Mental Abuse

The law defines [RCW 74.34.020(2)(c)] mental abuse as any willful action or inaction of mental or verbal abuse. Mental abuse includes, but is not limited to, coercion, harassment, inappropriately isolating a vulnerable adult from family, friends, or regular activity, and verbal assault that includes ridiculing, intimidating, yelling, or swearing. Any incident originating prior to 7/24/2015 must apply the old definition above. Any incident originating on or after 7/24/2015 must apply the new definition below.

Effective 7/24/2015 (SSB 5600): “Mental abuse” means a willful verbal or nonverbal action that threatens, humiliates, harasses, coerces, intimidates, isolates, unreasonably confines, or punishes a vulnerable adult.  Mental abuse may include ridiculing, yelling, or swearing.

Examples of mental abuse may include:

  • Statements that psychological/emotional abuse is occurring
  • Demonstration of excessive fear
  • Withdrawal
  • Low self-esteem
  • Extreme passivity
  • Unusual agitation
  • Nervous around certain members of household or caregiver
  • Gives many excuses why cannot make phone calls
  • Makes many excuses why cannot leave the house
  • Depression; suicidal ideation
  • Tearfulness
  • Increased ambivalence
  • Nightmares
  • Increased anxiety; phobic behaviors
  • Unusual behavior attributed to dementia, e.g., sucking, biting, rocking
Page Topic: 
Vulnerable Adult Training