This essay will aim to explore whether mental illness has an inherent link to violent behaviour. Specifically it will critically evaluate the literature surrounding this contention. A definition of both mental illness and Violence will be offered before outlining the conflicting understanding regarding the inherent link. The essay will conclude that the issue of an inherent link between mental illness and violence is a complex one. That when controlling for substance use and other factors such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, individual and neighbourhood socio-economic status (SES), physical and sexual abuse, stressful life events, impaired social support the influence of mental illness upon violent conduct is minimal. However, many of these factors influence both mental illness and violence irrespective of the presence of both, making it difficult to tease apart the contribution of any factor in the resultant expression of violent behaviour. In addition, offence and victim characteristics appear to be different for mentally ill offenders than non-mentally ill offenders. For example where violence takes place in those with active psychotic symptoms the likelihood is that they will offend against family and friends rather than the public at large. This directly contradicts the unhelpful public perception that there is an increased risk of general violence by those experiencing mental illness. Silver et al (2008) add to this by suggesting that the violent acts committed by the mentally ill are greater in severity than those committed by non-mentally ill individuals.
Violence has been defined by Glasser (1998) as ‘a bodily response with the intended infliction of bodily harm on another person’. Mental Illness/disorder includes those ‘major’ disorders of affect and thought which form a subgroup of Axis I disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of mental disorder (4th