Mental disorders do not predict violence, so please stop
When Sandy Hook happened, it was so shocking that to this day, some don’t actually believe it happened. Shortly after, something frustrating happened, the shooter was labeled with aspergers. This helped drive the mental health and violence connection to the point that Time came out with an article dispelling that myth. Even now according to new longitudinal study of delinquent youth, most psychiatric disorders – including depression — do not predict future violent behavior. The only exception is substance abuse and dependence.
“Our findings are relevant to the recent tragic plane crash in the French Alps. Our findings show that no one could have predicted that the pilot – who apparently suffered from depression – – would perpetrate this violent act,” said corresponding author Linda Teplin.
“It is not merely a suicide, but an act of mass homicide.”
The study did find, however, that some delinquent youth with current psychiatric illness may also be violent. For example, males with mania were more than twice as likely to report current violence than those without. But these relationships are not necessarily causal — or acting as the cause of the violence.
Delinquent youth with psychiatric illness have multiple risk factors — such as living in violent and impoverished neighborhoods. These environments may increase their risk for violent behavior as well as worsen their psychiatric illness.
“Providing comprehensive treatment to persons with some psychiatric disorders could reduce violence,” said Katherine Elkington, study first author.
“We must improve how we address multiple problems — including violent behavior — as part of psychiatric treatment.”
The study used data from the Northwestern Juvenile Project, a longitudinal study of youth who were detained at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago between 1995 and 1998. Violence and psychiatric disorders were assessed via self-report in 1,659 youth aged 13 to 25 years interviewed up to four times between three and five years after detention.
So please, for the love of people who suffer from mental health issues, let’s put this to bed. Mental health issues don’t mean people are violent, it means they need compassion and love. They don’t need to hear how they should cheer up, or how to look at something a different way, it is not “all in someones head.” It is a very real thing that can be seen on brain scans just like a bone can be broken and not seen, the same applies to mental illness.
Elkington, K., Teplin, L., Abram, K., Jakubowski, J., Dulcan, M., & Welty, L. (2015). Psychiatric Disorders and Violence: A Study of Delinquent Youth After Detention Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 54 (4), 302-31200000 DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2015.01.002