Category Archives: Media

Schizophrenia and Violence: Media versus Madness

Persons with schizophrenia (especially those who have paranoid delusions) are often depicted in the media as being overtly violent and dangerous. While it is true that some persons with this disorder have committed violent acts, the vast majority of the over 2.2 million Americans with this disorder are in fact not violent. In truth, we tend to be withdrawn and avoid overly stressful situations (like violent confrontation) at almost any cost.

Here are some ideas to ponder:
  1. Most persons who commit violent crimes do not have schizophrenia; most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent crimes.
  2. As mentioned above, we tend just to want to be left alone. Because of our passive nature, we are more often the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators of such. Quite possibly because of our lack of social power and prestige and due to our resistance or ability to report crimes against us, reports of violent acts against us go unreported or underreported.
  3. When we do act upon our violent fantasies, that violence usually takes place at home and is most often directed at family members and/or friends.
  4. There are three predictors of violence: a history of violent behavior; substance abuse; and noncompliance with medication (not taking one’s medication). The first two of these three are the strongest  predictors. These predictors hold true for the general population as well as for those who suffer from schizophrenia.
  5. As a group, we are much more likely to commit a violent act upon ourselves (suicide) than upon others.
The great stigma of schizophrenia, one that is preached in many media outlets, is that we are violently dangerous. The truth is that, while we do have more violent fantasies than most, we are not as violent as the general population. In the past ten years (going back to 2000), can you count on both hands the number of stories you have heard of someone with this disorder committing acts that directly resulted in someone’s death? I can think of a few off hand. Now, think about the number of times you have heard of someone from the general population doing the same. How many of those can you count?  You’d need more than your fingers and toes, wouldn’t you?
I’m not saying to go find a person who is actively psychotic and befriend them. Obviously, that would be irresponsible on my part. What I am saying is that the next time you meet someone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, try not to dismiss him. You might be surprised that, if you have some things in common, you may have just made a new friend, and that will change two people’s lives…yours and his (or hers).
Best wishes…
eb
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