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Jeff Baker, BSBA-IT, Bipolar Aid, Bella Vista, AR 72715 USA firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental Illness Cause Violence?
- A Media Myth -
[Article follows video]
President Obama's Executive "Dis"orders, Psychiatric Drugs, and Violence (31:01)
illness is neither a source nor a cause for aggression, violence,
murder and mayhem. Generally speaking, the news and entertainment media pair this
"cause-and-effect" rationale to spice up and extend news
coverage duration in the case of a mass murder. The media demand
immediate answers for each event's details in the pursuit of
American public frequently and vicariously 'experience' violence at the hands of the mentally ill in fictional and
real-life dramas in movies and newscasts. The global viewing public
receives a steady diet of real-life violence linked to mental
illness. The public are conditioned to fear violence that is
random, senseless, and unpredictable as being due to mental
illness. However, people understand and accept
crimes with a clear motive, like robbery. Without a clear motive, a
suspect must be mentally ill, right?1
German survey series demonstrated public social distance from the
mentally ill increases with each publicized crime, never returning
to its original value. Furthermore, there were perceptions of the
mentally ill as dangerous and unpredictable.2
a killer is shown to be mentally ill, why is it assumed that his illness causes the crime? U.S. Government officials hurry to
address the problem, yet fall victim to the same falsehoods as do
the people they represent. Media mischaracterizations of the
mentally ill go back at least six decades. How can government
pass constructive legislation during this season of national
turmoil and ignorance?
killer slays 8 people in their beds"
scary. Why? According to The
New Oxford Dictionary,
“psychosis” is "a
severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so
impaired that contact is lost with external reality."
being out of touch with reality cause someone to become violent?
No. Obviously, a suspect's underlying life issues including
substance abuse, medications' side-effects, bullying, abuse, rage
and hatred should be investigated instead. These issues may co-exist with mental conditions. Sadly, the most fantastic and
lurid of violent cases are "cherry-picked" for public
abuse is the leading indicator for violence. The side-effects of
dozens of prescription drugs are just as deadly, and those of psychiatric
drugs in particular. For example, a handful of the most popular
antidepressant medications carry the side effects of depression
drugs from the following classes can have debilitating or deadly
side-effects: Antidepressants, tranquilizers, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and
anticonvulsants. Prescription medicines affect both body and brain
who find their moods shifting after taking their medicines must
immediately contact their physicians.
2004 and 2011 the FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) Adverse
Events Reporting System for drug
logged 12,755 reports of psychiatric medications relating to
violence. Among them were 359 homicides, 7,250 incidences of
aggression, and 2,795 episodes of mania. There were also 9,310
suicides. Actually the damage is far greater. According to the FDA,
fewer than 10 percent of adverse reactions are reported.”5
Yet the fact remains: Mental illness does
the media qualified to run headlines branding murder suspects
"psychotic killers?" No. Can a murder suspect have
psychosis? Yes. Can psychosis cause violence or murder? No.
Can a murder suspect have diabetes? Yes. Can diabetes cause
violence or murder? No. Media conclusions are based upon false
logic. The answers to these lines of questioning are equally valid.
Recently, reporters made the non-threatening condition of
Asperger's Syndrome sound like the cause of a mass-murderous rage within
a shooter's brain. That unwarranted representation was false.
“pop” psychologists and psychiatrists – some with their own
TV shows - are pitched
softball questions by interviewers to buttress sloppy reporting.
These "experts" are typically “snake-oil” peddlers:
greedy celebrity mental health practitioners who rarely work with
patients in clinical settings. They are hired guns who appear in
courtrooms to impress juries for the attorneys who retain
them. These doctors resort to street language instead of accurate
clinical terms - using ambiguous words like "crazy" -
mirroring those of the reporter or anchor in order to
deferentially make the interviewer seem knowledgeable. The fact is,
psychiatry has come a long way "...since
1970, when clinicians were dramatically found to be consistently
wrong more often than right in predicting violent behavior."4
Today the verdict is in: Mental illness does not cause violence.
With regard to mental illness:
"Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain."
percent of suicides result from the mental disorder of clinical
depression and represent an individual's anger turned inward only,
as correctly defined by Dr. Sigmund Freud. The victim is
destructive only to himself-not others. A mass murderer suspect who
commits suicide is not always depressed. However, the two may
co-exist. He usually takes his own life to avoid the certain legal
fate that would accompany his terrible deed. He may happen to
suffer from one or more mental disorders, but they, in themselves, do
not cause the heinous act. It is a happenstance
finding uncovered during an investigation.
factors most assuredly come into play when discussing violent
tendencies in individuals. Bullying, discrimination, poverty,
violent entertainment, favoritism, copycat behavior, repressed hate
and anger and all manner of physical, mental and emotional
abuse can seethe in an individual until the litany of pain must
emerge in one form or another - often as violence. That such an
individual may manifest a mental disorder cannot take away the
underlying pain, suffering and predictable acting out of one who
suffers such issues. Societal stigmatization of the mentally ill is
a cruel, misdirected activity.
do I believe mental illness does not cause violence?
seen in the mentally ill is primarily due to external factors, real or
perceived threats, situations or related physical health factors.
