Get the facts! - Maryland Disability Law Center

 It is estimated that 96% of severe acts of violence are committed by individuals
who do not have a diagnosis of mental illness.i
 It is estimated that between 5% and 7% of persons diagnosed with a serious
mental illness commit violence towards others in a given year, compared to
between 2% and 3% of the general population.ii
 This elevated rate of violence for people with a mental illness is not due to the
illness itself, but is related to the presence of other, more significant risk factors.iii
 Substance abuse increases the risk of violence regardless of mental health
status; it has a stronger impact on people with a mental illness.iv
 Controlling for other risk factors, a person with a serious mental illness alone has
same – or lower - likelihood of committing a future act of violence as any member
of the general public.v
 The strongest risk factors for committing severe acts of violence include younger
age, being male, having less than a high school education, history of violence,
juvenile detention, perception of hidden threats from others, and being divorced
or separated in the past
 People with a serious mental illness are anywhere from 2.5 times to nearly 12
times more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence.vii
In a nationwide survey, 75% of the public viewed people with a mental illness as
violent, despite the research over the past 20 years debunking this myth.viii
Fazel, S, Grunn (2006). The population impact of severe mental illness on violent crime, Am J Psychiatry (163)
Swanson, JW, Holzer CE, III, Ganju VK, Jono RT. (1990). Violence and disorder in the community: Evidence From
the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Surveys, Hospital & Community Psychiatry (41)761-70.
1500 Union Avenue, Suite 2000 ● Baltimore, Maryland 21211
Phone: 410-727-6352 ● TTY: 443-285-5387 ● Fax: 410-727-6389 ●
Elbogen, E.B. & Johnson, S.C. (2009). The intricate link between violence and mental disorder: Results from the
National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66(2), 152-61.
The studied employed a nationally representative longitudinal data set to examine (1) what risk factors
prospectively predict violent behavior; (2) whether sever mental disorders predict future violent behavior; and (3)
how different risk factors may predict different types of violence; Swanson JW, Swartz MS, Van Dorn RA, et al.
(2006). A national study of violent behavior in persons with schizophrenia, Arch Gen Psychiatry (63) 490-9;
Steadman HJ, Mulvey EP, Monahan J, et. al. (1998) Violence by people discharged from acute psychiatric inpatient
facilities and by others in the same neighborhoods, Arch Gen Psychiatry (55) 393-401.
NASMHPD/CSG Justice Center (2010). Responding to a High-Profile, Tragic Incident Involving a Person with a
Serious Mental Illness: A Toolkit for State Mental Health Commissioners.
Id.; see also Steadman HJ, Mulvey EP, Monahan J, et. al. (1998) Violence by people discharged from acute
psychiatric inpatient facilities and by others in the same neighborhoods, Arch Gen Psychiatry (55) 393-401
Elbogen at 157.
Teplin, L.A., McClelland, G.M., Abram, K.M., & Weiner, D.A. (2005) Crime victimization in adults with severe
mental illness: Comparison with the National Crime Victimization Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 911921.
Corrigan, P.W., Watson, A.C., Gracia, G., Slopen, N., Rasinski, K. and Hall, L.L. (2005). Newspaper stories as
measures of structural stigman, Psychiatric Services, 56(5), 551-556. See also Pescosolido, B., Martin, J., Link, B.,
Kikuzawa, S., Burgos, G., Swindle, R., et al (2000). Americans’ views of mental health and illness at century’s end:
Continuity and change. Public report on the MacArthur Mental Health Module, 1006 General Social Survey.
Bloomington, In: Indiana Consortium of Mental Health Services Research, Indiana University, and the Joseph P.
mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; Pescosolido BA, Monahan J., Link BG, Stueve A. Kikuzawa S.
The Public’s view of the competence, dangerousness, and need for legal coercion of persons with mental health
problems. Am J Public Health, 1999; 89(9): 1339-1345.