News in Digest: Mentally-impaired excuse becoming the norm

Criminals in Denmark are four times more likely than their Swedish counterparts to be given treatment rather than a punishment

Danish criminals are almost four times as likely to receive mental health treatment, as opposed to being punished, than their Swedish counterparts, according to figures from the Danish regions.

In 2016, 4,062 Danes received treatment instead of being punished because according to the law they were deemed to be insane at the moment of the crime. In 2001, there were only 1,445 cases.

In Sweden, where the population is more than double Denmark’s, the figure was around 2,000 criminals – 20 per 100,000 residents, compared to Denmark’s 74.

Experts believe the Danish law on the subject, which stems from the 1970s, should be looked into to see if it functions optimally. For example, treatment can be given to those convicted of lesser crimes, such as burglary.

Mentally-ill nation
The figures also mirror those released by the Sundhedsstyrelsen health authority for 2017 that reveal 13.2 percent of the adult population (623,000 people) have mental health issues – up from 10 percent in 2010.

The number of Danes who say they have a high stress level has risen from 20.8 percent in 2010 to 25.1 percent in 2017, which equates to over 1 million people. Unemployed people tend to be the worst affected by stress.

It might not be surprising to learn that the number of cases in which the police have to force someone into mental care has shot up by 74 percent since 2017.

In total they responded to 4,463 calls that involved them having to commit someone against their will – up from 2,567 registered cases a decade earlier. The problem is further stretching already limited police resources.

Sometimes the police are too late. On March 15, a 19-year-old man deliberately drove his car into Thisted Airport in north Jutland, setting the building alight and killing himself in the process.

Empty psychiatric beds
However, 150 beds set up in secure surroundings for mentally-ill patients considered a danger to society will remain empty, reports Jyllands-Posten.

As part of the government’s latest 400 million kroner psychiatric care package, the provision was made to allocate the beds in the hope that fewer employees at psychiatric homes would be attacked. Five have lost their lives at the hands of patients in the last four years.

Nevertheless, 15 beds provided at a psychiatric home in Vejle have remained empty since their introduction on March 1, and in Greater Copenhagen, where 47 beds will be made available, the municipalities estimate they only require 25.

Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, the head of the Capital Region, questions whether the money could have been better spent elsewhere in psychiatric care, as the beds appear to be a “nuisance the municipalities apparently do not want”.


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