One respected mental health professional states "...
patients discharged from psychiatric facilities who did not abuse
alcohol and illegal drugs had a rate of violence no different
than that of their neighbors in the community. Significantly,
this contradicts one of central perceptions of mental illness
within society today. Unless drugs or alcohol are involved, people
with mental disorders do not pose any more threat to the community
than anyone else. This finding cannot be emphasized enough."6
Mental illness does not provoke or cause violence.
"Psychiatrist's Bible," DSM-5, (Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), indicates no link
between mental illness and violence within its pages. A look
through its detailed index fails to turn up the words "violence," "murder," or "homicide."
Neither are these terms found in the handbook's "Diagnostic
Index." Nor are any of these terms listed as symptoms for any
of the mental disorders found within the text. Violence is not a
symptom of mental illness nor a result of mental illness.
media's deceptive pairing of words like "psychotic" and
"killer" is either misleading or untrue in the absence
of mental health professionals' determinations following full
examination of suspects.
Americans now manifests some degree of mental illness during any
year, as told by actress Glen Close, founder and chairperson for
BringChange2Mind, an organization devoted to ending stigma
targeting the mentally ill. Let us suppose only 10 percent of Americans were
seriously mentally ill. Wouldn't resultant violent crime be
rampant? Where are these one-in-four “violent” mentally ill
Americans? Where are all of their
violent crimes? What about the nearly six million known cases of
manic-depression (bipolar disorder) across America, 83% of which
are classified as severe? Why aren't these
tortured souls grabbing the daily headlines? Do the math. A single
newspaper could not contain the stories of havoc they would wreak
upon society if the accusations made against them were true. Mental
illness does not cause violence.
disorders are biological in origin, as are cancer, heart disease
and diabetes. The only difference is that symptoms are external
behaviors rather than internal evidence provided by laboratory
test results, surgery and imaging. Do any other biologically-caused
illnesses cause violence? No. A mentally ill person's behaviors are
odd and quirky but they fall short of violent or dangerous behavior.
Mental illness is not a character flaw, a moral weakness, or a result
of sinful living, weak-mindedness or self-pity. Mental illness does
not cause violence.
is shameful that in such an "enlightened" society, with its unprecedented amount of information available 24/7 from
multitudes of verifiable sources, that this basic issue is still being debated. If a mentally ill person is violent, he or she is
responding to external threats and situations that create anger and
violence as would anyone else. Could pure evil residing in a
person's heart cause violence and murder, whether mentally ill or
not? This belief is rare in any society blinded by moral relativism
and situational ethics. Mental illness does not cause violence.
as many women as men suffer clinical depression. Men and women
suffer other mental disorders in equal numbers. Therefore, there
are more mentally ill women than men. Why are mass murderers and
serial killers mostly young males? Where are all of the mentally
ill females committing heinous violence and murders? Mental illness
does not cause violence.
first-hand experience with co-patients demonstrates that, just as
there are happy and mean drunks, there are also happy and mean mood
disorder patients. However, meanness does not necessarily translate
into physical violence. These behaviors stem from individual
personality and character traits in both cases. Mental illness does
not cause violence.
and having resided within several mental health facilities, I found
all of them to be as serene as public libraries. My co-patients were not
drugged to make them more manageable. The peaceful environment was
maintained to achieve the needed healing and progress in patient
cognition and emotions. Despite various crises suffered by
co-patients within a facility, the only violent behaviors are
caused by illegal substance withdrawals or severe reactions to
medications' side-effects. No armed officers or employees work on
these units. Psych techs and aides are there to intervene in the
event an argument occurs, as would happen amongst any other group of
confined strangers. The media have created a false image of both
standard mental hospital and general hospital behavioral unit
atmospheres as being disruptive, mean-spirited and violent.
World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 25% of Americans
suffer some form of mental illness during any given year. Medco
Health Services states 20% of Americans take psychiatric drugs –
a 22% rise since 2001. The number of Americans receiving federal
disability payments for mental health issues doubled between 1987
light of these facts, why has the U.S. murder rate decreased by
nearly 50% between 1991 and 2009? Why are the U.S. violent crime
levels of assault, robbery, rape and murder at their lowest levels
since 1963? One can only conclude that, unlike the false "mental
illness-to-violence" media rants, there is a clear disconnect between the opposing trends in mental illness and violence.
May truth prevail: Mental illness is not to blame for violence; it is not a predictor of violence; it simply does not cause violence.
* * *
Stuart. “Violence and mental illness: an overview.” World
(Journal). June 2003
and Matschinger. Germany.
Harrar. “Medicines that affect your mood.” Humana
March 2013, p.10.
& Steadman. 1994.
Whitaker, M.D. School Shootings: Evil or Drug-Induced Behavior?
February 2013. Vol. 23, No. 2. pp. 1-5
M. Grohol, Psy. D., Psych Central, Dispelling
the Myth of Violence and Mental Illness.
"If you find yourself in Northwest Arkansas, I invite you to visit our peer-led, non-sectarian Bipolar Support Group that I facilitate from 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm CST/CDT every Thursday at Forest Hills Church, 1702 Forest Hills Blvd., Bella Vista, Arkansas 72715, USA. Please use the rear entrance. We are located directly across from Subway sandwich shop."