Statistics About Mental Health and Crime

Based on public opinion, many people believe that crime is almost always linked to mental illness. This does not always prove to be true, as most people with psychiatric disorders are not violent. In fact, only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. This article will distinguish what is myth and what is fact about the connection between mental illness and crime.

Common misconceptions about the correlations between crime and mental health

In the United States more than 1.2 million people with mental illness are incarcerated in jails or prisons, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But mental illness is not usually the only factor that leads someone to commit a crime. In a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. Below are common misconceptions about crime amongst the mentally ill.

  • Most mentally ill patients that do not abuse drugs or alcohol are no more likely to commit a violent act than people without a mental illness.
  • Mentally ill people that abuse substances are typically more likely to commit a crime
  • Patients with schizophrenia are less likely to exhibit violence than patients with other disorders
  • Mentally ill people typically only act violently at home toward family members rather than strangers
  • Studies show that mentally ill people are greater threats to themselves than other people, especially those suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and alcoholism
  • About 10-15% of people with major depression die by their own hands
  • Individuals suffering from severe mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence
  • One study showed that 25% of those with severe mental illness were victims of violence as compared to only 3% of the general population
  • A study of homeless people with severe mental illness indicated that 44% of them had been victims of violence during the previous two months

Although most people who commit multiple homicides are mentally ill, very few people with mental illness perpetrate such crimes. People with a mental illness need to be helped not feared.