Mental health is a condition in which a person lives with, no matter their psychological and physical well being. Mental health issues are all different some more severe than others. Crime can be linked to mental health, where their mental health has affected the persons well being, to the point where they act out in a physical manner. This is because mental health can affect someone’s conscious state in making them do things they think is right, or what they think someone is telling them to do. For example schizophrenia.  “This is a long time disorder that affects the way an individual behaves, changing their mental state into making them believe in the unbelievable, causing that individual to be very disabling”.

These types of illnesses can cause those delusions where they believe they are acting in particular ways because of what the illness is telling them to. However it’s more of what the illness is influencing the person to do rather than telling them. A mental Heath problem like schizophrenia can make someone’s biological factors in the brain change from an average human.

The brain in mental health patients, using the example of schizophrenia, operate abnormally. They have abnormalities in the brain called impoverished signalling. This is where the neurotransmitter ‘glutamate’ becomes more active making it target specific neurones, explaining the large amount of symptoms in mental health disorders.Taking part in work experience, within a working category C prison; in the mental health block with the substance misuse unit. There was many one to one sessions and shadowing colleagues, including mental health nurses which allowed an insight and inspiration of this essay. There was particular interest in a patient who suffered with mental health disorders. He explained how his ‘mother and grandma’ had a history with mental health and he explained how his crime had relations to this because he feels his ‘mental health is what it all stemmed from’.

 Patient A, who’s name that can’t be revealed for confidentiality reasons, was in prison for life and offence is that he performed a sexual assault by force upon three 13 year old school boys and carried out necrobeastiality. Taking part in his one to one with his mental health nurse he explained that ‘voices’ in his mind had pushed him to carry out his offences. He was yet to be diagnosed with any other mental health problems apart from Borderline personality disorder (BPD), however was looking to see whether he had any further diagnostics.

After further discussion with his mental health nurse she diagnosed him with severe schizophrenia, anxiety along side the BPD which he had already been diagnosed with. Referring the information, she had gathered and then forwarded it to the teams psychologist. Further information from the psychologist suggested that his criminal offence was in her opinion “influenced by the mental health problems he seemed to ‘inherit’ of his Mother”. His schizophrenic behaviour had caused delusions of voices in his mind to uncover sexual repressed thoughts, he was already having, because himself was homosexual. The anxiety she believed took part as from a young age he was so scared to “come out” that’s why it’s believed that his offences was on adolescents, because he couldn’t full-fill his desires when he was their age. The only mental health problem the psychologist believed didn’t take part in his offences was the BPD as she believed that actually developed after the offence because he could not deal with his actions emotionally. Therefore There’s belief that that in some cases like this mental health can be accounted for when committing a crime. However there’s belief that mental health cannot always account for crime in offenders.

As there is many other aspects to consider. For example crime can be learnt through observation’s. It’s clear that many people learn behaviour from ‘role models’ because they see similar qualities in themselves, or because they want to gain similar qualities to what they with hold.  Many people behave in various ways because of observations shown by an experiment by Bandura (1961), who also created a theory called ‘Social Learning Theory’. It was an experiment on children whom observed adults carrying out aggressive behaviour on a bobo doll or a controlled group of children who witnessed passive behaviour on the bobo doll.

It was found that whatever behaviour the children had witnessed  influence their own behaviour. The children witnessing aggressive behaviour acted aggressively towards the bobo doll and vice versa. This in some ways explains that behaviour isn’t always something we act out on because of biological reasons, but because of what we learn from our surroundings and people within our surroundings.

Due to what Bandura concluded learning from your environment is typical especially from children, and they do this in many ways. For example vicarious reinforcement. Which is the hope that by seeing someone get something positive in the behaviour they’re modelling they believe that they will gain that reward too. By gaining awards and performing behaviour they’ve imitated off others may make the individual feel positive and feeling positive is what humans crave, as it boosts their self esteem, and makes them happier.

Therefore behaviour can also be shown to be learnt from social aspects not just biological ones like mental health problems. So if an offender had observed specific behaviour which can be seen in their offence it could be down to them acting out what they have once saw. Therefore taking in action the behaviour they have learnt from their surroundings/personal observations.

This links to offenders not committing crimes due to mental illnesses because it has strong evidence that behaviour is nurtured and taken into consideration. As criminal behaviour can be imitated and carried out into offences. Which later on ends up in them being convicted of the crimes they have committed. Which explains why a child may offend.

