Medical News & Perspectives
August 5, 1998

Mental Illness and Violent Acts: Protecting the Patient and the Public

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Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998American Medical Association

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JAMA. 1998;280(5):407-408. doi:10.1001/jama.280.5.407-JMN0805-3-1

ARE MENTALLY ILL people more likely to commit violent crimes than the rest of the population? Physicians, law enforcement officials, persons with chronic mental illnesses, advocacy groups for patients and their families—as well as the horror movie–going, nightly news–watching general public—may hold different views on this complex question, which evokes concerns about civil rights, housing, employability, punishment vs treatment, and more.

For the 1998 answer, speakers at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in Toronto, Ontario, in June drew on recent epidemiologic samples of community residents and rigorous studies of criminal populations. Mental disorder and violent crime, they found, are, indeed, strongly linked.

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