The Relationship between Mental Illness and Violence and Criminal Behavior Your Name
Pikes Peak Community College
The Relationship between Mental Illness and Violence and Criminal Behavior The relationship between mental illness and violence is something of a fascination. The fascination grows even stronger when an individual committing violent behavior also has a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. If the violent behavior is criminal—well, the public will happily lap up stories of individuals with Schizophrenia assaulting ordinary people or resisting arrest. In the Harvard Mental Health Letter (2011), the public perception of mental illness and violence is clearly illustrated: Public opinion surveys suggest that many people think mental illness and violence go hand in hand. A 2006 national survey found, for example, that 60% of Americans thought that people with Schizophrenia were likely to act violently toward someone else, while 32% thought that people with major depression were likely to do so. (p. 1) Clearly, according to the 2006 national survey, there is a link between mental illness and violence. The link is even stronger if the individual with the mental illness has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. As the national survey in the Harvard Mental Health Letter (2011) notes over half of the American population believes that individuals with Schizophrenia are violent. Furthermore, less than half of the American population believes that people with major depression are likely to commit violence (Harvard, 2011). Individuals with Schizophrenia are dangerous according to the American people. Public opinion, though, is not always correct. The public opinion of mental illness and violence is compared to actual research in the Harvard Mental Health Letter (2011): In fact, research suggests that this public perception does not reflect reality. Most individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent. Although a subset of people with psychiatric disorders commit assaults and violent crimes, findings have been inconsistent about how much mental illness contributes to this behavior and how much substance abuse and other factors do. (p.1) Public opinion and actual research provide two different perspectives on mental illness and violence. The public opinion states the mental illness and violence are linked, whereas the research for mental illness and violence states that most individuals with a mental illness are not violent (Bobes, Fillat, & Arango, 2009). However, the research on mental illness and violence also states that some individuals with mental illnesses do become violent. Where does the perception of mental illness and violence come from? Furthermore, since the public perceives the mentally ill as prone to violence, what kind of treatment options exist for the individuals who suffer from mental illness but are charged of crimes? Tracing the origin of public perception is impossible. The minds of individuals form new opinions as information changes, and information is constantly changing. However, a highly publicized act of violent by an individual with a diagnosis of a mental disorder such as Schizophrenia can dictate the public view on mental illness and violence (Harvard, 2011). In fact, according to the Harvard Mental Health Letter (2011): Highly publicized acts of violence by people with mental illness affect more than public perception. Clinicians are under pressure to assess their patients for potential to act in a violent way. Although it is possible to make a general assessment of relative risk, it is impossible to predict an individual, specific act of violence, given that such acts tend to occur when the perpetrator is highly emotional. During a clinical session, the same person may be guarded, less emotional, and even thoughtful, thereby masking any signs of violent intent. (p. 2)...