(July 23, 2012) Almost inevitably after the massacres in Tucson, Virginia Tech and elsewhere, the rampage that left 12 dead and scores wounded early Friday in Aurora, Colorado, raises questions about the relationship of severe mental illness and violence.
"People with mental illnesses who are being treated are not more dangerous than the general population," said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center and an authority on the topic. "But evidence has become overwhelming that untreated severe mental illnesses are a significant contributor to violent acts, including homicides and a large percentage of rampage murders."
Whether or not severe mental illness eventually is implicated in America's latest mass tragedy, when mental illness and violence are under discussion, the following resources offer relevant information and data:
- “No Room at the Inn: Trends and Consequences of Closing Public Psychiatric Hospitals,” Treatment Advocacy Center (July 2012): “When (individuals with severe mental illness) do not receive treatment, multiple studies have found their risk of violent behavior, including homicides, to be significantly elevated….(A)t least 10% of homicides are associated with severe mental illnesses….”
- “Rampage murders” from The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens, E. Fuller Torrey, MD (WW Norton, 2012): “There is one class of homicides for which individuals with severe psychiatric disorders are responsible for a much higher percentage….These are rampage murders in which the person kills several people, usually strangers, at one time.”
- “Comparison of first-episode and previously treated persons with psychosis found NGMI for a violent offense,” Nielssen, et.al., Psychiatric Services (July 2011): “Evidence has emerged of a higher risk of serious violence in first-episode psychosis.”
- "Violent behavior: One of the consequences of failing to treat individuals with severe psychiatric disorders,” Treatment Advocacy Center (April 2011)