Mental Health and Violence
There is widespread public fear that people with mental disorder pose a significant risk of interpersonal violence, but research has shown that the degree of association between violence and mental disorder is small and is accounted for by a small minority of patients.
People with severe mental illness are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. In one study 16% of people with psychosis living in the community had been violently victimised.
A third of people who committed homicide had a lifetime history of mental disorder, but in most cases this was not a severe mental illness. Most had not attended psychiatric services, and only 10% had symptoms of mental illness at the time of the offence. The most common diagnoses were personality disorder, and alcohol and drug dependence. 90% of the perpetrators
5% of all perpetrators of homicide in England and Wales, and 2% in Scotland, had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. 9% of people convicted of homicide had a diagnosis of personality disorder.
7% of people convicted of homicide in England and Wales, and 6% in Scotland, were committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Mentally ill perpetrators were less likely to kill a stranger than those without mental illness.The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems. In fact, 95 per cent of homicides are committed by people who have not been diagnosed with a mental health problem
Unless drugs or alcohol are involved, people with mental disorders do not pose any more threat to the community than anyone else. This finding cannot be emphasised enough.
A good predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. If the person has acted violently toward you in the past, they are likely to do so again in the future, regardless of their mental health status.
It’s time that, as a society to knock down stereotypes and start breaking down the stigma associated with mental disorders. The first stereotype to go down — permanently, we hope — is that people who suffer from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, an eating disorder, or any other type of mental disorder, are somehow more violent than others. This simply isn’t true, unless they are involved in substance abuse there is little correlation between mental health and violence. Use and abuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol is often correlated with an increase in violence anyway (e.g., due to impaired judgment).
Violence is most often a criminal activity which has little correlation with a person’s mental health. Most people who suffer from a mental disorder are not violent — there is no need to fear them. Embrace them for who they are — normal human beings experiencing a difficult time, who are probably scared and feel alone. Who need your open mind, caring attitude, and helpful support.