Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Violence and Mental Illness: An Uncomfortable Subject But A Grim Reality For Some Families

Public fears of violence on the street by discharged (mental) patients who are strangers to them is misdirected. The people at the highest risk are family members and friends who are in their homes or in the patient’s home.

(6-23-16) In a study released this week, the Treatment Advocacy Center investigates a subject few like to discuss: family violence, specifically homicides committed by persons with mental illnesses.

Because of stigma, we always begin every conversation about violence by explaining that individuals with mental illnesses are no more violent than the general public and, in fact, are more likely to become victims than perpetuators.

And that is exactly how the authors of RAISING CAIN: The Role of Serious Mental Illness In Homicide begin their 48 page study.

But they quickly explain their rational in writing about murders committed by persons with mental disorders:

It is…politically incorrect to study the relationship of family homicides to serious mental illness, especially in the United States, where the concept of “recovery” is the dominant theme in writing about individuals with mental illness. (But) …it is not discourse about family violence and homicides that is a major cause of stigma against all people with mental illness; rather, it is the family violence and homicides themselves. Until we confront the causes of family violence and homicides directly, the stigmatization of persons with serious mental illness will continue to be an enormous problem. Yet, to ignore that a small percentage of persons with mental illness can be violent seems disingenuous.

This reasoning should not surprise anyone who is familiar with TAC, which is one of a few advocacy groups that speaks openly about violence. What did the authors of the report find:

To summarize it briefly:

This is the first study of the role of serious mental illness in all family homicides. There are approximately 4,000 family homicides in the United States each year. Individuals with serious mental illness are responsible for 29% of these, or approximately 1,150 homicides. This is 7% of all homicides in the U.S.
The role of serious mental illness varies depending on the family relationships. Approximately 67% of children who kill their parents are seriously mentally ill. Only 10% of spouses who kill their spouses are mentally ill.
Although total homicides have decreased markedly in the U.S. in recent years, there has been no decrease in the number of children killing parents or parents killing children, the two types of family homicides most closely associated with serious mental illness.
Women are responsible for 11% of all homicides in the US but 26% of family homicides.
Elderly family members, especially women, are disproportionately victimized. Among all homicides in the U.S. only 2.2% of victims are ages 75 and older. In a media sample of 2015 family homicides, 9.2% of the victims were age 75 and older.
Guns are used as the weapon in less than half of family homicides.
The failure of individuals with serious mental illness to take their medication and their abuse of alcohol and drugs are risk factors for family homicides.
The majority of family homicides are preceded by warnings and threats that are often ignored. The adequate treatment of individuals with serious mental illness would prevent the majority of family homicides associated with serious mental illness.


Thanks for the article,it’s good to be informed.:hibiscus:

I agree with most of this article however-when you try to get some help after noticing the “signs”, there is none to be found.

My son is in the hospital again. Afew days before, he was out of food-ordered a pizza, and tried to steal it and when someone tried to stop it-he said " Get out of my way or I`ll kill you and walked off.

He says this a lot-but usually not meaning literally. The guy called the police, but they knew it was my son and did nothing.

In my opinion–the problem is with the MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM & HIPPA CRAP! they are not equipped to handle the population of MI~s and don`t want to. That ties everyones hands!!!

They will wait until someone is over the top before admitting, and then kick them out in a week.

PS-the number of people with severe MI is more than 1 %


You are absolutely right. My son was hospitalized for a week was released with a bunch of medicine and they knew he was not ready to be released but told me that it was all the time they could have him there. The Mental Health System is HORRIBLE AND HIPPA STINKS TOO. I agree with you 100% and then the government wonders why people with mental illness go out and kill people sometimes.


No family member ignores the “warning signs.”

In fact, the vast majority of family members have continually attempted to get help for family members with SMI long before any “warning signs” (not listed!) of aggressive behavior began to appear.

It’s impossible to get help. We all know it and then people blame us for not doing the impossible.

I disagree with the statistics in this article because they come from self-selecting groups taking internet surveys. The Treatment Advocacy Group and Dr. Torrey overplay and overstate the “violence” aspect of mental illness in the same way some family members lie to cops to get their family member put in the hospital: to hopefully receive treatment. But I think they are making stigma worse by making cases for it with skewed evidence.

Even when our family members in the US really do meet legal criteria for involuntary commitment, they are never given adequate treatment for recovery in local hospitals or outpatient centers.

The only response to “warning signs” family members could make is to put our devastatingly ill loved ones out on the street. Thus abandoning them and making difficult lives worse, but heeding the (unstated) “warning signs.”


**I dont think we will get any help. Most of my help has come from elsewhere. Time to stop wasting precious time & energy on the ones who cant or wont help. We need to start protests,write letters,and talk to doctors who are also interested in changing laws. Would love to have lauras law put into place. Agood way to not have to put our loved ones on a stand to defend themselves so that we can get guardianship! **

I have always known that the worst violence is this very unwillingness of “society” to help ANYTIME it is needed. (yes the fire engines usually arrive in the proper cases, but that’s not really what I’m referring to…) The problem with SC in particular is that it PARODIES THE NEGLIGENCE AND SUBTLE VIOLENCE ALL AROUND US, the violence of personal betrayal, of casual lying and dishonesty, and of only pretending to care (in school, on the job, within religious institutions etc) …

So you are chilling out at home with a mate who might be SC, but then you say something and your mate doesn’t care, or you present a personal concern and your SC mate doesn’t care, or you are just talking or doing something, and your SC mate looks away and/or cuts you off and/or changes the subject, or you say you were dealt some petty injustice, the kind that happens routinely to all of us…and the mate invariably takes the OTHER PERSON’s side and you are shocked with the lack of empathy, but then again who is ever SUPPOSED to give a damm about you anyway?

That feels massively violent to me and in my case it happens 10 times a day sometimes and truly NOBODY CARES, and I have pretty much given up. Nobody gets “run-away” from BY EVERYBODY faster than someone who understands AND experiences the existential violence/or this negligence-on-steroids… running through everything, and especially in these special situations!! That includes the police, the conventional agencies designed to help people in trouble, also SC Anonymous, NAMI and whatnot. The Bowen Therapists are just as snooty and elitist and unaffordable and dishonest…as all the rest of them, no refuge there, no surprise. In Public “Mental Health” clinics (state, county, local) nobody has the first idea what “being in trouble” feels like in general and what SC is in particular, and that’s putting it mildly. You can’t try to educate them because you might end up in a police car for being NON violent but too correct. All this has happened to me and more than I could say here…They look at my SC mate for example, and see the bland smarmy smile (with the nothing behind it) and suddenly I am the bad guy for knowing too much and caring too much. Yup.

And so the case is closed. In this retrogressive & increasingly violent society where everyone is becoming more beset, this is the LAST thing that will ever be remedied. So let me try to help. Understand that SC is a deficit of CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE itself. And yeah, you can end up being a superman with understanding this stuff and develop brilliant original helpful therapies and you will see yourself still failing because you are still all alone and no one will ever guide you in getting it better. So then so more likely than not that SC mate will end up alone again because you will eventually find a better life yourself. That’s where I’m at right now and goody 4 me. No sarcasm intended but then again, I have been left no other respectable position on this…

I myself cannot possibly “ignore” any such signs anywhere near the completeness with which the “helping community” ignores/punishes my calls for help in my role as caregiver, and before that, my mate’s pathological “need” to ignore the basic needs of his own humanity, let alone our mutual needs as co-householders.