Role of mental disorder as a cause of crime

Subject: Mental Health
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Mental illness refers to a health condition which makes an individual lose consciousness and reasoning and therefore can sub consciously venture into activities that turn out to be illegal, violent and crime related. There have been numerous debates on the relationship between mental illness and crime whereby health practitioners, the justice system and general have raised concerns about the effects of mental disorder on the crime rate (Morgan, 2008). People with mental disorder are generally perceived as violent and likely to engage in criminal activities. This prejudiced judgment in the society if based on the perception that mentally ill people cannot think well and are therefore likely to make decisions that will hurt them or those around them. However, several researches conducted on the issue have supported the claims that mental disorder is one of the main factors that lead to violence and crime (Frith & Johnstone, 2003). We however have to understand the various types of mental disorders   and the variety of crimes that are linked to people with these disorders. Violent crimes are the first set of criminal offences that are mostly associated with people with mental disorders. An analysis of these crimes and how they are linked to the perpetrators will enhance the understanding of the relationship between mental disorder/ schizophrenia and crime (Cashman & Thomas, 2017). This paper will revisit the issue of mental disorder and crime through an extensive analysis of credible sources supporting the role played by the disorder in criminal activities.

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The frequency of crimes committed by mentally disordered people is far much high than the rate of crimes done by normal people. Notably, mentally disordered individuals are likely to commit violent crimes than normal people. On the other side of the argument, some other researchers believe that mental disorder patients are victims of crime and violence and therefore mental disorder should not be considered as a factor that leads to crime (Kidd, 2004). A conclusion on the issue of effects of mental illness on crime rate can have a significant impact on the justice systems and correctional facilities as they would use the unraveled facts to reach appropriate judgments and sentences for people with mental disorders (Frith & Johnstone, 2003). The debate on violence and mental disorder is based on the fact that mentally ill persons have an unstable mental condition which makes them more likely to commit actions of violence to themselves all to anyone who gets close to them (Hodgins, 1993). All this is attributed to their mental conditions though the law in some instances fails to recognize mental disorder as a reason for a committed crime. This leaves mentally ill convicts at a disadvantage as they are treated as people of sound mind and judged without consideration of their mental state.

There undoubtedly is a relationship between mental disorder and crime which some researchers have attributed to psychosis. However, despite the fact that mentally ill people are likely to commit a crime, the public in most cases exaggerate this probability which makes mentally ill people to be perceived as criminals. Research has established that a significant percentage of mentally ill people have their condition attributed to substance abuse or personal issues that had adverse psychological effects on them (Miller, 2012). These conditions start off as a bipolar disorder which later worsens turning them to completely insane people. However, one thing that is clear is the fact that most of them commit these crimes subconsciously. This is the main reason where there should be a well-established connection between mental illness and crime supported by credible facts as they in most cases suffer injustices in the hands of the justice system and the general public.

The mentally ill people who commit crimes and get arrested face a lot of injustice as they already suffer the stigma of having the mental condition and they in addition face criminal charges which can have them imprisoned. That double burden which is subjected to these people has been the primary drive behind various researches which seek to prove that mental disorder actually increases the probability of an individual to commit a crime (Cashman & Thomas, 2017). This will enable the justice systems to come up with different approaches to deal with the cases of mentally ill convicts. Mental health courts are more concerned with helping a convict through rehabilitation and appropriate treatment so as to eliminate the cause of the criminal behavior which is mental illness (Munker, 2005). However, that approach by mental health courts has also received of criticism whereby some have argued that it does not serve the traditional purpose of law which is to enhance justice. The law was traditionally meant to protect the victim from the crime perpetrator. However, in the case of mental disorder courts, the victims are left feeling that justice has not been served.

Psychological symptoms are one of the factors that attempt to explain the connection between mental illness and crime. Crime committed by mentally ill people mainly originates from violent behavior which psychologists have attributed to psychological disturbances and disorder. According to psychology, even people without mental illness sometimes get psychological disturbances which make them become violent (Southorn, 2003). It is therefore evident that it is possible that the mentally ill people who engage in crime do that out of psychological issues. Research conducted recently to expound on this issue revealed that psychological symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, medication compliance, and treatment adherence are predictors of violence among people with mental disorder (Frith & Johnstone, 2003).The researcher analyzed several case studies of incarcerated men and women who showed traces of mental disorder. The findings showed that men and women are equally affected by psychological stress, but their ways of coping with it are quite different. According to the research, men respond differently to the experience of psychopathological symptomatology, and this influences them to participate in violent acts. However, another research has dismissed claims that psychological factors are to blame citing that drug use and alcohol primary factors that lead to mental illness and violence.

