Stalking, Threatening, and Harassing Behavior by Psychiatric Patients Toward Clinicians

D. A. Sandberg, D. E. McNiel and R. L. Binder,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 30(2): 221-229, 2002.
The authors surveyed hospital staff to determine how often they had been the target of stalking, threatening, or harassing behavior (STHB) by patients, what strategies they had used to manage the behavior, and their evaluation of various interventions. A written survey about STHB by patients was sent to all clinical staff (N = 82) of the adult inpatient psychiatric service of an urban university hospital. Clinicians who had been the target of such behavior were interviewed about their experiences. Of the 62 staff members who completed the survey, 33 (53%) had experienced some type of STHB during their career. Seventeen of these 33 individuals agreed to be interviewed and provided information about 28 cases of STHB. Staff often rated the behavior as upsetting and disruptive. The frequency with which staff used various management strategies and their perceived effectiveness are described. The results suggest that although severe cases are relatively rare, milder forms of STHB are experienced by a substantial proportion of clinicians and have significant adverse consequences. A variety of management options are available to the clinician when confronted with this situation.