The March 12 New York Times reported a new study of violence and anger that found anger combined with delusions may be the most significant factor in people with mental Illness.
My friend R. had a kind husband, five children, and one of the most loving families of anyone I knew. She was a Buddhist priest and an elementary school teacher. We were friends for nearly forty years. Our activities together consisted mostly of taking walks once or twice a week. Sometimes I walked her to her school in the mornings. I also attended some of her classes on Buddhist art and architecture. Among my pleasures of being with her was talking about Buddhism.
Then she got Alzheimer’s. She talked slightly inappropriately to people she didn’t know at first. Later on, she would groom the plants in some of the gardens we passed—taking off dead leaves. I worried their owners would feel their gardens were threatened. She started to forget words.
Before she lost all speech, it wasn’t safe to leave her alone. She longed for her freedom. She was a 7-Adventurer in the Enneagram and had many friends. After her mornings at the Buddhist temple, she would go out to coffee with a number of people. One day I was visiting her and she was arguing with her husband, a 9-Peace Seeker, because she wanted to see some friends but she couldn’t think of their names. Her husband was firm and patient. Then he told me, “Last night we had our first physical fight after 50 years of marriage.” I attributed it to her dementia and changed mental condition.
British researchers studied 468 patients ages 18 to 64 who had psychosis. Most were not violent but 26.4% were involved in minor violence and 11.5% in violence using weapons and resulting in injury. Most of the violent ones were young men involved with drugs. The depressed patients were less violent than others. There were far more delusions accompanied by anger among the violent patients. The article concludes, “Do you treat the anger, the delusions or both?”
Another story in the New York Times the same day reported people with mental illness are much more likely to be at risk from homicide—about five times more. My friend R. had a loving family watching over her during the years she was affected so she wasn’t in much risk. But those with personality disorders in this study in Sweden were three times more likely to be murdered than the general population. If they had substance use disorders they were nine times more likely; with depression two and a half times more likely; with anxiety or schizophrenia twice as likely. This study was based on Swedish statistics of death among its entire adult population of 7.2 million from 2001 to 2008, when 615 murders occurred, about one-fifth the number of murders in the United States. 141 of the 615 Swedes murdered had mental disorders. The Times reported this study was consistent with other studies done in the United States.