Most mentally ill patients are more likely to be the victim of the violence than the perpetrator of it. Most evidence would suggest individuals experiencing mental illness are no more inclined towards violence than the general public.
Yet among Canadian psychiatrists, 50 per cent have reported to have been assaulted by a patient at least once. Whitby’s Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences has experienced a rise of incidents of workplace violence in recent years. In the last three months for which we have data (May, June, July 2012), the centre has experienced 90 reported acts of physical violence.
The situation has led to an ongoing exodus from the employer. Many skilled workers choose to quit rather than continue to put their health at jeopardy. Only about a third of employees who were at the Whitby psychiatric hospital in 2006 (when it divested from the Ministry of Health) remain there today. This is an employer that used to be known for excellent retention of staff.
A 2003 paper by Queen’s University faculty Dr. Heather Stuart suggests that aggressive behaviors differ dramatically in treatment units, “indicating that mental illness is not a sufficient cause for the occurrence of violence.”