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  • Writer's pictureSam Wilks

The Relationship between Mental Illness and Criminal Behaviour



One needs only to take a look at contemporary statistics on crime and it is obvious there is a relationship between mental illness and criminal behaviour. While the vast majority of individuals with mental illness do not engage in criminal behaviour, research has shown that there is a higher prevalence of mental illness among individuals who are incarcerated or in contact with the criminal justice system.

It is important to note, however, that the relationship between mental illness and criminal behaviour is quite complex and not well understood. Which is mind-blowing to me considering the very obviously large numbers of those incarcerated with mental illness. Mental illness does not directly cause criminal behaviour, but it may contribute to factors that increase the risk of criminal behaviour.

There are several proven factors that contribute to criminal behaviour among individuals with mental illness. These include:


  1. Co-occurring Substance Use Disorders: Individuals with mental illness are more likely to have co-occurring substance use disorders. Substance use can contribute to criminal behaviour by impairing judgment, increasing impulsivity, and reducing inhibitions.

  2. Poor Social Support: Individuals with mental illness may have poor social support systems, which can increase feelings of isolation and hopelessness. This can increase the risk of criminal behaviour as individuals may turn to crime as a means of coping with their difficulties.

  3. Poverty and Homelessness: Mental illness is associated with an increased risk of poverty and homelessness. These environmental factors can increase the risk of criminal behaviour as individuals may turn to crime as a means of survival.


The importance of providing individuals with mental illness with appropriate treatment and support could not be understated. Research has shown that effective treatment can reduce the risk of criminal behaviour among individuals with mental illness.

Treatment can include a combination of medication, therapy, and social support. By addressing co-occurring substance use disorders, improving social support systems, and addressing environmental factors such as poverty and homelessness, we help reduce the risk of criminal behaviour among individuals with mental illness.

By identifying mental illness early and providing appropriate treatment and support, we can help prevent individuals from engaging in criminal behaviour. Early intervention is particularly important in addressing co-occurring substance use disorders. Research has shown that early intervention and treatment for substance use disorders can reduce the risk of criminal behaviour.

Law enforcement plays a critical role in identifying individuals with mental illness who are at risk of engaging in criminal behaviour and providing appropriate interventions. When discussing Law enforcement in this context I do not differentiate between emergency services and private security personnel.

Law enforcement also plays a role in promoting diversion programs that provide individuals with mental illness with appropriate treatment and support rather than incarceration. By addressing the underlying mental health issues that contribute to criminal behaviour, we reduce the likelihood of individuals with mental illness engaging in criminal behaviour in the future.

The complex relationship between mental illness and criminal behavior is obvious. While mental illness does not directly cause criminal behaviour, it may contribute to factors that increase the risk of criminal behavior. Treatment and support is critical in addressing mental illness and reducing the risk of criminal behaviour among individuals with mental illness. Early intervention is important in addressing co-occurring substance use disorders and preventing individuals from engaging in criminal behavior. Law enforcement plays an important part. By working together to address the underlying causes of mental illness and criminal behaviour, we can help promote a safer and more just society for all individuals, regardless of their mental health status.


From the author.


The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.


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