Mental Illness And Violence Are Often Mistakenly Associated


Director of Medical Services BVIHSA, Dr. June Samuel refuted the notion that mentally ill persons are usually violent people, during her appearance on the JTV Spotlight programme last week.

Dr. Samuel said that unfortunately mental health and mental illness have been plagued by the belief that persons who are mentally ill may also be violent and that’s not true: “We can all engage in behaviours that are aggressive to other people, it doesn’t mean that every time we do that we are mentally ill or that we are acutely mentally ill,” she noted.

The Director of Medical Services opined that the misconception stems from lack of knowledge and the fact that society often deems persons who are not behaving in a manner deemed normal as mentally ill. “If they are behaving anyway that is different to what we consider to be normal, whatever that is, or if they are behaving differently to us immediately we want to think that the person is crazy, but mental health is so much more than that. It is really about health,” Dr. Samuel pointed out.

She explained that the term “normal” is relative, and is used often incorrectly to assess persons: “The question is what are we talking about when we say normal, because in our ‘normality’ we have various emotional states at one point or the other. We know of persons who engage in violent behavior. Research shows that the percentage of any person who engages in violent behaviour who also have a coexisting mental disorder that is diagnosed is less than three percent. It’s a very, very small number, so we have to be careful how we link and make those connections; because we can be aggressive to other people, we can be triggered by different things … but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a diagnosable mental disorder at the time.”

“We hear of cases elsewhere … where people walk into places walk into schools and kill randomly. We hear about those acts of violence, some of them do have mental disorders yes, but the majority don’t…It is not acceptable behaviour to be aggressive, it is not a part of how we are socialised; but we have aggressive things that happen all the time in our societies, of course the world. If you think about it against that bigger picture one does not always have something to do with the other,” she added.