Minden Press-Herald

Sep 30th

Experts: crimes not tied to disorders

Is there a correlation between mental health disorders and violent crimes? Research in the medical community points to no.

According to the American Psychiatric Association in 1994, "Research has shown that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses."

This research is supported by John Monahan, a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1989, who has served on the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Research Council.

"Clearly, mental health status makes at best a trivial contribution to the overall level of violence in society," Monahan has said.

E.P. Mulvey wrote "Assessing the Evidence of a Link Between Mental Illness and Violence" in a July, 1994 issue of Hospital and Community Psychiatry.

"The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is still very small and . . . only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill," he said.

Supporting the separation of mental health issues and violent crimes is Jody Levison-Johnson, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary at Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Office of Behavioral Health, Child and Family Operations.

"I think what is happening is there is a lot of media attention to behavioral health treatment because of some of the recent violent incidents that have happened," Levison-Johnson said. "There is a ton of research out there about the fact that very, very few violent crimes are actually committed by people who have mental illness.

"I think sometimes media gives attention to an issue – and that's good," she said. "However, the problem with tying the issues up is people begin to think those with mental health issues are the ones who are going to go into school and shoot people."

She feels the concept of people with behavioral or mental disorders being the ones who commit violent crimes is over-exaggerated

"It is really a very low percentage of people with mental illness who commit violent crimes," Levison-Johnson continued, noting it is important to keep mental health and violent crimes in context.

"Yes, we need to screen better for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders," she said. "We want to be more attentive to people's needs – both adults and children. If they go untreated, there may be consequences."

Levison-Johnson said people who have mental illness are more likely to end up in the justice system and are more likely to have chronic health conditions later in life.

She stressed the importance of people knowing of the resources available for mental health issues.

"If you see a spouse, child, or loved one – someone you know well, exhibiting signs not typically associated with that person, urge them to seek treatment," she said. "Don't let it go. Heed the warning signs and try to help them out. We want to get assistance to that person before a crisis occurs."

Additional resources available to students in Webster Parish include the LifeSkills program, which serves elementary schools in Webster with 470 enrollees, and Project Northland in middle and high schools in Webster with 1,900 enrollees.

"Project Northland is a contract between Department of Health and Hospitals, the Office of Behavioral Health and Webster Parish School Board," said Ursula Hullaby, who oversees the program in Webster schools. "Lessons are provided to address identified risk and protective factors that work toward the prevention and reduction of addictive disorders and risky behaviors."

Behavioral health treatment is offered at the Minden Behavioral Health Clinic, located at 435 Homer Rd. in Minden. The Minden office can be contacted by calling 371-3001.

Crisis hotlines are also available. Adults should call 1-866-416-5370 and crises involving children and adolescents should contact 1-800-820-6143.
An estimated 189,420 adults and children are estimated to have Severe Mental Illness or an Emotional Behavioral Disorder in Louisiana.

According to a consensus statement signed by more than three dozen lawyers, advocates, consumers/survivors, and mental health professionals claims, "The results of several recent large-scale research projects conclude that only a weak association between mental disorders and violence exists in the community. Serious violence by people with major mental disorders appears concentrated in a small fraction of the total number, and especially in those who use alcohol and other drugs."

This statement was written by Monhan and published in "Violence By People With Mental Illness: A Consensus Statement By Advocates and Researchers" in Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal in the Spring of 1996.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D., who is an expert in online psychology and behavior, researcher, author, and founder of Psych Central.com, published his opinion in June of 1998 in "Dispelling the violence myth" on Psyc Central.

"Most people who suffer from a mental disorder are not violent," he said. "There is no need to fear them. Embrace them for who they are — normal human beings experiencing a difficult time, who need your open mind, caring attitude, and helpful support."






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