John Bradford who is a prominent psychologist and researcher conducted a research that analyzed the role psychological symptoms in determining violence among individuals with the mental disorder. The psychologist identified comorbidity as the primary factor that associates mental illness and violence. According to Bradford, any mentally ill person would be likely to commit crimes due to comorbidity, and therefore it is important that treatment interventions for the mentally disordered people are improved so as to decrease crimes committed by such people (Bruce Et al, 2014). The psychologists asserted that the mentally ill people are less likely to realize that they are committing a crime as they are in most cases high on substances which make everything seem harmless. The comorbidity brought by substance abuse and mental disorder is the main reason that these people engage in violence. In a different research that involved people with schizophrenia and affective disorders, it was established that 34% out of the patients with schizophrenia and 42% of the patients with the affective disorder had committed crimes in the past. However, an in-depth analysis of the research showed that about 54% of the total people involved in the research had co-occurring drug abuse (Bruce Et al, 2014). The research concluded that individuals with schizophrenia without drug use were more likely to commit violent crimes while those with affective disorder coupled with substance abuse were likely to engage in property offenses. This research proves that there is a connection between comorbidity, mental disorder, and crime. Research conducted to find out the basic effects of psychotic symptoms did not derive sufficient findings that could be used to make a conclusion. For instance, a research on the effects of hallucinations on the likelihood of a mentally ill person to commit violence did not show whether hallucinations are related to violence. However, it revealed that hallucinations on mentally ill people make them lose control of their actions and are therefore likely to engage in violence unknowingly.

The historical back ground of mentally ill people has been termed as another factor that influences them to engage in violence and crime. Factors such as parental violence, oppression, and delinquency in young age make a person more likely to be violent in adulthood. A research conducted on samples of mentally disordered people revealed that juvenile delinquency, early arrests and other criminal offenses at a young age are the primary factors that predict criminality among the mentally disordered. Socio economic factors also play a significant role in influencing crime and violence among the mentally disabled (Bruce Et al, 2014). A research conducted in a Turkish hospital to find out the effects of demographics and social, economic factors on psychotic patients showed that indeed mental disorder patients are affected by these issues. The study consisted of about 70 psychotic patients who were hospitalized and receiving treatment (Frith & Johnstone, 2003). The patients were receiving treatments in a forensic psychiatry unit for compulsory treatment and were compared to other 70 patients treated in the same clinic but in the acute wing and had no criminal records.

The research found that financial stability and independence had a significant effect on the violence aspect among the mentally ill patients. The patients that had a job and a social security fund to cater for their hospital bills seemed more comfortable, nonviolent and less likely to commit crimes. This shows that socio economic factors affect the probability of a mentally ill individual to engage in crime. Another research conducted by Sirotich Frank on the reason behind recidivism among convicted mentally disordered people found out that parental violence was the primary relation between recidivism and mental disorder. This shows that having a history of violence also accelerates crime among people with mental disorder.

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In order to get extensive information on the issue of mental disorder and crime, we have to go back in history and study past trends on the issue. The ideas that there is a significant relationship between mental disorder and crime have been debated since the early 19th century (Dunham, 1947). It, however, occurs that research has not yet established crimes which can be linked to mentally disordered and schizophrenic patients which indicate that there is still room for more research on the issue. It is necessary that more detailed research is done to find out exactly what crimes these two sets of mentally ill people are likely to commit and the best way to contain them and prevent the crimes (Fogden Et al, 2015). For instance, there is no proven relationship that exists between brain disorders such as schizophrenia with any crime such as robbery, theft or felony. However, there is sufficient evidence that there is a relationship between mental illness and crime in general.

Schizophrenia which is one of the most common mental disorders presents itself in different versions some of which promote violence and crime while others are mild and have no side effects that may lead the individuals to crime and violence. One of the common behaviors among people with mental disorders is irrationality and disturbed perceptions of issues and situations. Such character traits can lead to jealousy and delusion against other people which can make people with mental disorder to become violent towards others. Delusions are one of the biggest problems faced by people with mental disorders (Gunter, 2017). These people tend to have beliefs that they are not appreciated by the rest of the people in the society. This makes them feel neglected and left out in issues in the society which leads to psychological stress and consequently delusions.  Similarly, schizophrenic patients have beliefs which may be based on illusions and hallucinations that lead them to irrationality and violence. For instance, schizophrenic patients in most cases believe that they are being observed and that makes them become violent against anyone who interacts with them.

