More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Five per cent of violent crimes attributed to severely mentally ill patients

People with severe mental illnesses are responsible for just one in 20 violent crimes, reveal findings published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

In their study of violent crimes over a 13-year period, Seena Fazel (University of Oxford, UK) and Martin Grann (Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden) found that 45 violent crimes were committed per 1000 inhabitants, of which 2.4 were attributable to patients with severe mental illness.

This corresponded to a population-attributable risk fraction of these patients to violent crime of 5.2%.

Seena Fazel said that this figure is likely to be lower than most people would imagine.

"Many see those with serious psychiatric disorders as significantly contributing to the amount of violent crime in society," she noted.

The researchers linked data for 98,082 individuals discharged from hospital with diagnoses of schizophrenia and other psychoses to the crime register. The attributable risk was calculated by gender, across three age bands (15-24, 25-39 years, and 40 years and older), and offense type.

Violent offending in women was more attributable to mental illness than in men across the three age bands, at 14.0% in women aged between 25 and 39 years, and 19.0% in those aged over 40 years. Overall, the risk attributed to mental illness was lowest in those aged 15 to 34 years, at 2.3% for male patients and 2.9% for female patients.

The highest risk of violent crime among people with severe mental illness was found for homicide and attempted homicide, and arson, at 18.2% and 15.7%, respectively.

"Because these are higher-profile crimes, this would partly explain the impression given by the media of the high rates of violence in psychiatric patients," the researchers comment.

"However, focusing solely on such crimes would not give a complete picture of the public health burden of violence because the base rates are so low, accountable for only 0.6% of the violent crimes in Sweden in the case of homicide and attempted homicide."

The researchers conclude that their findings "should generate a more informed debate on the contribution of persons with severe mental illness to societal violence."

Source: Am J Psychiatry 2006; 163: 1397-1403


Hi everyone,
I find this so frustrating because we do put people with a mental illness in prisons,
People with severe mental illnesses are responsible for just one in 20 violent crimes, reveal findings published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
This is so sad most of the people with mental illness in the criminal justice system are not understood.
We incarcerate them for something that is out of they control in a prison, instead of helping them with a illness.
Thank you Doc for this post it is very interesting. We need to really be educated around the stigma in this area!


I, too, find this sad, Holly. When, during Kennedy's administration, the decision was made to de-institutionalize those whose mental illness made it difficult (if not impossible) for them to coexist with their fellow human beings, many were cast adrift and nothing has ever been done to see that they are treated and properly cared for. The vision was to have small facilities (like halfway houses) to serve their needs, but that part of the plan never developed. Hence, many wander the streets, homeless and abandoned. In their desperation, and because their minds don't function properly, they commit crimes, are arrested and thrown in jail. That's not where they belong. They're not criminals. They're ill. :(

These people are a drain on practically every system we have in the US, but it certainly isn't their fault. They show up in Emergency Rooms and Acute Care Hospitals in droves. They live on street corners, or in boxes, or just exposed in the open no matter the weather. They haunt places that provide free food and lodging. Why? Because they have no other place to go and are unable to do what's necessary to give themselves a home, food, clothing and the other necessities of life. Why that? Because they go untreated for the illness that renders them helpless in this society.

Personally, it makes me sick. I'd much rather see a return to special mental health facilities to treat these people. While it may seem that it stigmatizes them, I see it as having the potential to offer them the opportunity to recover to optimum productivity based on the individual and return to society able to survive, or remain in the facility where they are safe and proper care is provided. Sometimes, what looks cruel is really the kindest thing you can do.
Replying is not possible. This forum is only available as an archive.