Are people who have serious mental illness prone to violence?

This is a harmful myth that contributes to stigma around SMI. It leads to a false public perception that equates criminality with SMI and other mental health conditions. However, data do not support this perception. Overall, people who have SMI are much more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators. There is some risk for violence linked with schizophrenia, yet most of the excess risk for violence is linked to:

  • co-occurring substance use disorders
  • violence that occurs before the start of treatment
  • treatment non-adherence

2% — Annual rate of violent behavior for the general population

2% — Annual rate of violent behavior for individuals who have SMI and no history of violent victimization, exposure to violence, or co-occurring disorders

25% — Annual rate that people who have SMI are victims of violent crime each year

11.8x higher — Likelihood for someone who has SMI to be the victim of a violent crime, compared to the general public

Learn more about common myths around SMI and character. See our infographic on this topic.




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