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The stereotype of mental illness and violence

Posted Sep 26 2010 4:51pm

Another blow has been struck against the stereotype of the “violent crazy person.”  This is a belief held by many people.  Just read any local paper after a violent crime.  In a dressed up way this belief is also the centerpiece to the argument of people like the Treatment Advocacy Center.  It is a centerpiece assumption that lays underneath the stigma that those with mental illness deal with every day of their life- the idea that somehow they are diminished people that less should be expected out of , that should expect less from us.

There is an article in the General Archives of Psychiatry by Dr Eric Elbogen of North Carolina.  The study followed 34,000 adults.  Its conclusions were clear.  Mental illness, unless it is paired with substance abuse, a previous history of violence and several other factors is not predictive of an individual’s likelihood of violent behavior.

I think we have known this, but to hear it being reinforced on such a grand scale is great.  As someone else pointed out mental illness is probably a greater predictor of being the victim of violence, rather than the author of it.

Maybe the next time there is a horrendous crime and we try to solve it by saying “He must be crazy” someone will stop and say— maybe there is more to it than that.  Calling names explains little other than you believe it does.


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