What is the Relationship Between Mental Illness and Criminal Behavior?


My intro video!

Why is this topic important?

Many people are too scared to leave their homes because of a fear of crime, and they are afraid to be the victim of criminal behavior. The crime rate is increasing day by day, shown on T.V channels and other means of media. Therefore a feeling of insecure life has aroused in common people, and they opine no place is safe to live in this modern world. The increase of crime over the years has led to various assumptions on the causes of these rapid escalations in crime. Hence, experts, including psychiatrists, have been engaged in this debate. Experts have been involved in the contention as to whether mental disorders and their symptoms directly influence the tendency to commit crime among the related people.

What you need to know?

As for the link between violence and mental illness, different studies yield disparate results. There are many reasons behind this: different populations are studied, the definition of mental illness can vary and violence can be defined, and measured in alternate ways (arrests vs convictions; severe vs more minor). The general consensus is that although the vast majority of patients with serious mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia) will not behave violently, there is still an indisputable link.

In fact, there are secure psychiatric units with ramped-up levels of security where forensic psychiatrists work. These are reserved for the most high-risk patients, who have a history of severe mental illness that has driven assaultive behavior – acts of violence that have been so dangerous they cannot be contained on regular psychiatric wards or even prison.

For this specific group of patients, the most common diagnoses are psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, or bipolar affective disorder. Sometimes, aggression is directly linked to symptoms. For example, sufferers of schizophrenia typically experience paranoid delusions; common forms include the unshakeable belief that others are watching, following, laughing at, or even wishing to kill the sufferer.

What are the factors that can increase the risk of violent behavior?

  • Exposure to physical aggression, especially at an early age. Children learn to model what they witness, including domestic violence.
  • Sexual abuse is connected to increased violence in later life, as well as mental illness.
  • Peer pressure or gang culture. This is particularly prevalent in adolescent males.
  • Being male.
  • Employment issues.
  • Being the victim of other forms of abuse; neglect, emotional and even.
  • Unstable relationships and poor parental boundary setting.
  • More information

However, the research shows the most important and independent risk factor for criminality and violence among individuals with mental illness is a long-term substance use disorder. In patients with a major psychiatric illness, comorbid substance use disorder, there is a four-fold increase in the risk of committing a crime or violence.

Also, a research of 282 male patients with schizophrenia and 261 male patients with affective disorders found that 34% out of 282 patients with schizophrenia and 42% out of 261 patients with the affective disorder had a criminal record and more than half of a total of 543 patients (52%) had co-occurring substance abuse. We can conclude that individuals with schizophrenia without comorbid substance abuse were at an increased risk of violent criminality than their affective disorder counterparts who had a greater probability of committing property offenses; this suggests a menial link between psychopathology and mental illness violence.

Mental Health in Iran: The impact of mental illnesses on criminal behavior

According to a new report issued by Iran’s Health Ministry, nearly one-quarter of Iranian adults suffer from a mental illness.

“On average, more than 23 percent of Iranian adults suffer from some type of mental illness,” Health Ministry Spokesperson Iraj Harirchi announced at a press conference. Although he did not elaborate on the nature of mental illness Iranians are suffering from, he said political, social, and economic “tensions,” along with “negative news,” have directly impacted the nation’s psychological health.

On the other hand, the growing increase in criminal acts in human societies has made Persian criminologists study criminal behavior sources and causes. They believed It would be possible to determine high-risk groups for criminal activity by studying the factors which are effective in violent criminality of mental illnesses so that we will be able to propose measures of prevention.

This research was carried out as a cross-sectional study on 130 criminals suffering from mental illness in Tehran prisons. They found out; Personality disorders were by far the most prevalent form of mental illness in criminals. However, the most violent crimes have been attempted by psychotic patients, including schizophrenics and sufferers of delusional disorders.


Can mental Illness treatment reduce crime?

The best way to reduce crime is to prevent it. Diagnosing and treating individuals who are suffering from mental illness would be the best place to start. Sometimes we can even go further and begin to prevent mental illnesses by diagnosing the individuals at a high risk of getting mental illnesses.

However, I believe if having a mental disorder contributes to crime, for example, due to aggression or lack of impulse control, then targeting the disorder through treatment may reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Empirical evidence also suggests that mental health treatment can reduce crime.

