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Indianapolis Criminal Attorney
John "Jack" Razumich
Criminal Attorney
Andrew Redd
Criminal Attorney


Understanding the Criminal Justice System

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Mental Illness and Violence: Causes and Culpability

As a society, we’ve been making great strides in eradicating the secrecy and shame around the subjects of depression and anxiety. However, there’s still great stigma attached to serious mental illnesses (SMI) such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. Part of the reason for this stigma is the conflation of SMI with a tendency to violence. But is this connection a myth? Are people who have committed violent crimes, such as assault, responsible for their acts?

Symptoms of Psychosis As Risk Factors

Psychosis can occur as a result of physical trauma or as part of specific mental illnesses. It is defined as a collection of symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinations-hearing or seeing things that others cannot
  • Delusional thinking-believing things that are not objectively true
  • Disorganized behavior-acting in a way that doesn’t make sense to observers
  • Catatonia-a “frozen” appearance or lack of reaction to stimuli

A meta-analysis of over 200 studies of psychosis found that psychosis “was significantly associated with a 49%-68% increase in the odds of violence.”

Psychosis that results in violent acts like assault can often be traced to drug use, both therapeutic and recreational. Methamphetamine, steroids, prescription stimulants, and hallucinogens such as LDS are among the drugs most commonly associated with psychotic breaks.

Dual Diagnosis: A Dangerous Combination

It’s important to understand that although there may be some connections between mental illness and violence, there are also, almost always, other contributing or mitigating factors at play. One of the most significant is co-occurring substance abuse, often referred to as dual diagnosis.

Around half of all people with severe mental illness also have substance use disorder. These two issues are so intertwined that it can be difficult to approach them separately; many people with mental illness self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, and that drug use often exacerbates the symptoms of their mental illness. It’s the proverbial vicious cycle-and it can also be a violent one.

Moreover, people undergoing an abrupt withdrawal from using drugs or alcohol can also experience symptoms of psychosis. These generally abate once the process of detox is complete.

A Defense That’s Specific to the Circumstances

It can be difficult to prove that a particular assault or other violent crime has occurred due to a psychotic break, a mental illness, or a dual diagnosis. That’s why anyone in this situation should work with attorneys who are well-versed in this type of defense.

The attorneys at Razumich & Associates can help by thoroughly understanding what’s taken place, evaluating all the mitigating factors, and tailoring a defense representing the best possible outcome for the accused.

Contact them at 317-983-5333 or click here.

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