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Violence and Schizophrenia – Part Two

Posted Jul 22 2008 8:22pm
As previously discussed, and as confirmed by the comments received, Schizophrenia sufferers are often the victims of violent intrusive thoughts. But are people with Schizophrenia violent?

If your opinions are easily swayed by headline news then you would probably conclude that they are. I am aware that within the town I live in, stabbings and murder are far more common than I would like, but rarely – if ever – does it reach national news. The only type of killings thatdoreach national headlines are the ones that are particularly shocking in some way – a child perhaps; a whole family; or a murder committed by someone with mental health problems. Nowthere’sa headline.

With so much media coverage every time a person with mental health problems commits a murder, it’s no wonder that people think they are all mad, axe wielding murderers. In fact, as few as 50 murders a year in the UK are recorded as being committed by someone with mental health problems, compared to 1,300 suicides – when it is said that people with Schizophrenia are more likely to hurt themselves, it’s true.

95% of murders are committed by “sane” people. My guess is that of those 5% of murders which are recorded as being committed by people with mental health problems, many of them could have been prevented, and many of them would have been committed whether the person suffered from mental illness or not. Why do I say that?

It is a myth that people with Schizophrenia will suddenly “snap” and become violent. Uninformed (and even misinformed) individuals still believe that people with Schizophrenia have a split personality and will switch without warning between the two. Often people believe that whilst one of their personalities may appear “normal” the other is often psychopathic. The truth is that people with Schizophrenia only have a “split mind” in the sense that they are split from reality, with principle symptoms of Schizophrenia being delusions and hallucinations. If suffering from Schizophrenia was really thecauseof a person committing murder it would be because of these delusions and hallucinations. The person would probably have a strong belief that he or she was acting in self defence, as many delusions include feelings of persecution.

It is thought that maybe only 1% of the 1% of people who suffer from Schizophrenia commit violent crime.

"True Figures" byPhilippa King

Of course, with adequate mental health care this situation should berare. Although symptoms can progress quickly in a person with Schizophrenia, we are talking about a matter of days or weeks rather than minutes or hours. Before a person ever deteriorates to the point of acting on their belief that they have to kill in order to protect themselves or their family, the deterioration should have been recognised and intervention should already have taken place.

But as I said earlier, many of those murders which are committed by people with mental health problems may have occurred anyway. A diagnosis of Schizophrenia, or any mental illness, does not define a person or their personality. Like any other illness, Schizophrenia is indiscriminate and can affect people from all walks of life, different upbringings, and different personalities. It stands to reason then, that with as many as 1 in every 100 people suffering from Schizophrenia, at least some of them will have a criminal mind. Add to the equation the fact that illegal drug usage can induce Schizophrenia, and it’s easy to see that many of those murderers could already have been on a criminal path even before the onset of their illness.

Obviously, the job of their solicitor, if the crime is undeniable, would be to negotiate the shortest prison sentence possible, and if that means playing on a persons mental health – whether relevant or not – they will do so.

So taking these things into account, I wonder what the true figure should be of those who commit murderbecauseof their mental health. And how many more could be prevented? Also, are we really in more danger of being murdered by a person suffering from Schizophrenia – whose condition should be closely monitored by a Community Mental Health Team – rather than your average bad tempered driver, a group of drunken youths, or even that friendly and polite neighbour of yours who hides bodies under the floor boards?

Related Posts:Violence and Schizophrenia - Part One,Violence and Schizophrenia - Comments from Readers
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