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June 1996

Violence, Crime, and Mental IllnessHow Strong a Link?

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996;53(6):481-486. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1996.01830060021003

AMAN DIAGNOSED with schizophrenia slashes 2 people to death with a sword and wounds 9 others aboard the Staten Island ferry. A woman who has schizophrenia kills a child and wounds 5 others in a schoolroom in Chicago. A man with bipolar disorder kills 7 coworkers and wounds 13 others in Kentucky. A man with schizophrenia shoots President Reagan and 3 others. A pilot, reportedly responding to auditory hallucinations, crashes a commercial airliner into Tokyo Bay. Perhaps more than any other type, violence by the mentally ill is feared by the public. It seems so senseless, so random, so unpredictable, so deadly. Somehow it is more reassuring to know that someone was shot to death in a grocery store robbery than stabbed to death by a deranged man.

Violence and mental illness have been topics of discourse for thousands of years. Socrates argued that the rate of mental disorders in

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