We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Connection Between Mental Illness and Crime?

By Susan Grindstaff
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

According to studies conducted by Harvard University and published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009, mental illness and crime may be closely related. The study was conducted on prisoners who had been classified as mentally ill and off their medication at the time they committed their crimes. The study seemed to suggest that if these prisoners had been properly medicated, they might not have committed the crimes at all. Though some experts disagree with the actual numbers, most do agree that in some cases mental illness and crime are connected. People with mental illness also frequently become targets of other criminals, probably because their mental condition makes them more vulnerable.

Sometimes people suffering from mental illness do not get the care they need to function normally. This often leads to upheavals in their lives that sometimes puts them in dangerous situations. Studies seem to indicate that a great many homeless people are also suffering from mental illness, and for some of them, criminal behavior may be a means of survival.

Science has long recognized the link between mental illness and crime. One mental condition that is often associated with violent crime is called “temporary insanity.” It refers to a temporary condition when a person is not responsible for his or her own actions. Though these people are not insane, it is thought that during the time the crime was committed, true mental impairment existed. This type of condition is usually brought about by an extremely traumatic event.

Another mental condition often associated with violent crime is called “criminally insane.” This term frequently refers to psychopaths and sociopaths who often commit violent crimes. Unlike people who are temporarily insane, criminally insane individuals have a deep-rooted mental condition that often traces back to their childhood. There is some argument within the mental health community regarding how much responsibility some of these individuals have for their crimes. Some health professionals believe they do not know the difference between right and wrong, while other experts argue that the criminally insane are often well aware that their crimes are wrong.

Kleptomania is another mental disorder that generally shows a link between mental illness and crime. People with this mental disorder have an uncontrollable urge to steal. The items a kleptomaniac steals are often irrelevant to them and can be something as simple as a napkin ring from a restaurant. People who suffer from kleptomania are frequently arrested for shoplifting and other petty crimes.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon978980 — On Nov 23, 2014

To a degree, I do believe that mental illness can play a role in criminal activity. However; at the same time, I also believe that society has made it easy for people, in general, to come up with excuses. Society as a whole has definitely made it much easier for people to not accept the consequences for their actions.

The bottom line is, criminals and people alike know the difference between right and wrong. I understand that there is always the exception to the rule, regardless, I have been diagnosed with multiple forms of mental illness and I am not a career criminal. In actuality, I am a very productive member of society (I am not on medication). When I don't do what is 'right', I feel horrible and feel the need to atone. Individuals with mental illness face societal stigma because of these criminals, forcing us to be ashamed and keep our illnesses hidden. Then you have these criminals that are looking for someone or something to blame their actions on, instead of owning up to their poor choices.

Children are given consequences for their actions and are not allowed to give their parents an excuse, so why should we allow full grown adults to give us excuses?

By summing — On Mar 13, 2012

What kind of mental illness treatment is available to men and women is prison. Can they overcome the illness which in many cases contributed to them being prosecuted, or are they doomed to suffer with their sick minds for the duration of their stay in jail?.

By tigers88 — On Mar 12, 2012

I have a personal story of mental illness and crime. My brother has a very rough time of it as a young man. He was always getting in to some kind of trouble. He was arrested for drug possession, petty theft, public drunkenness, vandalism and other minor crimes. He was never a bad kid, he just couldn't seem to stay out of trouble.

Well, when he was in his mid 30s he was diagnosed as bi-polar and began to take medications. The change has been amazing. He has stayed out of trouble, has a full time job, is seeing a very nice woman and has big hopes and plans for himself that he never used to have. I believe that all his problems as a young man were the result of his mental problems. If he had only received treatment sooner he might have been able to avoid years of grief and struggle.

By gravois — On Mar 12, 2012

Unfortunately there is a strong connection between mental illness and crime. And even more sadly, a number of the men and women who have been locked up in America's jails suffer from undiagnosed mental illnesses. If they received the care and the treatment that they needed they might never have committed the crimes they are being punished for.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.