Imagining a criminal, the first thing that crosses most people’s minds usually is ‘He must be a psychopath!’ After all why would a person in his right mind destroy lives? Also, hearing about crimes committed by mentally ill people mostly comes as a big headlines in all kinds of medias, most movies depict serial killers or rapists as sufferers of dissociative identity disorder or another personality disorder. In people’s minds only a psycho could commit such offenses because he probably lacks the ability to feel empathy and remorse. But a new study contradicts these beliefs stating that it’s only 7.5% of crimes that are committed by people suffering from psychiatric disorders.
Researchers analyzed 429 crimes committed by 143 offenders with three major types of mental illnesses and found that 3 percent of their crimes were directly related to symptoms of major depression, 4 percent to symptoms of schizophrenic disorders and 10% to 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, covering an average of 15 years. In addition to interviews, the researchers reviewed criminal history and social worker files to help rate crimes based on their association with symptoms of schizophrenia disorders, bipolar disorder and major depression.
No predictable pattern linked criminal conduct and mental illness symptoms over time. Two thirds of the criminals who had committed crimes directly relating to their mental illness were also involved in crimes for other reasons like poverty, unemployment, homelessness and substance abuse. And no such link was found that this minority of mentally ill criminals might be repeating crimes again and again because of their symptoms.
According to the researcher, Dr. Jillian Peterson, vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent, criminal or dangerous. They also said that programs designed to reduce recidivism for mentally ill offenders should be expanded beyond mental health treatment to include those with criminal thinking, anger management and behavioral issues.
In fact, there has been a previous study that found that people with mental illnesses are at increased risk of being murder victims. This study was first ever to experiment the relation between mental disorders and crimes. More studies will be carried out of this kind to inquire if the substance abuse that interacted with mental illness can influence the criminal behavior and many others such questions that need proper experimentation to be answered.