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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Criminally violent victimisation in schizophrenia spectrum disorders: the relationship to symptoms and substance abuse

Mairead C Dolan1*, David Castle2 and Kate McGregor1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Monash University, 505 Hoddle Street, Clifton Hill, VIC, 3068, Australia

2 St Vincent’s Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, 41 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, VIC, 3065, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:445  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-445

Published: 18 June 2012



Violent victimisation among people with major mental illness is well-documented but the risk factors for criminal violent victimisation are not well understood.


We examined the relationship between illness-related variables, indices of substance abuse and previous history of violence in a sample of 23 male criminally violently victimized and 69 non-criminally violently victimized male patients with DSM-IV-TR diagnoses of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder that were resident in the community and in contact with public mental health services in Victoria Australia. Data on criminal victimisation was acquired from the police database.


Demographic, a history of violence or illness-related variables did not distinguish between those had been the victim of a violent crime and those who had not. Our data indicated that drug abuse was a key factor in distinguishing between the groups, but the age of onset of substance abuse was not a significant factor. Scores on measures of drug abuse were modest predictors of criminal victimisation status in our Receiver Operator Characteristic analyses.


Overall, our findings suggest that substance abuse (particularly drug abuse) is a key predictor of violent victimisation based on criminal statistics. The latter has implications for mental health professions involved in the care planning and community management of patients with major mental illness and work points to the importance of substance abuse treatment in the prevention of victimisation as well as violence perpetration.