Medics believe that there is a degree of relation between thoughts and emotions. It from this understanding that research has claimed that mentally disordered people have both thoughts and feelings. However, they lack consciousness and moderation of thoughts and therefore are likely to take action without a second thought (Steadman Et al, 1993). This trait is particularly popular with schizophrenic people who despite being relatively conscious do not have control over their extreme thoughts. Numerous researches have established that a particular type of schizophrenia can be attributed to either violence or a particular type of crimes (Gunter, 2017). This is because the condition is in most cases hereditary and permanent and therefore it is easy to study behavioral trends through a lineage that has a history of the condition in its members. Patients suffering from any form of Psychiatric condition tend to be more vulnerable in the society as their condition makes them to be left out in matters of employment, politics and social issues (Raine, 2006). In return, these people isolate themselves and develop a strong hatred against the members of the society. This hate grows over time and can easily be triggered to become violent. The isolation and prejudice exercised against these people are the reason they turn violent as a way of rejecting manipulation and revenging the injustices.

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The strongest evidence that links the crime to mental disorder is presented by a comparison between the rate of crime among schizophrenic patients and crime rate in the general population. This comparison revealed that the rate of crime among schizophrenic patients is about four times higher than I normal people (Gunter, 2017). The researcher explored type one and two violence crimes among schizophrenic patients, and he found out that patients considered to have type one violence would be looking like any other ordinary patient while those that committed type two appeared like convicts and had a history of violence and crimes which the police department was aware of (David, 2013). From the research, it was evident that most crimes were committed by patients who displayed type two ‘violence,’ thus confirming the argument that there is a connection between crime and mental disorder. However, another article about a research conducted by schizophrenia and stigma organization refuted these claims asserting that the relationship between mental illness and crime is negligible when it is compared with the relationship between substance abuse and violence (Reamer, 2003). The report suggested that drug addiction is the factor that promotes crime amongst schizophrenic individuals and not their mental conditions as earlier believed. Notably, research on the rate of crime among substance abusing schizophrenic individuals and non –substance abusing revealed that those addicted to substances were more violent and likely to engage in crime.

Another recent study that was presented in an accessible scientific journal JAMA had the researchers making a comparison of the rate of violent crimes in a particular number of people who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia within the years 1973 and 2006 (Schug & Fradella, 2015). The research also had a control group which consisted of people from the normal population in Sweden. Surprisingly, about 28% of the people who had schizophrenia and abused substance were convicted of violent crimes compared to 8% of schizophrenic people who did not abuse any substance. For the general population control group, only 5% was convicted of violent crime. Hence the notion that people with mental disorder are violent than the rest is not true. Substance abuse is the dominant factor in all activities of violence (Burke, 2014). The research also revealed that there is more probability of schizophrenic males to engage in violence that the females. There is also significant evidence to support the predominance of schizophrenia in males opposed to females. Interestingly, other scholars and researchers believe that the issue of mental disorder makes the individuals more of victims of violence and crime than perpetrators of criminal acts. Despite the fact that patients suffering from psychiatric conditions are likely to be violent, it is also possible that people with mental disorders can be victims or targets of criminal activity.

Hodgins and Muller (2001) conducted a study to find out the relationship between mental illness and victimization. The study sampled about 691 patients who had been diagnosed with a severe mental illness and made a comparison of the sample with people from the normal population (Rubenking & Cleveland State University, 2008). The participants were generally questioned about how they were treated in the society and whether they had faced any cases of bullying, molestation or violence against them. The results indicated that sixteen percent of the mentally disordered people had been subjects of victimization in the past year (Hodgins & Muller, 2001). When this data was compared with police reports, it was found that the violence had decreased by six percent. A study that considered 172 schizophrenic patients with a particular community for a period of five years discovered that 38% were victims of crime and about 91% of those crimes committed against them were characterized by violence. This study provides evidence which supports the claim that people with mental disorders are vulnerable in the society and are likely to be victims of violent crimes.

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From the statistical evidence presented by different research reports, it is clear that the weight of the evidence is sufficient to reach a conclusion that there is a correlation between mental disorder and crime. Schizophrenia, for instance, is one of the most common mental disorders and it is known as a debilitating illness which subsequently affects the mood, perception and may cause delusions on the individual. Doctors have presented their findings regarding the mental activities of mental disorder patients which show that they are more likely to be irrational besides having a different perception of typical issues. For instance, a schizophrenic person may choose to kill or harm a nurse if he/she is displeased with the service given. However, there is also the issue of stereotyping and misconception in the society where mentally disordered people are considered as violent. This is a biased concept as some individuals with mental disorders relate well with the rest of the community and have no cases of violent acts. It can be concluded that though mental disorder people are likely to commit crimes, the aspect of violence is catalyzed by other factors such as past violence, substance abuse or socioeconomic issues such as poverty.

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