Statistics About Mental Health and Crime


Based on public opinion, many people believe that crime is almost always linked to mental illness. This does not always prove to be true, as most people with psychiatric disorders are not violent. In fact, only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. This article will distinguish what is myth and what is fact about the connection between mental illness and crime.

Common misconceptions about the correlations between crime and mental health

In the United States more than 1.2 million people with mental illness are incarcerated in jails or prisons, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. But mental illness is not usually the only factor that leads someone to commit a crime. In a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. Below are common misconceptions about crime amongst the mentally ill.

  • Most mentally ill patients that do not abuse drugs or alcohol are no more likely to commit a violent act than people without a mental illness.
  • Mentally ill people that abuse substances are typically more likely to commit a crime
  • Patients with schizophrenia are less likely to exhibit violence than patients with other disorders
  • Mentally ill people typically only act violently at home toward family members rather than strangers
  • Studies show that mentally ill people are greater threats to themselves than other people, especially those suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and alcoholism
  • About 10-15% of people with major depression die by their own hands
  • Individuals suffering from severe mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence
  • One study showed that 25% of those with severe mental illness were victims of violence as compared to only 3% of the general population
  • A study of homeless people with severe mental illness indicated that 44% of them had been victims of violence during the previous two months

Although most people who commit multiple homicides are mentally ill, very few people with mental illness perpetrate such crimes. People with a mental illness need to be helped not feared.

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The Process of Pleading Mentally Ill After Being Charged


Pleading not guilty because of mental illness is not a get of of jail free pass. A mentally ill plea required you to admit to the crime committed and to prove that mental illness was what led you to commit it. These pleas usually result in years of mandatory treatment in a mental hospital.

The Definition of Legal Insanity

To plea mentally ill, the mental illness must be so severe that society should not deem the offender morally responsible for their behavior. This is because most people who commit a crime results in some distortion of the mental process. While the courts continue to distinguish between those who cannot be held morally responsible due to mental illness and those who deserve time in prison, there are two tests used by the court to define mental illness.

  • The M’Naghten test determines whether the defendant knew right from wrong when committing the crime.
  • The Brawner test is used in some states in place of the M’Naghten test and it deems the defendant insane if, by mental defect, they lack the capacity to understand the criminality of their actions.
  • The Irresistible Impulse test determines if defendants are insane if their mental disorder prevents them from resisting the compulsion of an illegal act.

Trial Procedures for Pleading Mentally Ill

mental health patient counseling Defendants who choose to plead guilty, must inform the court before the trial begins. The court will then assign a psychiatrist to the case who will examine the defendant and then testify in the trial. Defendant must convince the judge or jury that they were insane at the time they committed the criminal act using clear evidence. The psychiatrist will also provide a mental diagnosis concerning the defendant’s mental illness.

Being Found Not Guilty Due to Mental Illness

If the defendant is found not guilty due to mental insanity they are typically sentenced to being confined to a mental health facility until they are able to convince the judge that they are no longer mentally insane. These sentences are usually longer periods of time than the defendant would have spent in prison.

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