I don’t often get upset by what’s written in the tabloid press. I’m used to the nonsense the Sun et al produce on a daily basis to sell their nasty little right wing rags. But today’s Sun headline has got me angry.
According to the Sun. 1,200 people have been killed by “mental patients” in the last ten years. Now to read the full story you have to buy the paper (no chance) or sign up on line for something called Sun+, and I’m certainly not giving them my money or my e-mail address.
Instead let’s look at some facts. (Note for any Sun journalist reading: a fact is defined as, ”knowledge or information based on real occurrences”.)
Ten minutes of internet research tells me that there were 8,091 recorded murders during the last ten years. That’s 6,743 in England and Wales (figures from ONS), 1071 in Scotland (figures from Scottish Government) and 277 in Northern Ireland (figures from PSNI).
Were 1,200 of these really were committed by “mental patients”? 15% of the total? Mind you, we don’t know how the Sun defines a mental patient. Do they mean anyone who has ever been treated for a mental illness – which could be around a quarter of the population.
So the rate of offence by “mental patients” could actually be lower than average.
Coincidently, another report was published today. And it showed that people with mental illnesses are three times more likely to be victims of crime than the general population.
Now this one didn’t come from a tabloid newspaper. No, this was a proper piece of research carried out by academics from Kings College London, Kingston University and St George’s University of London, in collaboration with University College London. A slightly more credible source then …
The report shows that almost half of people with some form of mental illness had experienced a crime in the last year. People with severe mental illness were five times more likely to experience assault, while severely mentally ill women were 10 times more likely to be assaulted. Six out of 10 women in this group reported being victims of sexual violence as adults.
And what are the police doing about this? Interviewees said that when they sought help, they often found they were treated unfairly by the police and other agencies. Victims said they found it difficult to convince police to take their reports seriously. And of course some people won’t report crimes out of fear of being detained themselves under mental health legislation.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the charity Mind, said: “Being a victim of crime is a horrible experience for anyone to cope with but when you have a mental health problem the impact on your life can be even worse.
“People with mental health problems have an equal right to justice, yet this report reveals that this is not the reality for far too many of us.”
So once again the Sun is promoting a stereotype that simply isn’t supported by the facts. They demonise and stigmatise large sections of the population based on nothing more than prejudice. People with mental illness are actually far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators.
But then that probably doesn’t sell newspapers, does it?