Some people in Utah may think that many violent crimes are committed by people who are mentally unstable. In fact, a survey conducted in 2006 reported that 60 percent of respondents believed that individuals with schizophrenia were likely to commit acts of violence, and 32 percent of respondents believed that those who suffered from major depression were more apt to commit violent acts. However, some research has suggested that those who have a mental illness may not be violent at all. While some individuals with a psychiatric disorder might commit violent crimes such as assault, findings about how these acts compared to other factors such as drug abuse were inconsistent.
First of all, there are problems with the comparison of studies that use different research methods to determine rates of violence between control groups and those with mental illnesses. For example, some research focused on “self-reporting,” which relies on a person’s memories to determine whether they have committed an act of violence. This could be problematic if individuals did not remember what they did, were embarrassed about it or were not willing to provide researchers with information about any violent behavior they may have engaged in.
In comparison, some studies used information from the criminal justice system, such as comparing the rates individuals with mental illnesses were arrested compared to those without mental illnesses who were also arrested. In addition, stressful situations, the history of one’s family and poverty could also lead to violent crimes, rather than mental illness.
In the end, the relationship between mental illness and the commission of violent crimes is a complex one. However, no one should be charged with a violent crime simply because they have a mental illness. In general, there must be probable cause to make an arrest. If an individual feels they have been unjustly arrested or charged with a crime, they may need the advice and representation of an attorney who can provide more information about the law and protect a person’s rights.
Source: Harvard Health Publications, “Mental illness and violence,” accessed March 18, 2016