Jails and prisons provide some treatment services, but what if we increase awareness and access to treatment in communities so that people could get help before they get into trouble.

  • To take care of others, start by taking care of yourself:

Before anything, we need to start from ourselves and care about our mental health as much as physical Health! More information

  • Building awareness:

In the same way, we educate communities about physical health concerns such as heart disease, it’s critical that we start conversations about what mental illness is, how to recognize it, and the fact that it is a treatable illness. Here are some simple steps you can take to help raise the collective consciousness about mental health where you live:

  1. Talk with everyone you know. Ask family, friends, and coworkers how they’re doing and really listen to the answers. If they give any indication that they are depressed or stressed out, let them know that there are resources available to help them. – If you sense that they might be considering self-harm or suicide, encourage them to seek help immediately and assist them as appropriate.
  2. Open up about your experience. If you’ve struggled or are struggling with mental illness, share your story. Hearing another person is going through the same thing you are can be a relief. And, it can be the nudge a person needs to get help and look into treatment.
  3. Encourage kind language. When you hear people around you talk about mental illness in disparaging terms, politely ask them to consider the impact of their words. Any language that reinforces the stigma of mental illness is harmful and might keep someone from getting help. Further explore the importance of person-centered language, which respects the consumer by separating the symptoms from the person with thoughtful language.
  4. Educate yourself about mental illness. It’s not uncommon for people to misunderstand mental illness. Learn more about it and share what you learn. This includes talking with children about mental health in age-appropriate terms. Children are not immune to mental illness and can experience conditions like depression and anxiety as early as elementary school.
  5. Leverage social media. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter can be great forums for inspiring people to be open-minded and inquisitive when it comes to mental illness.
  6. Volunteer. Mental health organizations like Community Reach Center frequently need help with specific initiatives and ongoing efforts. Your phone call or email will be greeted with heartfelt appreciation.
  7. Coordinate a mental health screening event. Promoting an event or asking that mental health screening be part of a community health fair can encourage people to take action regarding their mental health. You can learn more about screening at websites like:
  • Improving access to mental health care:


Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your feedback, so please leave a note in the comments section below! In addition, I’d appreciate it if you could answer these questions:

  • What other things can we do to prevent mental illness?
  • What was the most interesting fact that you learned from this website?
  • What can I do or change to make this website better?



  1. Hey Taraneh! My name is Alexa, and I’m from a different abnormal psychology class, and I’m here to check out your website! This topic really interested me, so I wanted to check it out! Here are some answers to your questions!!

    What other things can we do to prevent mental illness?
    – I feel since the majority of us are students at either a high school or college, maybe creating a club wherever we are regarding mental health awareness would help a lot for others to have a safe space with fellow classmates to share their experiences and how they feel!
    What was the most interesting fact that you learned from this website?
    – I wasn’t aware that even just being male could increase the risk of violent behavior! I anticipated the other ones, but this one was the most interesting to me!
    What can I do or change to make this website better?
    – You did amazing creating an appealing website for others! Although, maybe put a form of some sort at the beginning of the website to quiz people on what they know already about this topic, just so it’s more interesting to read your website afterwards!

    Amazing job Taraneh (I love your name haha)! Amazing topic, and thank you for sharing more information on this important yet vulnerable topic!
    -Alexa Mislow

    1. Hey Alexa! I really do appreciate you taking the time to look at my project. Also, I really liked the club idea, and I believe it can increase awareness and help people feel better! Thank you!!

  2. Hi Taraneh!

    My name is Kathleen Brandimarte! I am from the other abnormal psychology class. When I was looking through the other classes posts this one sounded really interesting to me and I wanted to learn more about the topic. The most interesting thing I learned from this website was all the factors that can increase violent behavior. The two that stuck out to me that I never thought of before was being male and employment issues. Great Job!

    1. Hi Kathleen! Thank you so much for taking some time to look at my project:)

  3. Hi Taraneh. Great job on this project! It was a heavy topic and you covered it in-depth but also made a great connection to your community. I also loved the variety of media that you used. I always heard that a key to a healthy mind is a balanced diet. The most interesting fact that I learned was that sometimes aggression was directly linked to symptoms of a disorder and not the disorder itself. Lastly, I think you did a really great job. My only suggestion would be to maybe add one interactive element to further engage visitors. Again, great work!