There’s clear indication that there is a relationship between mental health and crime as there is a mental health act which state that, “if you are insane, you should go to a mental hospital under indefinite detention”. This is as People who are mentally ill, suffer from abnormalities of the mind and are defined within the courts as having a mind so extra-ordinary to the ‘average’ human mind, that the courts must shorten sentences and convict mentally ill people with sentences from probation. Instead of spending life in prison, they’re sent to imprisonment in hospitals with special measures instead. Although this act came in place in (1983) another act which supported this was the “diminished responsibility act” in (1867). Offenders were given more flexibility as their sentence regardless of the crime was dismissed due to being so mentally ill. There’s also an act that was given to a women who murdered her own child, that said “where a person kills or is party of a killing of another he or she may not be convicted of murder, if suffering from abnormalities of the mind”. This was because the murder was so brutal that only a person suffering with sever mental health issues would commit it.

Therefore down to the “1957 Homicide Act” the case was dismissed from all charges because responsibility was taken down to the mental illness. Showing that mental illness has played such a big part in people’s crimes that courts have had to take it up on their own decisions and in their power to convict them with charges they think fit. Also that the courts think would be more beneficial to the individual. By convicting someone with mental illnesses could make situations worse and eventually lead to more crime within a prison; if the mentally ill individual is sent for the professional help they need, it could prevent less crime in the future.

This suggests that mental illness can be accounted by when committing a crime, as people have enforced laws and regulations for mentally ill people to help them from being convicted from a crime which they can’t be held fully responsible for.  There is many cases In history of horrific offences that have been carried out. One in which is the moors murders, that Ian Brady and Myra Hindley was convicted of. The partners in crime had taken children by force off streets in and around of Manchester.

They sexually abused their victims before and after torturing them to death. The deaths were very thought out and their first murders final resting place on the moors, was actually dug over 20 years before the death. During their second murder Myra Hindley actually brought her pet dog to the grave of their second victim and had a picture taken right next to the grave. It seemed the longer the ‘couple’ was getting away with the murders the more aggressive they became. Showing with their third murder where they got their “reputation of pure wickedness”.  They recorded this death which left sane police officers within the court room in tears.

Shown by a sergeant who recently said after the court experience that “nothing in criminal behaviour before or since has penetrated my heart with quite the same paralysing intensity”. Their crimes was all upon teenagers. All in which were at their most vulnerable at time of kidnapping and killing. Ian Brady didn’t have the best childhood. In fact there was early signs of descent into depravity from earlier on in his Childhood. He would regularly watch horrors from an extremely young age and was found to enjoy torturing animals in ways he had experienced on television. Brady never had a stable childhood which was shown by him not knowing whom he’s birth father was.

Later in Brady’s childhood he’s mother was very much occupied with her new found lover “Patrick Brady”. Soon after the marriage Brady’s name was starting to be recognised by local authorities. He had taken part in offences that included break-ins and theft.  Therefore his behaviour is a belief to be a cry for attention, at his young age. As he was acting out in a physical manner in order to gain attention; however he gained the wrong kind of attention. Through out his life he had convicted other minor crimes and had gotten off lightly and Its strongly agreed that the moors murders was a form of Brady gaining attention or affection by identifying with Myra Hindley, and committing offences both were so interested in.

Partially because he never had that affection from a young age, with having the feeling of being unloved and unwanted by his birth father and his mother being more occupied in finding love again, than being involved more with her son. Which shows people also offend due to their childhood and the way they are brought up and their surroundings.  Linking to the Moors murders Myra Hindley didn’t have the best childhood like Ian Brady which could link to the fact that the moors murders was down to social factors rather than biological(mental illnesses). Violence was high in Hindleys childhood and was “the centre of Hindleys day to day existence”. She was beaten and her father was the main source of these beatings.

However her mother could be to blame too as she took part in the incidents. One time her mother beat her so hard over her head that Hindleys ears started to pour with blood. However Hindley gained a more argumentative and active personality towards her father and mother as she grew older. She started to answer her parents back, and she disobeyed her parents on a daily basis. Most of her life the problems she was facing at home isolated her and caused her to become an outsider. So within her environment the feeling of being outcasted haunted her and she became so much of an outsider that it resulted in others realising; which resulted in bullying. As bully’s pick on vulnerable people. Continuously through out her life she gained more characteristics like her father learning through what he told her and how he acted around her, causing her to mouldy into his image.

