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MENTALLY ILL AGGRESSIVENESS—POPULAR DELUSION OR REALITY
JOHN J. BRENNAN
Am J Psychiatry 1964;120:1181-1184.
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Chief Counseling Psychology Service, VA Hospital Bedford, Mass.

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Abstract

1. Rejection for employment often is based upon a false image that all persons suffering mental illness are overtly physically aggressive.2. There is a failure to distinguish between acutely and chronically ill and to understand that there is likely to be a recovery factor resulting in a progression from acute to chronic and thence to acceptable and predictable non-aggressive employment behavior.3. There is a tendency to think in terms of general aggressive behavior with all persons and conditions rather than limited violent behavior with one person or condition easily avoided by professional occupational placement.4. Rehabilitation of the mentally ill has not kept pace with scientific progress in the field of psychiatry and psychology. The ability of tranquilizing medicines to control the symptoms and to make the mentally ill patient safely employable is not widely known or utilized by private and public employers. Improved personnel techniques and foremanship, based upon a greater knowledge of psychology, have made it possible to utilize successfully more of the mentally handicapped.5. Veterans Administration mental hospitals now have 8 years of industrial experience which demonstrates the freedom from overt aggressive behavior in typical employment situations in the community.6. Supporting evidence is also found in the lower-than-average record for arrests of former mental patients, including crimes involving aggression.7. The Massachusetts Workmens' Compensation Law which covers aggressive as well as accidental injuries to fellow-workers and supervisors by service-connected physically and mentally disabled veterans is corroborating proof that aggressive behavior is negligible.

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