Pushing, physical attacks and verbal threats have become routine for more than half of staff working in the mental health field. The perception of risk has profoundly worsened over the last few years and represents one of the elements of workers’ flight from the national health service.
These are ‘heavy’ numbers that emerge from a preliminary survey conducted by the National Coordination of Psychiatric Diagnosis and Treatment Services (SPDC), presented today at the opening of the XII national congress, on 2600 mental health professionals, of which 1400 psychiatrists: 49% have suffered violence (from simple pushes to actual aggression) during work in the last two years (27% more than once), 74% have suffered verbal threats from patients while working in Over the last three months (52% more than once), 57% of psychiatrists feel their safety at work is at risk.
Only 7% of psychiatrists note adequate protection for their safety (safety protocols and collaboration with the police). In summary, a very critical picture in which the dramatic event of the death of the psychiatrist Barbara Capovani this spring seems to represent only the tip of the iceberg and which sees at the center the problem, increasingly difficult to manage, the presence of patients who are perpetrators of crime in mental health departments sent by the judicial authority.
Exposed to violence
“Precisely following that tragic event – he explains Emi Bondipresident of both the SPDC Coordination and the Italian Society of Psychiatry, as well as director of the mental health department of the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo – a working group of the Italian Society of Psychiatry decided to conduct this survey on mental health workers .
At the center is the perception of exposure to violence, safety at work in the emergency room, in psychiatry departments and in local structures. The perception of safety on issues related to the diagnosis and treatment of people suffering from psychiatric pathologies and perpetrators of crimes was also investigated. The results confirmed what had been perceived for some time: a situation of constant danger for those who work. Not just inside the hospital. Finally, let’s not forget that today around 30% of the positions in the departments are occupied by patients who are criminals who can also put the safety of other patients at risk.”
The problem of beds
While waiting to carry out more specific and in-depth analyzes of the data on all healthcare workers, the experts will try to develop proposals and indications to propose to the institutions on these issues. “Among these – he explains Giancarlo Cerveri, director of the Mental Health and Addictions Department ASST Lodi and coordinator of the survey – there are at least three needs: to adapt the number of acute care beds which are currently insufficient to the needs of the population and are continuously decreasing due to the closure of many facilities due to the shortage of operators; find a legislative solution to combine the right to adequate care for offenders with psychiatric pathologies and the safety of operators, and – finally – create adequate hospitalization spaces to respond to the emerging care needs of increasingly younger patients with new problems often connected to the use of narcotic substances”.