In TV shows or movies, villains are often shown with similar symptoms of schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, to make them seem more brutal and crazy. It is also true that some criminals have schizophrenia, but because of the negative images of schizophrenia, most people are reluctant to have schizophrenia patients around them.
But what is schizophrenia? According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), schizophrenia—the splitting of the mind—is a mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think, manage emotions, make decisions, and more. An estimated 0.01% of people in the U.S. suffer schizophrenia, and it usually occurs in the late teens to early 20s for men and late 20s to early 30s for women. From the year 1990 to 2017, 0. 32% of females and 0. 34% of males had schizophrenia in the United States. Genetics, structural & chemical changes in the brain, childhood trauma, or birth complications are the causes of schizophrenia. Schizophrenic patients experience hallucinations, delusions, and mental breakdowns; these disorders can confuse patients’ identities and cause miscommunications.
Unfortunately, schizophrenia cannot be 100% cured. However, it could be treated in several ways. The patients can take antipsychotic medications and psychotherapy to reduce schizophrenia symptoms. When taking the treatments for around ten years, 50% of the schizophrenia patients recover in the best case or improve to the point where they can live independently.
Some of the criminals with schizophrenia symptoms indeed commit non-violence crimes or violent crimes. It is because the delusions, confusions, and hallucinations could affect the criminals' mentality. However, according to the American Psychological Association, among 7.5% of criminals with mental illnesses, only 4% of them had symptoms of schizophrenia. Rather than committing crimes, schizophrenia patients are more likely to be victims. In Biomed Central (BMC) Psychiatry, researchers compared criminal histories of 4,168 patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders to 4,641 randomly selected community sample individuals. In violent victimizations, patients with schizophrenia were 10.1% and community controls were 6.6%. In addition, in sexually violent victimization, schizophrenia patients were 1.7% and community controls were 0.3%. Consequently, schizophrenia patients are more vulnerable to crime victimizations than people without schizophrenia.
People with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders are patients that society must protect, not beings to fear about. Therefore, it is people’s responsibility to make a better society for schizophrenia patients by having a proper understanding of schizophrenia.