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Does bad mental health lead to crime?: An analysis

It is widely understood now that talking about mental health is the need of the hour. People are suffering from poor mental health due to stressful lives. There is curiosity in people on how to cope up from poor mental health. There is a debate whether poor mental health can lead to crime. Is there any truth in it? Let us understand.

Let us look at the common reasons of poor mental health.

Biological Causes: These factors involve genetics and environment as impacting our mental health. Factors such as

  • Hereditary illness
  • Infections or injuries during pregnancy which might lead to brain damage
  • Poor nutrition and exposure to toxic elements

Social Causes: These factors refer to social structure, relations and institutions, which impact our life.

  • Social disadvantage such as discrimination, ostracization or stigma
  • Difficulties regarding money: Employment loss, poverty, debt; homelessness
  • Major changes in life : Marriage, divorce, separation, death of a loved one, change of job, school or career, shifting to a new place
  • Problems in social relations leading to domestic violence, bullying , unfit family life
  • Major trauma as an adult such as military combat or medical work, being a victim of a violent crime.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Unrealistic societal or cultural expectations

Psychological Factors: These factors involve disturbances in feelings and thoughts.

  • Early loss such as loss of a parent or a guardian
  • Psychological trauma such as emotional, sexual or physical abuse
  • Feelings of being inadequate, loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger
  • Neglectful upbringing, inability to relate with others
  • Difficulties in coping up with stress
  • Flawed and unstable thought patterns

Mental health professionals now study all the factors while considering the treatment of the client. Because of this, the factors are together called ‘Biopsychosocial factors’. 

            It is worthwhile to note that a person who is different is labeled as misfit. But we need to know where to draw the line between a different person and a harmful person.

Identifying the harmful behavior-Three factors

Antisocial behavior indicates that person finds it difficult to adjust socially. Examples such as littering, disturbing the surroundings with loudness, aggression, racism, violence, etc.

Antisocial personality disorder includes a broad range of symptoms. The disorder centers on impulsivity. He/ she may lead an unstable lifestyle with a lack of realistic long-term goals. This may lead to possibly underage crime.

The core personality traits are:

  • Smooth-talking and charming personality
  • Compulsive lying
  • Grand sense of self-worth
  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s actions
  • Lack of guilt
  • Constant need for excitement
  • Utter disregard for  safety for oneself and others

Society has often viewed criminals as ‘crazy’ or someone with psychological illness. Mental health professionals are often pressured to use the APSD as a diagnosis. This is done to confirm that the convicted person was mentally ill all along.

Criminal Behavior includes the person’s lack of fear about possible punishment for his behavior. This person does not feel bound by rules and laws of society. Thus this person does not stop his or her behavior and acts.

 It is important that the signs of mental disorders are seen in childhood. Consistent pattern of abnormal behavior should be seen in adolescence and adulthood. This can lead to further confirmation of a person having a criminal tendency.

What does research say on the correlation?          

New research by American Psychological Association (APA) says otherwise. There was a study done by APA about crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders in 2014. It was found that only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness. The lead researcher Jillian Peterson, PhD said “The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous”.

The mental health symptoms associated with criminal behavior were taken into account. Examples are:

  • Schizophrenia disorders which has hallucinations and delusions
  • Bipolar Disorders which has impulsive and risk taking behavior
  • Major Depressions which has hopelessness and suicidal thoughts

Researchers analyzed 429 crimes committed by 143 offenders. The above three major types of mental illness were used as criteria. They found that 3 percent of their crimes were directly related to symptoms of major depression, 4 percent to symptoms of schizophrenia disorders and 10 percent to symptoms of bipolar disorder. We need to note however that role of substance abuse in crime was not taken into consideration.

A 2011 article by Harvard health Publishing also tried to prove the same. The MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study found that 31 percent of participants had both substance abuse disorder and psychiatric disorder and had ‘committed at least one act of violence in a year’ compared to 18 percent of participants with only psychiatric disorder.

The method to assess violence has also been in question. Self-reported violence may be not reliable since clients recall past incorrectly or not admit it properly due to shame. The other method of using criminal records may also be faulty since arrests are highly biased towards a certain section of society.

There have been strong links between substance abuse and elevation of psychiatric symptoms. Other factors which need to be taken into consideration are:

  • Family history
  • personal stress factors-such as lose or grief
  • Socioeconomic factors (as discussed above)

What can we do to prevent severe offense?

Mental health professionals often suggest that work on grassroot levels is absolutely necessary.

  • Programs to treat behavioral issues such as anger management
  • Engaging on thinking level therapy rather than just punishment
  • Drug treatments
  • Education and vocational training for offenders
  • Housing and employment support

The post ends here. If you are interested in the statistics , Kindly refer to the links for further information

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/04/mental-illness-crime#

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/mental-illness-and-violence

Thumbnail image courtesy: Paget Michael Creelman, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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Written by Mehal Sampat

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Jigyasa vashistha

this is great content .. keep posting! 🙂

Mehal Sampat

Thank you for reading it, Jigyasa!

Disha Dhage

Informative article

Mehal Sampat

Glad you liked it, Disha!

A really interesting topic, especially in our times. The society till its development has seen such people as crazy and lunatics, but what they really are is just a victim to unfortunate circumstances. These studies will be of real benefit, as the future I fear, in my opinion will have much more people affected.

Riya Rajkotiya

Very informative

Riya Rajkotiya

Keep it up

Nidhi Dahiya

You never fail to surprise me. Amazing work. Keep writing!

Vaishnavi S

Amazing work. Thumbs up.

Gousia

well written.

Sudhir Ravi Anchan

Informative