suffer from mental problems such as PTSS, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. The aim of the research project is to implement the assessment instrument Decision-Making in Abusive Relationships Interview (DIARI) to improve the identification of the needs of victims of partner violence. The DIARI is a tool to measure how a person responds in a relationship where partner violence occurs. It examines the obstacles to seeking help and leaving the partner.

The closing congress is interesting for professionals, managers, policy officers and directors of various sectors in mental health care, welfare work, youth work, judiciary, police and municipal services who in their work come into contact with the theme Violence against psychiatric patients.

Further information about the programme as well as the registration form can be found on the congress website (in Dutch).

Source: NWO