Mental illness not linked to criminal behavior


Many people assume that mental illness and crime go hand-in-hand. It’s not true. In a recent study of crimes committed by people with mental disorders, only 7.5% of the crimes were directly related to the mental illness.

People with mental illness are not usually violent

Researchers looked at 429 crimes committed by 143 offenders with mental illness over a period of 15 years. They found that 3% of the crimes were related to symptoms of major depression, 4% related to symptoms of schizophrenia and 10% related to symptoms of bipolar. The study may be the first to analyze the connection between crime and mental illness symptoms for offender over an extended time. “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,” noted lead researcher Jillian Peterson, PhD. “The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous.”

Even mentally ill people commit crimes for a variety of reasons

The study did not find any predictable patterns tying criminal conduct and mental illness together. Two-thirds of the offenders committed crimes directly related to their mental illness, but they also committed unrelated crimes for other reasons, like substance abuse or poverty. “Is there a small group of people with mental illness committing crimes again and again because of their symptoms? We didn’t find that in this study,” Peterson said.

Programs designed to reduce recidivism for mentally ill offenders should be expanded to include cognitive-behavioral treatment about criminal thinking, anger management and other behavioral issues.

Source: Law and Human Behavior, MedicalNewsToday


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