A survey of verbal and physical assaults towards psychiatrists in Turkey

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2011 Nov;57(6):631-6. doi: 10.1177/0020764010382364. Epub 2010 Sep 8.


Background: Assaults on health professionals have been an area of burgeoning clinical and political interest in recent years. There is now a body of literature suggesting that violence towards psychiatrists is more common than to other doctors. Thus far the vast majority of research in this area has been conducted in Western European and North American clinical settings. For the first time, this study examines this issue in the context of Turkish psychiatric settings.

Objective: (i) The study aims to detect the prevalence of verbal and physical assaults towards psychiatrists in Turkey. (ii) It aims to compare the experience of verbal and physical assaults according to the gender and training experience of psychiatrists. (iii) The paper intends to investigate how psychiatrists reacted to and appraised the experience of violence.

Methods: A questionnaire was prepared to evaluate violence towards psychiatrists (adapted from the Overt Agression Scale). The questionaire was administered to psychiatric specialists and residents working in state hospitals, research and training hospitals, mental health hospitals and university psychiatry clinics. A response rate of 93% was achieved with 186 out of 200 psychiatrsits approached completing the study questionnaire.

Results: Of all the psychiatrists who responded, 71% reported having experienced verbal or physical assaults during their professional life (verbal assaults only (19.9%), physical assaults only (2.7%) and both (48.4%)). Of these, 26% suffered injury to at least a mild degree. There was no statistically significant difference in terms of gender and workplace. In spite of the extremely high rates of aggression and violence towards psychiatrists, roughly 50% perceived these acts a normal part of their job and only 5% formally reported the violent incident.

Conclusion: The majority of psychiatrists described having been victims of verbal and physical assaults although half perceived aggression and violence as a normal part of their job. Levels of reporting of violence were very low in the context of this study. Studies such as this provide evidence to inform the development of improved management of violence and may encourage psychiatrists to report violence.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Psychiatry*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Turkey
  • Violence / psychology*