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By On June 3rd, 2013

Mental Illness And Violence Are Less Related Than You Think

One of the worst stigmas facing those struggling with mental illness is the connection the public has between mental illness and violence. It seems like common sense to many, as they see time and time again how a person dealing with a severe mental illness commits mass violence like those in the news over the past few years in Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Arizona.

However, when you look at the actual statistics it is quickly clear that mental health is about as indicative of violence as it is suggestive of being an upstanding person. There appears to be absolutely no correlation.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D., isn’t new to this idea. He has traced the history of the purported link between violence and mental illness to a study from 1990 which did claim a connection. However, the followup research lead by the same team actually limited their conclusion rather than making a robust statement as many claimed.

The real correlating factor to violence is substance abuse, by all statistical accounts. When Van Dorn, one of the researchers on the 1990 study, recently claimed there was a relationship between violence and mental health, his footnote even clarified that patients without a coexisting drug or alcohol problem did not share the same statistical likelihood towards violence.

Since then, every major study claiming a connection to violence based on a person’s mental history has similarly included footnotes and subtitles that establish that mental illness was statistically unrelated to violence unless there was an existing addiction issue.

There are still many that believe that the relationship between mental health, violence, and addiction is much more intertwined between the three, but it has yet to be established. It does not help that a large amounts of those struggling with more severe mental illness become addicted to a substance or substances compared to the general population.

No matter what the connection is, it is clear that simply dealing with mental illness does not make one more likely to commit violent acts, and the stigma needs to be dealt with.

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