Opinion: Different perspectivePOSTED: 05/18/12 1:53 PM
Psychiatric patients sometimes end up doing things that land them in a court room and subsequently in prison. The image of psychiatric patients as incorrigible criminals has been planted firmly in the human psyche by the Hannibal Lecter movies. In St. Maarten we have seen two men go down with life sentences who were – most likely – not all there, and this week we learned the horror story of two teenaged brothers who sexually abused their younger sisters for a long time.
But scientific research in the Netherlands now shows that psychiatric patients are more often the victims of violence than the initiators of violence. They become more often the victim of a crime than the average citizen as well.
Though such research does nothing to diminish the horrors of the crimes committed by the two ligers in Pointe Blanche, and certainly nothing to make up for the sexual abuse practices of two teenaged brothers, they do put people with a psychiatric disorder in a different perspective.
According to the Dutch organization for scientific research NWO their research into violence against psychiatric patients is the first of its kind. Social workers ought to be more alert and pay attention to the victimhood among psychiatric patients.
NWO interviewed 957 psychiatric patients for its research. About half of them said they had been the victim of violence last year. Compared to the average citizen, the participants in the survey were more often the victim of ill-treatment (by a factor 6.5) and also more often the victim of threats and home burglaries (by a factor 10). One third of the interviewed group indicated that they had been the victim of at least three incidents last year.
All this makes it once again clear how important it is for St. Maarten to bring its facilities to care for psychiatric patients up to par. The Mental Health Foundation’s clinic is obviously a huge step forward, but the fact that the court had to send the two teenaged brothers for observation to Curacao, rather than placing them in a local institution, shows that we still have a long way to go before St. Maarten will be considered a truly autonomous country capable of tending to the needs of all of its citizens.