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Crime and Mental illness- is there any connection?

This article is written by Yachika Sharma, 4th year BA LLB student of Institute of Law and Research during her internship with LeDroit India.


The rise in crime over the years has spawned a variety of theories as to why it has risen so quickly. As a result, psychologists and psychiatrists have weighed in on the discussion. There has been debate among experts as to whether mental illness and the symptoms it causes have a direct impact on criminal behavior in those who are affected by it. The focus of this work is on psychiatry and forensic psychiatry in relation to the general topic of whether mental illness is associated with criminal behavior.


In the medical community, the phrase “mental illness” refers to a wide spectrum of diseases such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. These circumstances have a significant impact on an individual’s emotions as well as their ability to engage with others in their community.

 Mental disease alters one’s thinking and behavior, producing distress or incapacity. Similarly, Section 84 of the IPC states that insanity as a defense is the act of a person of unsound mind at the time he or she commits a crime or is incapable of comprehending the nature of the act.

As stated in Section 84 of the Criminal Code, situations such as becoming flustered for many reasons (e.g. feeling sad, or having a state of tension and anxiety, or anger and confusion overwhelm us) can be used as justifications for crimes.


Human wrongdoing is referred to as crime. It grants the government the authority to punish individuals.

If a person has both means rea and actus reus at the same time, he is guilty of a crime under the Indian Penal Code. The state is a party in criminal proceedings because crime is a wrong committed not just against the individual but also against society as a whole. Criminal law is used as a barometer to assess a society’s moral turpitude at any particular period.

The concept of crime is heavily influenced by a society’s social values, recognized standards, and behavioral trends at any given moment. A crime, according to Blackstone, is an act done or not done in violation of a public law prohibiting or requiring it.


  • Mens Rea—the accused is found to have committed the offence knowingly. Also, he was fully aware of their acts. He must be harboring ill will toward the victim in his actions. Often in civil cases, mens rea is also cited as a requirement. Acts can be voluntary or involuntary, and the specifics of the situation show that someone is guilty.
  • Actus Reus- the physical part of a crime is referred to as Actus Reus. Something must have been done or not done by the accused. There can be no crime or suit for damages until there is a criminal act. It can be used when a fact, time, place, person, possession, and the victim’s agreement are all taken into account.
  • Punishment – Punishment consists of suffering, loss, pain, or any other pain inflicted by the authority concerned on someone for a crime committed.
  • Prohibited Act- Based on existing law, the act shouldn’t be prohibited or forbidden.

In general, people with mental illnesses are more likely to interact with the criminal justice system for the following reasons:

Bipolar Illness

  1. Offending is more common than in depression
  2. Manic patients may spend excessively.
  3. May be charged with fraud or false pretences
  4. Prone to irritability and aggression, though any resulting violence is seldom severe

Mental retardation

  1. Most offences committed by those in the borderline to mild ranges of learning disability • The mentally retarded are more likely to be caught
  2. They may commit offences because they do not understand the implications of their behavior, or they are susceptible to exploitation by others
  3. Association with indecent exposure and arson

Alcohol dependence

  1. Alcohol and crime are related in 3 important ways:
  2. Alcohol intoxication may lead to charges related to public drunkenness or to driving offences
  3. Intoxication reduces inhibitions and is strongly associated with crimes of violence, including murder
  4. The neuropsychiatric complications of alcoholism may also be linked with crime


  1. more likely to commit non-violent as well as violent crimes
  2. minor offences more likely than serious offences
  3. most criminal behavior followed the onset of schizophrenia, although crime is frequently a result of personality difficulties and social incompetence
  4. risk of homicide is moderately increased in schizophrenia compared to the general population


• Severe illness may lead to homicide

  1. The depressed person is usually acting on delusions
  2. Family member is usually the victim in altruistic homicides
  3. The killer often commits suicide afterwards

• Sometimes associated with shoplifting

 Specific medical disorder and crime

• Psychopathic disorder

  1. there is an increased likelihood of other psychiatric symptoms and disorders Suicide And Social Pathology
  2. homicide risk is increased 10x in someone with an antisocial personality disorder

 • Drug dependence

  1. The need to pay for drugs is associated with crimes against property
  2. Rates of drug abuse are increased among prisoners


The association between crime and mental diseases was examined in depth in this article, and it was discovered that there was a considerable link, but the breadth of the definition of mental condition was a major component in evaluating the relationship.

Some mental illness symptoms, such as depression, disorientation, irritation, or even thought disorder, have been discovered to be unrelated to criminal behavior because they can also be classified as normal personality qualities. As a result, the breadth of the concept of mental illness is critical in assessing its link to criminality.

The link between criminality and mental illness is complicated, and it can’t be studied as a single causative relationship. According to research, people with mental illnesses do not pose a serious threat to society. While certain risk factors have been proven to enhance the possibility of violent behavior, especially when they are combined, the majority of people with mental illnesses do not act violently. More uniform research is needed, with established definitions of violence, equivalent demographic samples, and a rigorous study design.  In order to lower the possibility of violent perpetration and victimization, mental health advocates and researchers must encourage treatment access and eliminate stigma.

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