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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 55 (2013) 5, 325 - 335

New research

The nature, extent and judicial response to aggression and violence directed against care workers in psychiatry

J.M. Harte, M.E. van Leeuwen, R. Theuws

background The Dutch government and the Council for public prosecutions consider aggression against and violence directed against public officers and care workers as unacceptable. But what is the attitude of these official bodies to violence directed against mental health care workers?
aim To examine the nature and the prevalence of violence against mental health care professionals and the possible judicial consequences of this violence.
method Dutch mental health professionals who work in the psychiatric hospitals and clinics were asked to fill in an online questionnaire about their experiences, over the past five years, of violence perpetrated by patients.
results The 1534 respondents had encountered violence regularly in the course of their work. Some of the violence was of a very serious nature and sometimes had severe consequences. Only a small number of the violent incidents were
reported to the police and ultimately brought to court. The victims were poorly informed about the possible judicial consequences of the violence they had encountered.
conclusion Not only should the mental health institutes counsel and inform the employees who have been victims of violence, they should also promote the development and implementation of an effective prosecution policy.

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