Crime and Mental Illness
Crime and Mental illness has been getting a bad rap for many years. With each school shooting the media immediately seeks to determine if the shooter was living with some form of mental illness.
In 1989, Patrick Edward Purdy, murdered five children and wounded 32 others in Stockton, California
In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Kleboled murdered 12 students and 1 teacher. 21 others were wounded in Columbine, Colorado
In 2005, Jeffrey Weise murdered 10 and injured 7 in Red Lake, Minnesota
In 2007, Hut Sho murdered 33 and injured 25 in Blacksburg, Virginia
In 2012, Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, Connecticut
Sadly, the list goes on and on. And what was the focus of the media in each of these horrible tragedies? The mental conditions of the assailants, of course. However, in a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were related to symptoms of mental illness, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. According to Jilliian Peterson, PhD:
“When we hear about crimes committed by people with mental illness, they tend to be big headline-making crimes so they get stuck in people’s heads. The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous.
The study, which was published by the researchers, analyzed 429 crimes by 143 offenders with at least one of three major types of mental illness. They found 3 percent of their crimes were related to symptoms of major depression, 4 percent to symptoms of schizophrenia disorders and 10 percent to symptoms of bipolar disorder.
The study was conducted with former defendants of a mental health court in Minneapolis. The participants completed a two-hour interview about their criminal history and mental health symptoms. The study, published online in the APA journal Law and Human Behavior, may be the first to analyze the connection between crime and mental illness symptoms for offenders over an extended period of their lives, said Peterson, a psychology professor at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minn.
The researchers said programs designed to reduce recidivism for mentally ill offenders should be expanded beyond mental health treatment to include cognitive-behavioral treatment about criminal thinking, anger management and other behavioral issues. I couldn’t agree with them more. Programs to address basic needs also are essential to reduce recidivism for all offenders after incarceration, including drug treatment and housing and employment support, Peterson said.
My hope is that organizations like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), Healthline, Bring Change 2 Mind, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI,) will continue, and succeed, in the battle to end the stigma imposed on the mentally ill. I am under no delusion that this study will change the hearts and minds of the media, but, at the very least, maybe it’s a good start.
Overall. I feel somewhat vindicated by this study, because I will have peace of mind knowing that there is proof that crime and mental illness do not go hand in hand.