He went on to point out that if individuals with mental illnesses seek treatment, go to therapy and take medication, some of these crimes may be prevented.
However, it’s important to note that even horrific crimes cannot always be prevented or explained as a result of mental illness symptoms.
“There is a difference between a diagnosable mental illness ... and an individual who is troubled in some other way,” Bevacqua said.
“Looking back at a famous shooting like Columbine, the shooters did not necessarily have a diagnosed mental illness, but the story was that they were previously the victims of bullying and the shooting then became a very unhealthy way to cope.”
Dr. Julia Samton, a psychiatrist and neurologist, suggested in an email that the general public might feel uncomfortable as a result of this study.
“I do think it will be difficult for the public to accept the fact that someone could commit a heinous crime for a random and inexplicable reason,” Samton said. “I think people are reassured when they can attribute criminal behavior to psychosis or other psychiatric symptoms.”
However, she does believe that many severely violent crimes are committed by people with mental disorder diagnoses and often substance abuse problems. Substance abuse was found to be involved in 85 percent of the crimes in this study.
The study itself is limited in the fact that it didn’t include offenders who committed the most violent crimes. Study participants did admit to committing violent crimes they weren’t caught doing but it is hard to know how reliable they were.
Jason Mihalko, a psychologist, said in an email that this study helps further support the fact that most people with mental disorders do not commit violent crimes.
However, this concept might be hard to grasp, since there is so much misinformation floating around, as well as a barrier between scientific literacy and the public.
We tend to focus on high profile cases of mass shootings, which are actually pretty rare occurrences when compared to other shootings and crimes that happen daily without an association with mental illness.