Dual harm: Violent behaviour to others and self-harm behaviour in adults compulsorily admitted to a Dutch psychiatric hospital

Philip J.S. Michielsen*, Sander Hoogveldt*, Nordin L'oihmi*, Sascha Sneep*, Arno van Dam*, Cornelius L. Mulder*, Witte J.G. Hoogendijk*, Sabine J. Roza*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Verbal and physical violence in psychiatric hospitals can have harmful consequences for staff members, such as physical injury, traumatisation, and sick leave, and they often accompany involuntary admission. Harm to others may co-occur with self-harm, i.e., dual harm. However, little is known about the association between dual-harm and violent behaviour towards staff members and its clinical outcomes, such as seclusion and rapid tranquilisation after involuntary admission to a psychiatric inpatient unit.

A convenience sample of patients admitted involuntarily (N = 384; mean age = 48.03, SD = 19.92) between January 2016 and December 2019 in Western Brabant, the Netherlands, was used to design a retrospective file audit. Distinct harm groups, marked by the presence/absence of self- and/or other-harm, were investigated using multivariate linear regression modelling on the seriousness of violent acts and the total length of admission. Logistic regression analyses were used to study the association between harm groups and the administration of rapid tranquilisation, seclusion, and extended involuntary admissions.

Several harm groups were identified, including self-harm only, other-harm only, and dual-harm groups. Psychiatric patients admitted to the hospital because of (the risk of) violence towards others had a higher risk of violent incidents during admission and some restrictive measures. In a subgroup of patients with psychotic disorders, patients with dual harm committed the most serious violent incidents compared to those in the other harm groups.

Distinct harm groups were identified in a sample of involuntarily admitted patients. In a general adult psychiatric setting, patients at risk for violent behaviour, especially dual-harm patients, should be identified and monitored as part of the risk assessment. Future research is needed to explore more clinical correlates in the proposed distinction between harmful groups and to assess long-term prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101989
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Early online date24 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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