    1. Hi Rosemary! I appreciate you taking the time to read my project, I am glad you enjoyed it:)

  4. Hi Taraneh! I’m Vivian and I’m from another Abnormal Psychology class. I really enjoyed looking at your project and I learned lots of new information. I think the most interesting fact that I learned was that treating mental illness can reduce crime. I had not thought about the link between criminal behavior and mental health before so I loved learning something new. I think one of the most important things we can do to prevent mental illness is to be educated on it, like you said. Learning about mental health is so important because it can help people understand how complex it is. Great job!

    1. Hey Vivian! I definitely agree!! I am glad you enjoyed my project, thank you for your response!!

  5. Hi Taraneh! Great job! It was super cool to read this because it related to an interview I did earlier this year. My uncle is a psychologist in a prison and he also stated that schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and bipolar affective disorder are the most common disorders in prison. He also spoke about the types of sexual and childhood trauma that you mentioned being catalysts for mental illnesses resulting in criminal behavior. In response to your Iran part of this site, do you think that their study and measures of prevention can work in other countries and cultures like the United States?

  6. Hey Taraneh! Amazing job at your project, I feel like as a society we normally say that there is correlation between mental illness and criminal behavior but we rarely pin point it and actively try to fix it. I loved that you pointed out the factors that can increase violent behavior because it gives us readers a good idea as to what may be causing this connection and it shows us a bit of what the root problem is. Your project is extremely important because this is a topic that isn’t talked about enough even though it is an extreme issue in our present day life. Great job!

  7. Hi Taraneh!
    Amazing project! It’s so well presented and flows in a way that presents your research so beautifully! I’ve done a lot of research into this, and it’s true that it’s incredibly difficult to know how they correlate simply because there are so many different ways of defining criminal behavior and so many ways to classify mental illness.
    For your questions, I don’t really think we can prevent mental illness by itself, however, I think that working to ensure that a conversation can be held about mental health is really important. My project dove into something similar, and I came to a conclusion much as this one, that if we can openly talk about mental illness, it’ll help individuals who need help get help.
    Again great job on this!!

  8. Hello Taraneh! Very well done with this project. I think this is super interesting to bring up because it’s almost a perfect fit together. Talking about it can be difficult and almost triggering for some people. I think everything you covered was said wonderfully and super accurate. Well done!

  9. Hi Taraneh! This project instantly caught my attention, more often than not, criminal behavior does stem from some sort of origin, and this commonly connects with mental health as your project investigates. In response to your questions, firstly I do not think we can entirely prevent mental illness, however, we can attempt to reduce the stigma around it, which overall fosters a more understanding and nurturing society to those with and even without mental illness. I would have to say that the most interesting fact I learned from this website was the dire mental health crisis currently ongoing in Iran, to the extent that over 23% of all Iranian adults suffer from mental illness. Your website was very informative not to mention organized, and your research question was something that immediately intrigued me, one and only thing I would maybe add is a way for the audience to interact with your post outside of the comments. Really great job!

  10. Hi Taraneh! This project inspired me in so many ways. Unlike you, I don’t know if I would have felt confident enough to take on such an in-depth and real-world problem. The fact that you were able to break down this problem into easier-to-understand, bite-size pieces for your audience was truly impressive. I really enjoyed watching the video you embedded as well as reading the infographic. Both were very insightful! I would have loved to take something like a short quiz at the end to show you I was paying attention! But again, really great work! And congrats on the award!!

  11. Love this page! I think one of the most challenging things to do is just talk about it openly and this can help people with mental illness so much just knowing that it is not bad to talk about it. I learned a lot from this page. thank you!

  12. Great article. One of my favorites! Another interesting idea to add to this- what if America (or other countries for that matter) can spend a larger portion of their money on helping people who actually know how to properly diagnose and treat mental illness. Instead of spending billions of dollars on keeping people in prison, how about we spend billions of dollars on making sure people don’t go to prison because of violence (people with mental illnesses.)

  13. Hey Taraneh, This project is very interesting and can help other people understand the connection between metal illness and criminals behavior. This project is helpful for a lot reasons. The research was very well done and looked like it took a lot of time and effort.

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