Perhaps also some health workers have fallen into the trap of being reluctant to discuss the problem of violence in schizophrenia in part, as the eminent US psychiatrist Torrey argues, because of their eagerness to reduce the stigma associated with the condition. Whilst the myth that all people with schizophrenia are violent is not founded in the evidence, it is the case that people living with schizophrenia are more at risk of dangerous behaviour such as suicide or violence while they are poorly.
Thankfully violent behaviour is comparatively rare. Most people with schizophrenia are never violent and indeed do not display any dangerous behaviour.
Dangerous behaviour is very often seen by them as a failure on the part of the doctors rather than as a feature of a society which undervalues people with mental illness and under-funds mental health services.
In addition, at times of tragedy, they are often faced with hostile reporting by the media which seeks to point fingers of blame at the doctors rather than at society’s attitudes to treating mental illness.
Well, studies have shown that people with schizophrenia alone are less at risk of violent behaviour than those with depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders or substance abuse problems.
A study carried out about 14 years ago found that around 11% of unlawful killings in the UK are committed by people suffering with schizophrenia but that the number was declining by about 3% per year.
However a small number do become violent when they are suffering from the acute symptoms of psychosis because of the influence of the hallucinations and delusions on their thinking.
Studies have shown that around 8% of people with schizophrenia will exhibit unusual overt sexual behaviour such as inappropriate sexual advances, disrobing or masturbating in public.
In terms of the total number of homicides there are other risk factors at work which are much more influential.