Depression and Mental Illness: Crime or Violence/ Treatment or Punishment ABSTRACT Statement of the Problem According to Michael D. Yapko, PhD, (1997) 'in every way, depression is a growing problem. Rates of depression have steadily climbed over the last 50 years and are significantly higher in those born after 1954 than in those born before. In addition, the average age of on-set depressive episode is steadily decreasing it is now mid-20 s whereas it once was mid-30 s.
Cross-cultural data show that the United States has a higher rate of depression and mental illness than almost any other country, and that as Asian countries Westernize their rates of depression increase correspondingly.' (p. 37) And according to the Illinois State Police, (1999), 'one of seven depressed people will commit an act of violence against themselves or others.' (p. 1) The purpose of this paper is to view and discuss depression and mental illness risk factors associated with violence. This paper will view some of the characteristics and violent behavior risk factors associated with a depressed or mentally ill person. It will also, compare characteristic that characterize a person suffering form depression or a person that is mentally ill.
This paper will discuss treatment or punishment debated concerning depression and mental illness in the justice system. Existing studies will be used to help in the study of depression and mental illness from different sources. Depression and Violence Depression, according to Webster (1988), is a psychotic condition marked by an inability to concentrate and feelings of dejection and quilt.' (p. 364) Depression is most commonly treatable with counseling, but what happens when counseling fail? Although our current mental health system is not perfect it has been able to bring us where we are today. The current methods have benefited many individuals when going through crisis then stabilizing individuals to the point that they can function in society. So what happens when the benefits are not reaped? These individuals could go through psychotic change.
Thomas Hudson stated (1978), 'the mind has a dual character, which he described as the subjective mind and the objective mind. The objective mind takes cognizance of the objective world. Its media of observation are the five senses. It is the out growth of man's physical necessities. It is his guide in his struggles with his material environment.
Its highest function is that of reasoning. The subjective mind takes cognizance of its environment by means independent of the physical senses. It perceive by intuition. It is the seat of the emotion and the storehouse of memory. It performs its highest function when the objective sense are in abeyance. (p.
1) Its when the subjective mind usurps complete control, the individual goes psychotic.' (p. 2) When these individuals enter the psychotic state, studies have shown there can be some risk factor for criminal behavior, but none with solid evidence. Most individuals with depression are said to have violent behavior and violent hostilities, but none proven to show any criminal tendencies. A new study according to Jiri Modestin and colleagues, (1997), studied 261 male patients who had been hospitalized at least once at a psychiatric facility, found no link between depression and crimes.
He stated, 'depression is strongly linked to increased hostility and to 'anger attacks', inappropriate angry outburst associated with sweating, flushing, abnormal heart rhythms and 'out of control' feeling.' (p. 6) The results of Modestin study doesn't reveal any criminal factors, just an individual needing help. Because the depression has already eroded the person's ability to perceive reality, this combination of conditions can increase the risk of violence. Some individuals under these condition felt threatened first before attacks or uncontrolled anger outburst. They did not perceive themselves to be more threatening or hostile to others, no more so, than any other affective disorder individual. Usually these individuals are more hostile or violent to the people or persons close to them.
According to K. Taridiff, (1984), 'people with severe depression are often dependent on family for care. Within the family, the person most involved in the depressed person's care usually the mother is most at risk, with violent person usually being a son or spouse. One study of patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals found that, among those who had attacked people during the time close to their admission, 65 percent of the sample had attacked a family member.' (p.
37) Still, there has not been any solid data linking depression to criminal behavior, only very violent behavior. But, does violent behavior lead to criminal behavior? Research has shown no clear cut relationship between violent behavior from depression and normal criminal behavior. We do know that depression sufferers suffered in childhood, in the forms of sexual or physical abuse or neglect has long term consequences, leading to depression related problems in later life and cycles of familial violence is passed on from generation to generation. These people will continue to go through this cycle if not treated and in most cases, dangerous or violent acts committed by persons with depression disorders are mainly the result of neglect or inappropriate or inadequate treatment.
We must understand most depression can and is most commonly treated by counseling and that depression is not a mental illness, but an affective disorders that may lead to criminal behavior. Yes, depression is serious problem in and of itself, is a risk factor for aggression and possibly even for criminal behavior. Mental Illness and Violence Violence conditions for depression and mental illness are the same, whether a person has a mental illness or not. Studies of violence and mental illness has shown that people with a mental illness who came from violent backgrounds are often violent themselves. Often violent family environments in which alcohol or substance abuse is common, ongoing conflicts among family members and a controlling atmosphere are associated with violence by persons with mental illness. Also, people with mental illness that live in an unpredictable, stressful environment with little family, community support and little personal understanding of his or her illness, may be at increased risk for violence.
Such conditions are all too common in our society, especially in our communities with large populations, where sometimes family and social violence are common, as in substance abuse. Stress can aggravate the symptoms of most mental illness, and unfortunately, stress is often an unavoidable part of a mentally ill person's life. Very often, people with severe mental illness end up living in reduced circumstances, forced to do low paying work when they can work at all, living in dangerous neighborhoods, or much too often, homeless. Such an environment aggravates the symptoms of a person struggling with his illness, living in this threatening environment which is worsening his fears. The combination of his deteriorating environment leaves him withdrawn and needing a way to vent all of this pent-up rage locked away deep in his mind. This rage when released usually is overwhelming upon release which usually becomes a violent outburst resulting in some form of criminal act or behavior.
