The prevalence of mental illness in the U.S. has become a hot topic, but so has the topic of mental illness and how it affects violent crime. Sometimes, those accused of violent crimes may struggle with a mental illness that affects their behavior.
About 22% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness, but the percentage is higher for accused persons.
Mental illness and the prison system
About half of all people in the U.S. prison system have some form of mental illness. Many researchers have studied the connection between mental illness and violent crime. While individuals with mental health conditions do not necessarily struggle with violence, those who lack mental health care or feel criminalized by their mental illness may have a higher likelihood of committing various crimes.
Substance abuse and violent crime
Substance abuse co-occurs with mental health disorders and exacerbates violent tendencies. Those with a substance abuse disorder may struggle with impulsive and aggressive behavior. Many illicit substances can feel like they hijack a person’s mind, causing them to behave in ways they may not have prior.
Violent behavior and mental illness symptoms
Those with severe mental health symptoms may have difficulty controlling themselves during a confrontation. Serious conditions can cause hallucinations, mood disturbances and delusions, which increase the risk of violent behavior. Most people require early treatment to prevent violent behavior associated with severe illness.
Addressing mental illness when it comes to violent crime may help those accused of crimes receive the help and support they require from their health care centers and communities.