Monday, January 10, 2011
Mental illness and crime
Take this article in Time magazine, for example. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2041448,00.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.