Practitioner attitudes towards patients in forensic mental health settings

Lammie, Claire and Harrison, Thomas and Macmahon, Kenneth and Knifton, Lee (2010) Practitioner attitudes towards patients in forensic mental health settings. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 17 (8). pp. 706-714. (

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Scotland has a national programme to improve mental health and well-being and addressing stigma among mental health practitioners is a priority. This study explores practitioner attitudes towards patients in medium and low secure forensic mental health settings through qualitative and quantitative approaches. Two questionnaires were used with nursing staff. A qualitative questionnaire asked participants to list examples of positive and negative practice and anti-discriminatory and discriminatory attitudes towards patients within forensic services. A quantitative questionnaire then asked participants to answer questions about a hypothetical man with schizophrenia called Harry. The overall balance of responses was more positive than negative in the qualitative results, particularly regarding patient rights, empowerment and control. However, there were a significant minority of negative attitudes in relation to recovery pessimism and desire for social distance. This was supported by the quantitative results where practitioners showed high stigma scores for avoidance and segregation. There were no significant differences in attitudes between medium and low secure settings. However overall, males reported more negative attitudes in relation to blame and avoidance and younger participants demonstrated more negative attitudes than older participants in relation to fear and danger. The implications for addressing stigma are discussed in relation to the wider national anti-stigma campaign and forensic services specifically.