Stop connecting mental illness with violence

It certainly seems right given how often mental illness is offered as an explanation for violent behaviour. Just this week, for example, we heard that the recent attack on a Canadian Forces recruiting centre might have been the result, not of terrorism, but of alleged assailant Ayanle Hassan Ali inheriting his mother’s mental illness.

And virtually every news story has pointed to mental illness as the explanation for the alleged behaviour of Rohinie Bisesar, who stands accusedof stabbing a woman to death in a Toronto Shoppers Drug Mart.

Given these stories, it’s little wonder that studies show people who watch or read the news are more likely to avoid people living with mental illness and to view mental illness and violence as inexorably linked.

Scientific studies, however, suggest otherwise. Studies have identified numerous factors associated with violent behaviour, including sex, age, socioeconomic status, unemployment, victimization, and, especially, substance abuse. Indeed, a bad drunk presents a much greater threat to your bodily integrity than a schizophrenic.

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