Introduction: Violence and Mental Illness in Context

  • Lia AhonenEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Criminology book series (BRIEFSCRIMINOL)


This chapter discusses and challenges the perceived relationship between mental illness and violence. Overall rates of violence have decreased globally, as well as locally in the USA. Despite this fact, reports of serious and lethal violence still elicit fears with respect to public safety. Violence, therefore, is not only a topic for criminal justice agencies, but is clearly a general public health concern. In many violent incidents, mental illness is used as a way of explaining the horrific outcomes. Mass shootings in particular are considered a consequence of mental illness, and authorities have tried to prevent these types of incidents by focusing on restrictions to gun acquisition for mentally ill people. The relationship between mental illness and violence, however, is debatable, based on empirical evidence. Consequently, there is a need to support research that does not solely utilize mental health as an explanatory model for violence, but instead redirects the focus to social and environmental factors. To accomplish this, it will be critical to adopt a cross-disciplinary approach that includes the broader context of mental health problems and social interactions.


Violence Mental illness Public health Mass shootings Attributable risk Legislation 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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