When a typical person is told that someone has a mental disorder, the first thoughts that run through his or her head might be to stay away from the crazy person or that the person with a mental disorder might be violent.
This isn’t what everyone thinks, but the facts are surprising. According to older reports, many people are hesitant to be friends with people who have mental disorders – 38 percent in fact. Many also were found to believe that people with mental disorders are violent – 61 percent thought that “people with schizophrenia are likely to be dangerous to others.”
These statistics are old, but a recent study from Columbia University also showed that there was “no change in prejudice and discrimination toward people with serious mental illness or substance abuse problems despite a greater embrace by the public of neurobiological explanations for these illnesses.” This was over a 10-year period – 1996 to 2006.
The public misconception could be because of how mental disorders are depicted in movies and TV. For example, one report found that 60 percent of characters on prime time television with a mental illness “were shown to be involved in crime or violence.” This is “three times the average rate,” which obviously paints a skewed picture for the general population.
Understandably, TV and movies tend to focus on fiction and the most extreme scenarios. Also, the argument can be made that someone who is mentally healthy would not consider hurting someone else, except in defense. However, there are other factors, like substance abuse and drugs, that can alter logical thinking.
Other studies, like one in early September from the University of Oxford, showed that mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are not linked to an increase in violence. Only those who have substance abuse problems had a higher violent crime rate, but this was the same rate as people in the general public who also had substance abuse problems.
The only thing that is concerning is that those with mental disorders tend to turn to drugs and alcohol more often than the general population.