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Characteristics of violent behaviour in acute psychiatric in-patients: a 5-year Italian study

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Objective: In order to examine prospectively the characteristics of violence among psychiatric patients, a 5-year study was carried out in an acute psychiatric unit.

Method: All assaultive behaviour occurred in the ward during the study period were assessed routinely using the Staff Observation Aggression scale (SOAS).

Results: Of 1534 patients admitted to the unit during the study period, 116 were responsible for 329 aggressive episodes (prevalence of violence=7.5%, 2.8 incidents/patient). Most violent patients had an ICD-9 diagnosis of schizophrenia and/or delusional syndromes (55.1%), a history of violence (80.7%) and previous psychiatric admissions (92%). Approximately half of the incidents had no specific cause, occurred during daytime and the first week of admission and, in most cases, was directed towards individuals (77.8%).

Conclusion: Although confirming the low rate of violence among Italian psychiatric in-patients, the study indicates the need for more attention to the problem of aggression in general hospital psychiatric units.

Keywords: Psychiatric patients; general hospital psychiatric units; violent behaviour

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Medical Sciences of Communication and Behaviour, Section of Psychiatry, University of Ferrara and Department of Mental Health, Local Health Organization, Ferrara, Italy and 2: Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, Department of Mental Health, Local Health Organization, Ferrara, Italy

Publication date: 2001-10-01

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