The Link Between Mental Illness And Violence Is More Complicated Than You Might Think

In the aftermath of the recent plane crash in the French alps, much was made of Germanwings pilot Andreas Lubitz’s history of depression. Since it was revealed last week that Lubitz may have “practiced” his deadly crash on a previous flight, his mental illness may enter the conversation anew.

But no one could have reasonably predicted that the pilot would have committed an act of violence because he suffered from depression, according to Northwestern University psychiatrist Linda Teplin, who studies the connection between mental health and violence.

Also a factor in high-profile cases such as the Sandy Hook and Isla Vista shootings, mental illness is highly stigmatized in our culture, and those who suffer from mental disorders are often stereotyped as being violent, “crazy” or potentially dangerous.

But Teplin co-authored a new longitudinal study that adds to a significant body of research that consistently contradicts that stereotype. With one exception, she and other researchers at Northwestern found no association between most psychiatric disorders and future violent behavior in delinquent youth.

“Our findings contradict the public’s stereotype that persons with a history of serious mental disorder are prone to violence,” Teplin told HuffPost.

Mental illness did not predict future violence
The researchers analyzed data from over 1,800 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 who were arrested and detained in the Chicago area between 1995 and 1998. Roughly a third of the sample were girls, and the rest were boys.

The researchers followed up with the participants for a number of years after their detainments, collecting information about mental health, life events, criminal activity, attitude and beliefs. The analysis revealed that psychiatric disorders were common among the subjects; roughly 66 percent of the boys and 74 percent of —> Read More