Perceived Safety of Adults with Severe Mental Illness At a Community-Based Outpatient Program
Methods: This study used a self-report survey design to administer the Perceived Safety Questionnaire (PSQ). Sixty adults (31 men, 29 women, 33% white, 30% African American, 17% Asian/Pacific Islander, 12% Latino, 8% other) were purposively sampled from a community-based mental health outpatient program in San Francisco serving clients with severe mental illness who were frequent users of city crisis services. The researcher read each questionnaire item out loud and wrote down the client responses. Each participant was offered a $5 gift certificate to Walgreens upon completion of the questionnaire.
Results: 17% of clients reported having experienced at least one incidence of physical harm at the program, 40% reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once, and 52% reported experiencing emotional harassment at least once. Overall, two-thirds of clients reported feeling generally unsafe in at least one aspect of the program. 70% reported feeling generally unsafe some or all of the time in the neighborhood around the program, 50% reported feeling generally unsafe around other clients, and 35% reported feeling generally unsafe in the program milieu. Females were more likely to report lower perceived safety than males (F=.52, pvalue<.05). Clients who experienced emotional harassment were more likely to report lower levels of perceived safety (t=-2.573, pvalue<.001).
Conclusions and Implications: Adults with severe mental illness are a vulnerable population who are often granted limited voice and agency in their recovery. A focus on perceived safety may help social workers and agencies to engage and empower this hidden stakeholder population. Implications for practice and policy will be discussed.