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Mental disorders do not predict violence, so please stop

depression mental health

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

6 responses

  1. Kelsea

    Mental disorders range drastically in terms of their symptoms. Some are prone to lash out when they get emotionally hurt and others are in desperate need of constant attention and love; security. Just because an individual is diagnosed with a particular psychological mental disorder does not indicate that they are harmful to the environment and others around them. Their chemical reactions in the brain are on different levels than the normal sure, however that is not solely based on their interpretation to differentiating scenarios. Alike the average human, those with mental disorders go through tragic events as well, altering their reaction to that situation. Therefore, even the average human under a state of turmoil could be determined as “depressed” while doing an action that is under the norm. Some mental disorders even make individuals less expectant to lash out at others or harm themselves. I think people are making a mistake when they strictly link harmful behavior to mental disorders in general.


    April 26, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    • Thank you, I totally agree. Different doesn’t mean bad, people need to be handled in a certain way sometimes. It’s not a bad thing and in a lot of cases your average person needs to be handled a certain way anyway. Anyway, thanks for talking the time to share your opinion.


      April 26, 2015 at 7:36 pm

  2. Megan

    Because our society only likes to show the negative portrayals of mental illness, people are quick to assume that people with mental illnesses are dangerous. In fact, there are many with mental illnesses that are able to live normal lives without anyone knowing that they suffer from anything. I believe that by allowing people to plead “insanity” in the courtroom without having prior diagnosis of mental illness allows for society to place blame on the mental health community. The court room allows for someone to plead insanity because they acted out of emotions, instead of their actual struggle with a mental disorder. I do not think this is fair to those who actually suffer from something and it does nothing but cause negative portrayals of what mental illness is really like.


    April 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

    • I’m not sure I agree with the court and law comment. However, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that people typically only see negative portrayals of mental illness. To make matters worse, people are shamed for having a mental illness like it’s just something they are making up. I find that particularly disgusting, it’s like saying someone would choose to live with something like that.


      April 27, 2015 at 11:11 am

  3. Natosha

    I believe people feel that they have to blame someone so why not put the blame on those that already blame themselves for bad things that happen to them, such as people with depression do. Mental illness does not directly correlate to violence. I feel this study is being misinterpreted to lead us to believe that there is a direct correlation to violence and mental health. Yes, people who may be depressed, schizophrenic, or have autism may lash out at others most likely verbally than psychically. However, this study is trying to sway those to believe that there is a link between violence and mental health, well if you obviously do a study based solely on those in a juvenile detention center that have mental illness yes that is what you are going to get a direct association with mental illness and possibly violence. However is you do a study people that have a history of mental illness and then ask if they have been incarcerated or committed a violent crime then and only then are we maybe able to more adequately link mental illness and violence.
    Violence has been attributed to hormones, specifically that of testosterone and is more prevalent in males than in females. So then are we going to associate that all males with high testosterone levels, that have a mental disorder to being violent, most likely not.
    Let’s consider depression, most people with depression are sad and depressed but they typically are so depressed that they don’t think of harming others, they look at harming themselves more. Better yet, lets take Huntington disease, some of its symptoms exhibit that of schizophrenia, but we don’t go around saying people with Huntington’s disease have a mental illness or are violent.
    However I will agree studies have proven one thing about violence it is more common for those that have grown up in violent neighborhoods and/or homes so if we want to decrease violence lets start with where it is starting and leave those that are suffering from mental illness and illnesses in general out of the subject, because all we are doing is trying to blame the people that aren’t capable of defending themselves half the time.


    May 4, 2015 at 5:23 pm

  4. Pingback: Mental illness, that’s a funny term isn’t it? | Lunatic Laboratories

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