In the wake of the horrific violence committed today in Roseburg, Oregon, in addition to sympathies for the victims and their loved ones, I'd like to add a few words to address the question, "Does mental illness lead to violence?"
|Violence Causes Mental Illness, Not Vice Versa|
The facts are in the article posted here: No causal relationship (between mental illness and violence) has been found. There is a relationship, however, between anger, substance abuse, recent divorce, and violence. Should we fear and shut out everyone who gets angry, drinks alcohol, or just split with their ex? Yet stigma against the mentally ill persists....
The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health found that, “Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders - especially severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment (New Freedom Commission, 2003).”
"Multivariate analyses revealed that severe mental illness alone did not predict future violence; it was associated instead with historical (past violence, juvenile detention, physical abuse, parental arrest record), clinical (substance abuse, perceived threats), dispositional (age, sex, income), and contextual (recent divorce, unemployment, victimization) factors." (JAMA Psychiatry, 2014)
And yet, the media continues to portray mentally ill people as violently dangerous, and also to portray violently dangerous acts as being caused by mental illness:
Today's NBC News' "Tragic List: The Deadliest Mass Shootings in U.S. History" summary, includes the following in each listing:
- 32 Killed: "ranting about rich 'brats'"
- 27 Killed: "suffered from extreme mental illness"
- 18 Killed: "complained of physical and mental health issues before the attack"
- “The magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population (Institute of Medicine, 2006). Other risk factors have more to do with violent behavior such as past violent victimization, lack of social supports, and substance abuse."
- “Research has shown that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).”
- “People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et al., 2001). Researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke University found that 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)."
- "People with mental illnesses can and do recover. People with mental illnesses can recover or manage their conditions and go on to lead happy, healthy, productive lives. They contribute to society and make the world a better place. People can often benefit from medication, rehabilitation, talk therapy, self help or a combination of these. One of the most important factors in recovery is the understanding and acceptance of family and friends."
- “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 need your open mind, caring attitude, and helpful support"