Great proportion of violent state patients have history of substance abuse, study finds
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Johannesburg - A great proportion of violent state patients admitted to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, Gauteng, have a history of substance abuse.
Another significant group of these offenders sent to the facility because courts declared them unfit to stand trial had previously had psychiatric treatment, indicating they may have had poor access to mental health care.
These are the findings of research conducted by three psychiatry experts from Weskoppies and the University of Pretoria.
Zukiswa T Dewet, Carla Kotzé and Funeka Sokudela studied the clinical files of 140 patients admitted to the hospital’s forensic unit from 2005 to 2014.
Published by the South African Journal of Psychiatry in its last issue for 2020, the study aimed to ascertain the profiles of mentally ill people who committed violent crimes before being declared state patients.
These crimes included murder, attempted murder and rape.
Based on the findings, the study highlighted a need for research into interventions that could lessen violent behaviour among those with a history of previous psychiatric treatment and substance abuse.
“The consistent finding of high rates of individuals with a history of previous psychiatric treatment and substance use highlights this as an important area of future research, where the focus could be on possible interventions to minimise violent behaviour in this population,” the study read.
It found that 55% of the 140 patients had a history of substance use.
“Generally substance use rates are much higher in psychiatric patients as compared with the general population, and our findings further support this,” the study said.
“Substance use in the context of a psychiatric diagnosis increases the risk of violent and criminal behaviour, which may partly explain the finding of higher rates of substance abuse in the forensic populations.”
Mark Zinde was a high profile person sent to Weskoppies following a drug-related violent crime.
He attacked and killed his mother and famous broadcaster Hope Zinde at their Pecanwood Estate home in 2016. The police found large amounts of drugs in his possession.
The study also highlighted that poor access to mental care in South Africa created problems for society.
“Almost half (46%) of our sample had previously had psychiatric treatment, which implied that there was a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis,” it read.
“This is an important finding as previous psychiatric treatment and defaulting of treatment has a strong association with violent offending.”