Monday, March 16, 2015

Mental illness and violence

Just as an FYI -

It is inaccurate to draw a correlation between mental illness and violence, or to explain an act of violence by alluding to a perpetrator's mental, psychological, or emotional state:

"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." []

In actual fact:

"The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don't even realize it, because every year ... one in five American adults experience a mental health issue; one in 10 young people experience a period of major depression; and one in 20 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression" []


"People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et al., 2001). People with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population (Hiday, et al.,1999)." []

All of this has a particular bearing on people of color, poor people, and those generally in the lower socio-economic class, all of whom tend to experience much higher rates of mental health problems than the rest of the population:

"That a relationship exists between poverty and mental illness was first established in the landmark New Haven study conducted by Hollingshead and Redlich (10), whose findings were published in 1958. Their principal conclusion was that there is a significant relationship between social class (SES or socio-economic status) and mental illness as regards the type and severity of the illness suffered as well as the type and quality of the treatment provided. Specifically, persons who were members of the lowest social stratum were the poorest, had a higher incidence of presumed serious mental illness and received the least adequate forms of treatment if they received any treatment at all." []

Several further unfortunate results of the marginalization and stigmatization of people with mental illnesses is that they face very high rates of:

a) homelessness

"More than 124,000 – or one-fifth – of the 610,000 homeless people across the USA suffer from a severe mental illness, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They're gripped by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression — all manageable with the right medication and counseling but debilitating if left untreated." []

b) unemployment

"Most adults with mental illness want to work, and six in 10 can succeed with the right supports, according to the report. Yet only 1.7 percent received supported employment services in 2012. Just 17.8 percent of people receiving public mental health services were employed in 2012 – down from 23 percent in 2003. That’s an unemployment rate of more than 80 percent. []

c) incarceration

" ... Kathryn Wooten of Los Angeles called 911 for help when her 23-year-old son Terrence suffered a mental breakdown in October 2011. ''The police came and I thought they were going to take him to the hospital but he wind up in county jail,'' said Wooten. Police say with few mental health beds available at state facilities, they have no choice but to leave the fate of people like Terrence Wooten to the criminal justice system.... The Department of Justice says up to 64 percent of inmates at local jails have some mental health problems. Using that statistic, the two largest jails in the United States, Cook County and LA County would become two of the largest mental institutions in the country - de facto." []

" ... In a 2006 Special Report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimated that 705,600 mentally ill adults were incarcerated in state prisons, 78,800 in federal prisons and 479,900 in local jails. In addition, research suggests that "people with mental illnesses are overrepresented in probation and parole populations at estimated rates ranging from two to four times the general population" (Prins and Draper, 2009)." []

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