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Monday, January 10, 2011

Mental illness and crime

As noted in the book, when the media cover crime, they do it in a certain, predicatble way.

Take this article in Time magazine, for example.,8599,2041448,00.html?hpt=T2

The violent act is linked to gun control.
And to mental illness.
And to previous violent assaults by people with mental disorders.
Including the Va Tech massacre.

(even though it is in no way connected to that event)

They even raise the issue of how this man's drug use may be to blame asking you to: Read about the link between marijuana and schizophrenia.
(he used marijuana, by the way, a drug that lessons violent impulses not brings them on)

And the question of the article is, why are the mentally ill armed?

Not, why are people mentally ill?
Not, why don't we do a better job of treating people with mental illness?
Not even, do mentally ill people usually get violent? If not, what conditions lead to violence among the mentally ill.

In other words, the proper context is not being provided.

And the context being provided is the wrong one.

Here are the facts about mental illness and crime:

1) Most mentally ill people are not violent

2) Violence is more common in mentally ill people only under certain circumstances:

a) The person is suffering from psychosis and/or delusions
b) The person is abusing drugs (usually as a form of self-medication)
c) The person is not being treated

3) The mentally ill are overrepresented in criminal justice populations not because they commit more crime but because they cannot find effective treatment in their communities.

That is the story the media should be telling.


  1. Since well, forever ago, the mentally ill have been labeled in a severely negative manner. It is quite sad that the media appears to group all mental illnesses together, no matter how severe, and then say that [all] mentally ill people are violent. This is far from the truth. As learned in Dr. Robinson's Theories class, and as stated in the blog, not all mentally ill people are violent and those that are generally have a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia. The media has victimized the mentally ill and has not by any means given the public a reasonable perception of "those people".

  2. Great comment wrightja. And nice link back to the theories class too.

  3. I agree with the above statement, but would like to add that yes the media does portray mentally handicapped in a poor manor. But that is because the media in these cases thrive on public opinion. In other words, what the people of a society deem deviant or wrong is what the media takes and usually spins into the "news" that is published today.

  4. So a question we will need to answer is what comes first, what we think or what the media show us? In other words, do they portray the mentally ill this way because that is how we see them or do we see them that way because of how they are shown to us?

    We'll soon see (chapters 1-2).