Most people with mental health problems have suffered theft, been attacked, harassed, sexually assaulted or raped by people in their own community, according to a new report.
Mind, the charity which published today’s report, said it exposes the “extreme” harassment and victimisation committed by people towards neighbours who have diagnoses such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Its chief executive Paul Farmer said: “People with mental distress feel unsafe in their own communities, unsafe in their own homes and have even come to expect harassment as part of living with mental distress.”
Mind surveyed 400 people with mental health problems and victim support workers. It found 71 per cent of people with mental health problems had been victimised in the last two years. This compares to 24 per cent of other people, as detailed in national crime statistics.
The survey found 22 per cent of people with mental health problems were physically assaulted (compared to 3 per cent of other people). Twenty seven per cent were sexually harassed and 10 per cent sexually assaulted, including being raped.
The survey also found 22 per cent were physically assaulted and 41 per cent suffered ongoing bullying. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents living in council housing had been victimised.
Common complaints included being pestered, chased, and having items thrown at them. Others were spat at, received prank calls and hate mail. Some received death threats.
The report, entitled “Another Assault”, also claimed police “harden” their attitude and have a “loss of sympathy” to victims of crime after they disclose a psychiatric diagnosis.
Six of ten victims said the authorities, particularly the police and crown prosecution lawyers, did not take them seriously, the report states.
In February “disability-aggravated crimes” sentencing provision was introduced. This enables courts to increase sentences for a offence aggravated by hostility towards a person’s disability, including mental health.
Mind says that with so many service users “being brushed aside” when trying to report harassment, police officers may not identify a case as disability hate crime.
Mind wants the British Crime Survey to record crimes against people with mental health problems, and for all frontline police, crown prosecution recruits and legal professionals to receive mental health awareness training.
Mr Farmer said: “Time and again we hear stories of people with mental health problems being discriminated against, but what we have uncovered here is evidence of bullying, harassment and victimisation on an alarming scale.
“In an added blow, people with mental health problems are having to fight for justice when crimes are committed against them, as all too often, criminal justice agencies simply don’t believe them.”
The Crown Prosecution Service said disability-aggravated crimes sentencing has been used in only 68 cases in the last two quarters for which there was information. The service deals with about a million cases every year.