October 19, 2013 at 7:03 AM
Mental illness: More accurate patient protrayal needed
Psychiatric hospitals need resources to keep staff and patients safe
Thank you for your recent article “Report: Violence on the rise again at Western State after decline,” (NWThursday, Oct. 10).
I was concerned with the tone the article took on violent behavior among patients receiving inpatient psychiatric treatment. Describing “patient-on-staff” assaults without providing context contributes to the false stereotype that acute mental illness is strongly correlated with violent behavior, when in fact it is not.
I acknowledge that people experiencing mental illness do sometimes act out violently, and mental-health workers should not experience violence as part of their job. However, the portrayal of the patient as perpetrator and hospital staff as victims is damaging and whitewashes other important issues, including circumstances that might compel patients to act out violently — as well as how lack of staffing and resources affect patient care.
Again, I thank you for your article, and I wholeheartedly agree that our psychiatric hospitals should be allocated the resources necessary to keep both staff and patients safe. I hope that in the future you will also consider the story from the patient’s point of view and actively speak out against the false narrative that mental illness is a predictor of violent behavior.
Sara M. Gall, Seattle
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