Myth #3: Mental illness often leads to violent and dangerous behavior

September 30, 2016 Providence Health Team

When news of a shocking incident such as a mass shooting first reaches us on TV, it’s likely that we’ll hear the words “mental illness” as the media speculates why it happened. But less than 5 percent of violence in the U.S. is caused by people with mental illnesses. The truth is, a mentally ill person is more likely to be a victim of violence – at four times the rate of the general public.

“The majority of individuals living with mental illness have productive relationships and are described by others as loving and caring people,” said Tamara Sheehan, director of psychiatry, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, in Spokane, Wash.

About 1 in 5 adults in America experiences a mental illness. When people in this group are involved with violence, severe conditions such as untreated psychosis or co-occurring drug or alcohol abuse are typically contributing factors. That’s where our mental health resources, from 24/7 triage phone lines to crisis intervention and recovery centers, come into play.

Our commitment to awareness and prevention

Early identification, awareness and intervention are important. “In Southern California, we have partnered with the schools and community to create an eight-week after-school program for teens and their families identified as at-risk and in need,” said Marshall Moncrief, the regional executive director of St. Joseph/Hoag Behavioral Health. “Referred to as ASPIRE, the program centers on skills and resiliency training for the teen and parents, helping them better navigate current problems and avoid future crises.”

With the launch of the Providence St. Joseph Health Institute for Mental Health and Wellness, we will work together to ease access to mental health care and services for people in their time of need. This is important to enhance the ability of our communities to identify family members and friends who need immediate help. Learn more about how the institute will ignite a movement around mental health on CEO and President Rod Hochman’s blog.

Resources for getting help

Call 911 if there is an urgent mental health crisis. There are also Providence resources available if someone close to you is at risk.

Providence resources include:

Additional resources:

Mental Health Myths and Facts

National Alliance on Mental Illness

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