The application of new social determinants in forensic psychiatric practice: the vital poverty

Alberto Siracusano 1,2, Alberto D’Argenio 2, Michele Ribolsi 3

1 Cattedra di Psichiatria, Dipartimento di Medicina dei Sistemi, Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy; 2 UOC di Psichiatria, Dipartimento DAI del Benessere e della salute mentale, neurologica, degli organi di senso e dentale, Fondazione Policlinico Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy; 3 Servizio di Psichiatria, Università degli Studi Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Rome, Italy

Vital poverty is a novel concept which concerns a form of impoverishment that is not only economic or material, but rather relational, value, affective. 

The vital poverty, although not regardless of the material and economic aspects, mostly represents the subjective moral, spiritual, social and empathic dimensions of the life of individuals. To this regard, we hypothesize that the vital poverty is a new social determinant of mental health and preliminary data suggest that the level of vital poverty can mediate the development of psychopathological disorders. A typical example of vital poverty is bullying and in general many forms of antisocial behavior can be linked to this form of vital impoverishment. 

The application of the concept of vital poverty to forensic psychiatry can concern various fields, such as femicide and interpersonal violence, stalking, the evaluation of parenting skills.

Therefore, studying the “level” of vital poverty may be particular helpful in forensic psychiatric practice. In this article, we will present a clinical case in which we will analyze and demonstrate the usefulness of investigating this new social determinant, the vital poverty, in order to establish a possible causal link between this condition of psychopathological vulnerability and abnormal behavior.

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