Another nail in the coffin of the myth that mental illness predisposes towards violent crime was hammered home yesterday with the publication of research from the Karolinska Institutet and Oxford University.
The Swedish based study compared the rate of violent crime in Swedish hospital patients over a 30 year period with that of 37,000 control individuals from the general public. Of far more significance is the correlation between severe substance misuse and violent crime among people suffering from bipolar disorder. This suggests not only that the stigma of bipolar disorder is grossly unwarranted but also that the prevention and treatment of substance misuse need to be a priority in this part of the population. Age, gender and socioeconomic status were shown to make little difference.
But what about schizophrenia? One of the researchers, Niklas Långström also pointed out that "this concurs with our group's previous findings in schizophrenia, another serious psychiatric disorder, which found that individuals with schizophrenia are not more violent than members of the general public, provided there is no substance abuse."
Public perception of those who suffer from mental illness is still fueled by the misconception that they are a risk to society. Studies such as this one are sadly unlikely to make the headlines in the same way as stories of violent crime committed by individuals with a psychiatric history.
The article,"Bipolar disorder and violent crime: new evidence from population-based longitudinal studies and systematic review", by Seena Fazel, Paul Lichtenstein, Martin Grann, Guy M Goodwin & Niklas Långström, is published in Archives of General Psychiatry, online 6 September 2010.
Source: Karolinska Institutet