Evidence Shows Violence Is Extremely Rare Among the Mentally Ill

We would all like to have an answer when tragedy occurs. We look for signs that could have alerted us to the threat, sometimes they are there; other times they are not. In the case of the Germanwings pilot who recently crashed a plane with 150 people aboard, mental illness seems to have played a role. But as Jeffrey Swanson, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University who studies violence and mental illness, points out:

“It’s important not to use this direct causal language,” he says. “When there is a terrible incident and it turns out the perpetrator has a mental illness, what you find is that the general public and media seize upon this as the master explanation—‘That’s what it was! Now we know. Of course.’ Maybe that’s a contributing factor, but violent behavior is a very complicated human behavior that is almost always caused by a whole lot of factors interacting in complex ways.”

And he says, “…we need to be careful about equating mental disturbance with violence.  “…only 5 percent of violent crime is actually attributable to mental illness.”

…if you generalize that kind of view toward all the people diagnosed with and struggling to recover from serious mental illness, we end up treating people with scorn and seeking distance from them.”

Something people do too much already. Read the entire article from The Atlantic here.