According to a government study, (1983), 'a survey of people with mental illness reported that people with mental illness (schizophrenia: which affects perhaps one in every 100 people) were nearly nine times more likely than those among the general population to have fought with others or committed a crime involving a weapon. (p. 41) Still, there has not been any solid data linking mental illness to criminal behavior, only very violent behavior. But, does violent behavior lead to criminal behavior? Research has shown no clear cut relationship between violent behavior from mental illness and normal criminal behavior.
Justice: Treatment or Punishment As with depression, mental illness is most often influenced and aggravated by the individual social environment which increases the risk for violent behavior and criminal acts. But in society, these outburst are usually handle wrongly by the authorities and the justice system. Many people that understand both depression and mental illness believe that persons who have committed offenses due to states or behavior caused by a brain disorder require treatment, not punishment. According to NAMI, (1999), 'believes that mental health systems have obligation to develop and implement systems of appropriate care for individuals whose untreated brain disorders may cause them to engage in inappropriate or criminal behavior.
(p. 1) Because of the lack of knowledge and the fear of the two, depression and mental illness sufferers are all stereotyped as the same in our legal system. Our justice system couple depressed people with mentally ill people and giving them mainly the same types of punishment without any acknowledgment of their disorder. Many organizations are trying to stop this process.
These organizations are trying to help sufferers from being punished for something they really had little or no control of. Treatment is the answer for many of these individuals and it need to start in the communities where these people live. But, people in the communities stereotype depressed people and mentally ill persons, because of fear and the lack of knowledge about their problem. So, these individuals are label 'crazy', 'psycho', and a 'menace to society.' According to the APA online, (1999), 'people often fear what they do not understand, and for many of us, mental illness fall into that category. This fear stems from the common misconception that the term 'mental illness' is a diagnosis, and that all mental illnesses thus have similar symptoms, making all people who suffer with them equally suspect and dangerous.' (p. 1) Our justice system follows this misconception in punishment, not treatment.
Our system is using jails as mental hospitals, which is where you can find many people with different types of mental illness that is not being treated properly. Most of these people had not committed major crimes, but either had been charged with misdemeanors or minor felonies directly related to the symptoms of their untreated mental illness or had been charged with no crimes at all. Now, should these people be punished or treated? According to NAMI, (1999), 'today at least seven percent of all jail inmates and 14 percent of all prison inmates suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. On any given day, there are roughly 210, 000 persons with severe mental illness incarcerated in Federal and State jails and prisons.' (p. 3) These outrageous trends are directly related to inferior mental health services and systems in our community. These community facilities need to step-up its pace to help keep mentally ill persons and severely depressed persons from being punished and not being treated.
The federal and state prisons generally do not have the resources or rehabilitative services available for this type of inmate. It seems, that the justice system is unaware of the possible problems associated with the mentally ill. If they were, more affective disorder people would be recommended to an adequate facility for their problem, not incarceration. Is it right for our society to neglect these people and give no concern about getting the proper help for them? It appears that the crimes these people commit could be stopped if their problem is acknowledged, treated and not punished. But, if these people are incarcerated, our justice system need to be obligated to provide the care and treatment of these types of inmates. Conclusion In conclusion, severely depressed persons and mentally ill persons are sometimes punished, not knowing why they committed the crime or violent act accused of.
All too easily, our society is quick to judge and condemn persons that act or behave in different ways. And if we took the time to think a little, we possibly could help, before this behavior gets to the violent stage. I mention earlier that the communities need to get more involved with the treatment of these people. I bet, we all know someone that's on the border of violence due to depression or mental illness and we say or do nothing.
Their violent outbursts are uncontrollable and to us is just plain 'crazy.' We need to get rid of this stereotype and try to see what really happens in getting this person to the stage he or she is at. What is really happening to this depressed or mentally ill person when he gets punished and not treated? Was it his fault or the neglect of society or a combination of both? Yes, we are quick to blame, and slow to help. God said, 'Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' (Lev. 19: 18 p. 204) Works Cited APA Online (1999) Violence and Mental Illness. Public Info: Violence and Mental Illness, Internet: (web info/VIOLENT~1.
HTM) Government Survey (1990) Violence and Psychiatric Disorders in the Community: Evidence from the Epidemiological Catchment Area Surveys. Hospital and Community Psychiatry (41: 761770) Holy Bible (1998) Leviticus Chapter 19 verse 18, King James version (204: 2049) Hudson, Thomas (1978) The Laws of Psychic Phenomena. Internet: (web) (pg. 1 & 2) Illinois State Police (1999) Violence in the Workplace Characteristics. Internet: (web) Modestin, Jiri (1997) Is Depression A Risk Factor for Crime? Crime Times, Internet: (web) (p. 1) National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) (1999) The Criminalization of People with Mental Illness.
Summary of the NAMI Policy Platform (1: 8) National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) (1999) The Criminalization of People with Mental Illness. Summary of the NAMI Policy Platform (3: 8) Taridiff, K. (1980) Assault, Suicide and Mental Illness. Archives of General Psychiatry (37: 164169) Webster Dictionary (1988) Unabridged Yapko, Micheal D. (1997) The Art of Avoiding Depression. Psychology Today.