The Myth of Criminal Mental Illness

There’s a prevalent fiction that mental health treatment can be “forced” on unwilling participants and, in the process, eradicate or diminish irrationality — including homicidal intentions — within a person, even without that person’s consent.

Whenever there’s a shooting, as in Fort Hood this past week, media outlets and others reinforce this myth.

Consider this example from The Wall Street Journal several days ago:

“[There should be] laws requiring extremely ill patients to receive assisted outpatient treatment. Those who refuse need to be committed to a hospital for care. The most troubled, anxious and depressed individuals too often don’t get the focused attention and counseling needed to break their fall … We live in a time when attention is paid to and public money spent on all manner of personal grievance and injury. Severe mental illness is not one of them. It should be.” [Wall Street Journal 4/3/14]

What an intellectually lazy, superficially and socially easy, yet completely ignorant position to take.

First of all, “mental illness” does not envelop a helpless and unsuspecting victim like an outbreak of influenza or anthrax.

A person with homicidal or other irrational intentions or ideation does not get “struck” by these impulses out of the blue, requiring only some kind of unspecified and externally determined medical treatment to get him (or her) to become well.

Dr. Stanton Samenow’s research, outlined in “The Myth of the Out of Character Crime,” provides evidence to support the idea that criminals get that way because of long-held beliefs and attittudes — even criminals who seem, superficially, to be reasonable or non-harmful people to those around them.

Any experienced and intellectually honest mental health professional will tell you that they cannot truly “treat,” intervene or help somebody who doesn’t wish to have that help. The government could order that person into psychotherapy, but they cannot make a person remain in it. Even if it could, the government could not prevent the sophisticated criminal from putting on an act to fool the often naive kind of person attracted to the field of psychiatry or psychology. Nor can someone with a known organic/brain-related problem (not as common as you think) be forced to take the medication required to keep him from going off the deep end and perhaps harming someone physically in the process.

Mental problems, especially serious ones, do not develop from the metaphorical equivalent of a trip on a staircase leading to an unfortunate fall — from which the government-mandated psychiatrist can and should immediately rescue said criminal.

Mental problems, especially serious ones, arise from a long chain of mental events, cognitive evasions, irrational behaviors and self-reinforcing rationalizations maintained in a person’s mind over a long period of time. Criminal behaviors, in particular, are the consequence of criminal ways of thinking, ways of thinking developed and reinforced within a person (and sometimes enabled or reinforced by others) over time. Stanton Samenow is the best resource for documentation of these habits of mind that lead to real criminal behaviors in practice.

The government already spends literally trillions of dollars on Medicare and Medicaid programs which include provision for mental health treatment. It’s simply false to say that public money is not spent on mental health treatment. If you think that you can save yourself from being the victim of a crime by luring a would-be criminal into the arms of a government-financed psychiatrist, then you’re obviously not looking at what has already been going on for decades.

In order to enforce a law requiring people the government deems mentally ill to enter “treatment,” we first must empower the government to determine who is, and who isn’t, mentally ill. Now how helpful do you think psychiatry or psychology will be if staffed by people with political mandates and motives?

Calling someone who is a criminal in the making “helpless and ill,” the poor victim of a mental or psychological “trip on the staircase of life” feeds in to exactly the kind of victim and entitlement thinking which every parasite-criminal requires in order to “function.” By buying this slop that much of the media uncritically serves up, you’re not helping anyone and you’re not being compassionate. Quite the opposite: You’re making the world that much of a safer place for criminals by suggesting that they’re victims of illness rather than the product of their own warped thinking and actions over time (which research and honest thinking tells us they are.)

I sincerely wish that people who know absolutely nothing about the field of psychology would strop spreading these ridiculous and even dangerous myths.


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