Mentally ill commit less crime than alcoholics

ALCOHOLICS and drug addicts are twice as likely to commit a violent crime as someone who suffers from schizophrenia, according to a new study.

The risk of a serious crime being committed by someone who is mentally ill is similar to that of someone in their teens or twenties but according to the authors does not justify submitting them to increased institutional care.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry today found that even when mentally ill patients did offend, the incident was more likely to be associated with drugs and alcohol abuse than their condition.

Any potential link between mental illness and violent crime has been fiercely argued between those who point to a number of "care in the community" tragedies where patients known to psychiatric services had harmed others and campaigners who have said that mental patients are far more likely to harm themselves than others.

While one-quarter of those convicted of serious crimes had had contact with the mental health services, the vast bulk of these were either drug abusers or alcoholics or suffered from personality disorders other than schizophrenia or serious mental illnesses. Most had begun their criminal career before having any contact with psychiatric services.

The study, which was carried out in Australia, linked two databases, the first being all convictions between 1993 and 1995 and the second a state-wide psychiatric case register.

Over the three years studied, 2,153 people were convicted for violent crimes of whom 70 had had treatment for schizophrenia. For men, this was a rate of some three to five times higher than for the general population. But when substance abuse was taken into account, the picture altered.

Those with schizophrenia but not substance abuse problems were only marginally more likely to receive convictions for violence and were no more likely to commit violent offences than young people in their teens and twenties. They were significantly less likely to offend in this manner than alcohol and drug abusers without mental illness.

The authors conclude that the increase in serious criminal offending in schizophrenia is "modest" and say that the relationship is so tenuous between the illness and the crime that prediction of serious violence is "virtually impossible".

"It does the mentally disordered a serious injury to confuse their behaviour - which may indeed be frightening and distressing - with murderous behaviour and call for measures which would only be justified to prevent the most serious forms of violence to be applied to large groups of the mentally ill," they say. The data reveals that those convicted of a violent offence are more than twice as likely to have had a primary diagnosis of substance misuse as of schizophrenia.

"This new research knocks on the head the idea that people with schizophrenia are generally dangerous," said Liz Sayce, policy director of the mental health charity Mind. "This assumption is deeply distressing to people who have schizophrenia, most of whom have never committed an act of violence in their lives."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer (PHP & Wordpress) - Central London

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Web Dev...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee