Myth: Crazy Violence

Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about the myth that people with mental illness are more violent than people who don’t have a mental illness diagnosis.

The Myth: People with mental illness are violent.

Violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. According to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s definition, violent crimes involve force or threat of force.

And this is the truth:

  1. The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.
  2. People who have mental illness are less likely to commit a violent crime then the general population.
  3. Those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crimes then those of the general population
    1. They are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population
  4. Studies have not found any predictable patterns linking criminal conduct and mental illness symptoms over time.
  5. People with mental illnesses are on probation or parole at two to four times the rate for the general population (depending on the state).
    1. This means that if someone with mental illness goes to jail, they are a lot more likely to be considered safe to return to society then someone without mental illness.
  6. One in Four adults have a mental illness diagnosis, but
  7. The amount of violent crimes is decreasing, but the number of people being diagnosed with mental illness is increasing.

Where does some of this misconception come from?

  1. The public is misinformed about the link between commiting violent crimes and mental illness.
    1. Most people believe there is a strong link, when there is very little linking the two.
  2. The link between mental illness and violence is promoted by the entertainment and news media.
    1.  The media plays a big role in creating the myth that the mentally ill are violent.
    2. Characters in prime time television portrayed as having a mental illness are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups
      1. 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence
    3. When we hear about crimes committed by people with mental illness
      1. They tend to be big headline-making crimes so they get stuck in people’s heads.
      2. Their mental illness and their treatment becomes a major part of the story.
      3. But when someone without mental illness commits a crime, no one mentions “hey, this person has no mental illness.”
  3. Bureau of Justice Statistics that are taken out of context. Let’s look at some of that data and add some context to them:
    1. More than half of all prison and jail inmates were found to have a mental health problem.
      1. First, it is important to note that this does not mean that their crime was related to their mental illness.
      2. The majority of people with mental illness in prison did not commit a violent crime.
      3. This number includes those who have substance abuse disorders without another mental illness diagnosis.
    2. The most important part of evaluating this data is: The findings represent inmates’ reporting symptoms rather than an official diagnosis of a mental illness.
      1. That means that this data is based solely on an inmate reporting they have mental illness or symptoms of mental illness.
        1. Having symptoms of a mental illness is not the same as having that illness.
          1. Let’s give an example for that (for a phsysical symptom): Leg pain is a symptom of a fractured femur (broken leg bone), but there are numerous reasons someone can have leg pain and most of those have nothing to do with a broken bone (like over exercising, a sprain or a bruise).
      2. The inmates were not clinically evaluated.
      3. Self report based survey studies are wraught with problems and the data they yield needs to be viewed in light of where it came from.
    3. Lastly, all this data is public and you can find it on their web site or request it by mail.

Who Commits Crime?

  1. Men comprise about 81 percent of all arrests for violent crime and about 63 percent of all arrests for property crime.
  2.  People in the 15–24 age range account for about 40 percent of all arrests even though they comprise only about 14 percent of the population.
  3. Social class does seem to be associated with street crime, with poor individuals doing more than their fair share.
  4. Big cities have a much higher homicide rate than small towns.
  5.  Of all arrestees for violent crimes, 60.9 percent were white, 36.9 percent were black, and the remainder were of other races.
  6. 41% of violent crimes were committed against college students and 38% of nonstudents were committed by an offender using drugs.
  7. About 2 in 5 of all rape/sexual assaults were committed by an offender using drugs.
  8. 32% of criminals who committed violent crimes said they were using illegal drugs in the month before their offense.
  9. More than two-thirds of jail inmates (68%) were found to be dependent on drugs or alcohol or abusing them.

A few final notes:

  1. The number of people who believe that mental illness equates to violent or dangerous behaviors has been increasing.
  2. Inaccurate beliefs about mental illness and violence lead to widespread stigma and discrimination.
  3. Stigma is based on misinformation and misunderstanding of what mental illness is.
  4. This stigma related to mental illness can be very damning.
    1. Reduces treatment availability
    2. Many people do not seek treatment due to the stigma
    3. Many insurances don’t adequately cover treatment
    4. Social support is often unavailable

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

Some good sites:
Fact Sheets
Mental Illness not Linked to Crime
Mental Illness Facts and Numbers
Violent Crime Data

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