The State of Mental Health and Violence in the US

Mental heath is a big topic right now in the US. While it’s great to see people giving proper attention to something that affects one in four people, the subject matter isn’t always handled elegantly. Statistics are pulled out of context. Sweeping generalizations are made. Negative stereotypes are reinforced.

And often, people are simply using it in an attempt to push their own agendas.

It is true that mental health in the US is a very complicated matter. After all, it involves two of the most complex and mysterious subjects known to man: the human mind and the United States government.

Still, it’s something we as a society need to do a better job of understanding. To help get things moving in the right direction, we’ve assembled a range of unbiased, peer-reviewed statistics and studies, along with some additional context from professionals in the field. 

In order to avoid overwhelming anyone, we’re focusing on a specific top. One ripped straight from the current headlines:

Violence and mental health

It’s been a stereotype for some time that people who commit public acts of violence struggle with serious mental health issues. After all, how could someone who is in a right state of mind willfully attack and kill strangers?

It’s a conclusion that sounds logical, but the statistics tell a different story.

It is true that there’s an increased risk of violence in those with serious mental illness. However, of all the violent incidents in the US, only 3-5% of them are attributed to mental illness. With gun violence specifically, only 2% is caused by adults with mental illness.

As for homicides, 7% are associated with serious mental illness. Typically, these are cases where the illness hasn’t been treated.

photo by Jeremy Bishop

Where you start to see a dramatic increase in violence due to mental illness is in homes.

Serious mental illness is associated with 29% of all family homicides, 67% of homicides where children kill parents, and 50% of homicides where parents kill children. Many of these stem from medication being ignored, as well as abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Still, though these statistics are very serious, they’re a small fraction of the whole issue. Family homicides account for just 7% of homicides in the US.

In truth, those with mental health issues are 10 times more likely to be victims of violence than the general population. It’s important that we break the cycle of stigmatization and abuse that people with mental illness experience.

But that doesn’t mean violence committed by those with mental issues should be ignored.

Proper treatment is the best solution.

Mental illness, whether major or minor, needs proper treatment. Most of the violent acts committed by those with mental problems could have been avoided had the person received treatment/medication/checkups/etc.

Yet only 41% of adults with mental illness received treatment over the past year.

There are many reasons for this. In some cases, a person may not be able to afford it, or they’re stuck waiting for the help they need. Often, however, they simply choose to not receive seek treatment. Currently, even those with serious mental issues cannot be forced to attend treatment until they’ve become a danger to themselves and/or others.

In other words, until something bad has already happened.

Another critical piece of improving the issue is outpatient treatments and therapy. Though someone may initially receive treatment or counseling, they’re often released back into the real world with no follow-up.

A 2017 report by the Manhattan Institute found that assisted-outpatient treatment for people with mental illness reduced rates of arrests by 83% and incarcerations by 87%.

Get the help you need.

If you or someone you know struggles with mental health issues of any kind, don’t ignore it. The best place to start is with a counseling session. There are a wide variety of psychologists and councilors ready and available to help you with your needs.

To find the right Christian psychologist or counselor for you, whether you need help with mental, emotional, or spiritual issues, use Torrch. It’s a free platform designed specifically to help you.

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