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Race Influences Victimization of Mentally Ill

Race Influences Victimization of Mentally Ill

New research finds that African-Americans who are mentally ill are at greater risk of being repeatedly victimized than are mentally ill white people.

In the study, criminologists at Georgia State University found the rate of recurring victimization among this population remains stable over time, while it declines during the first year after release from inpatient psychiatric hospitalization for whites.

The study is the first to analyze revictimization of persons with serious mental illness by race, according to investigators Drs. Christina Policastro, Brent Teasdale and Leah Daigle. Their research findings appear in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

Investigators used data from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study to compare the risk factors of and trajectories for recurring victimization among individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness.

“Earlier studies show that persons with serious mental illness who engage in risky lifestyle behaviors or live in socially disorganized neighborhoods may be especially vulnerable to victimization,” said Daigle, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

“They are more attractive as targets and have greater exposure to potential offenders.”

“We were interested in carrying this research further by showing which behaviors and lifestyles influence victimization over time for persons with mental illness in each racial group, and whether their trajectories differ,” said lead author Policastro, who now teaches at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.

Prior research has found that African-Americans with mental disorders encounter a number of social and cultural barriers to seeking help, including limited access to and underuse of mental health services.

“Lower-income urban communities with larger high-need populations, such as homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals, are dependent on publicly funded health care programs for mental health services,” said Teasdale, an associate professor.¬†“Yet the availability of these services varies across location, affecting the care options available to many African-Americans who suffer from mental illness.”

Unfortunately, the study suggests these barriers can have dire consequences.

“It is important for mental health professionals to recognize their clients may vary in their risk of being victimized, as well as experiencing a recurring victimization. This knowledge will help them target and address their clients’ key risk factors,” Daigle said.

The authors suggest interventions, including improving the accessibility of mental health services for underserved populations and reducing the social and financial barriers to their use.

“Overcoming these barriers may improve the overall quality of life for African Americans with mental illness and reduce their vulnerability to being victimized over time,” Policastro said.

Source: Georgia State University
Health care worker comforting patient photo by shutterstock.

Race Influences Victimization of Mentally Ill

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Race Influences Victimization of Mentally Ill. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 20 Jan 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.