In the media, mental illness is often shown as a problem that leads to criminal activity. Someone with depression might be shown attacking a group of people, or a person with bipolar disorder might be shown on a “high” while they do drugs or act recklessly.
There are times when conditions like these can lead to dangerous behaviors, but most people who live with them live normal lives. Mental illness can affect criminal behavior, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to it.
In law, mental illness is not an excuse for bad behavior. It is, sometimes, and explanation of a person’s behaviors, though. At the same time, not all people who commit crimes are mentally ill, either. Some are mentally healthy and make the decision to commit a crime for any number of reasons ranging from needing money to trying to prove themselves to their peers.
Not all people with mental illnesses are dangerous
The media has portrayed people with mental illnesses as dangerous, which is harmful to the thousands of people who have these conditions without an increased risk of violence or causing harm to others. In fact, the reverse is often true: those with mental illnesses are around three times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes.
That isn’t to say that mental illness doesn’t increase the risk of committing crimes at all. Certain conditions that have been studied, namely antisocial personality disorder and bipolar disorder, have been linked to a higher risk of committing antisocial or violent acts.
People with mental illnesses need support
When someone with a mental illness does commit a crime, the penalties are not always the same as they are for someone who is mentally healthy. It’s possible to have them hospitalized for up to 60 days, and sometimes longer, for treatment, so it can be determined if they are competent enough to go to trial.
Mental illness can sometimes be used as a defense in court, such as if someone was in a paranoid state or having hallucinations and delusions at the time of the crime. If you’re dealing with a situation like this, know that a strong defense is essential. Mental illness does make a case more complex.