May 11, 2013

Shoddy reporting at The Australian

Mentally ill 'more prone to violence'  - so declares today's Australian.

Except that it's not true.

People with schizophrenia have been found to be significantly more prone to violence, prompting the author of a new study to call on his peers to stop "fudging" research and downplaying the risks posed by some mentally ill people living in the community.

Given the frequency with which police are prone to shooting schizophrenics who cause any kind of ruckus (in Australia), and given that, invariably, every year there will be reporting of one or more murders committed by a person with schizophrenia (often family members), this supposedly new finding isn't likely to be a surprise to anyone other than the academics making the announcement of their research findings.

The issue is, most people with a mental illness do not have schizophrenia.  

Another co-author of the Victorian study, Jim Ogloff of Monash University's Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, said that while it was important not to revive old stigmas, families of the mentally ill and the wider community had a right to know about the risks of violence.

" They need to know the facts and, more importantly, when to call triple-0."
Yes, people do need to know the facts, most especially those who have a mental illness, and it is important not to revive old stigmas (well, not to promote stigmas, since the stigmas continue without change), which is why an inflammatory, sloppy and false headline from The Australian is singularly unhelpful to everyone.

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