A form of ‘social learning theory’. Although she was a bright student she attracted the wrong friends and it resulted in her bullying and enjoying becoming the “bigger” bully. This feeling of overcoming her bullies and potentially becoming worse was came into play, and the power she withheld with gaining these characteristics made her strive for more. Which eventually lead to her meeting Ian Brady who was interested in all the criminal behaviour Hindley was performing, and teamed up to put together their physical aggression they’ve gained from their childhood.

Putting their aggression they’ve learnt/observed into place with the murders they carried out. Therefore this shows how offenders behaviour may not be down to mental abnormalities but be down to their childhood and the way they’ve been treated. Making them find people who sympathise with and carry out offences together.

  However psychology has proven differently and shown that offenders may have offended due to their genetic influences. There was an experiment by Raine et al (1997). It was an experiment carried out on prisoners who were convicted of murder but not guilty by reason of insanity. “Reasons” to as why they offended varied from head injuries to schizophrenia. Raine had the prisoners undertake PET scans with different control variables added. PET scans stand for “positron emission tomography”. It shows relationships between metabolic activity within the brain and also shows many mental processes.

It’s performed by digesting or injecting small radioactive material into the body that binds to glucose. Then when the glucose breaks down the radioactive material stays, showing charged particles shown on digital images. The images can help see brain activity and the activity levels.

The aim of their study was to look at cortical and subcortical brain functions on a group of murderers to show evidence of brain dysfunctions, that link to their violent behaviour. The laboratory experiment showed: 6 cases of schizophrenia, 23 cases of head injury or organic damage, 3 cases of drug abuse, 2 cases of epilepsy, 3 hyperactivity or learning difficulties and 2 cases of personality disorders. Cortical areas of the brain are responsible for occipital. Subcortical areas of the brain is responsible for the amygdala, Medial temporal lobe, hippocampus, thalamus, midbrain and cerebellum ( which is linked to mental disorders). Their results shown activity within the subcortical lobe.

Showing that the offenders violent behaviour was affected by their genetics and mental health issues, they had which the courts didn’t take into consideration when convicting them of murder. Therefore mental health within their genetics have taken part in them behaving in a violent way, in acting out in a physical manner, (shown by them committing murders). So many offenders might have under cover mental illnesses and biological factors wrong with them, that’s not taken into consideration when being found guilty of their offences. There was  a brutal murder that took part on a two year old little boy named James Bulger. He was from Kirkby, Merseyside and murdered in 1992; just over 25 years ago. He was abducted, tortured and murdered.

The offence was committed by two 10 year old boys who’s names were, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. While shopping with his mother in ‘New Strand Shopping Centre’ James Bulger was lead away from his mother while she was distracted for less than 30 seconds. The two 10 year old boys manage to take James Bulgar two and a half miles away from where he originally got kidnapped from.

After two days of police investigation to find James Bulgar, they found his dead body two days after he went missing from his mother on a railway track.  The 10 year old boys had thrown stones and bricks at James while stamping over the 3 year old after dropping a heavy iron bar upon his dying body. The boys used the bricks they had thrown at James and covered his dead body in paint. After the 10 year old boys killed James they tied his dead body to a train track and the train eventually came, splitting his body in half. In total the 10 year olds conflicted 42 injuries on James Bulgar as and before he was murdered. Venables and Thompson shortly became the youngest convicted murders in English history. However after 18 years of being convicted of murder, the murderers was released with new identities and lives. After only convicted on a lifelong licence in June 2001.

 Psychologists had been working with the two boys after the murder. Robert Thompson during the murder was seen to be more aggressive than Jon Venable. During talking about the murder Robert Thompson was the only convict that didn’t cry, and was later on known as the “one who didn’t cry”. However after the psychologist looked into his family history some more it was found that he was one out of seven brothers, in a big family, that grew up in a violent home.

They also found that Jon Venables was one of three children from a broken home, in which he spend most of his time with his mother on week days and with his father on weekends. Thompson had said to have earlier signs of truancy and his mother actually was called in 10 days before the killing to discuss the matters being raised. But didn’t turn up. Both of the 10 year old boys had been held back a year, where they both became much better friends. During questioning of the murder Thompson seemed calm and collected.

Whereas Venables collapsed and wept. A psychologist diagnosed them with post traumatic stress disorder. However this doesn’t explain the offences down to mental illness as this was developed after the offence.

The fact that both the boys had come from bad homes could have had an effect on them emotionally. Which could have affected the way they act out in physical aggression that resulted in the murder. The boys had been found to have copied certain behaviours from the film “Chucky”. Which could be held reasonable to a certain extent why the boys committed the crime. For the same reasons discussed above, with the “social learning theory”.

 After being released from prison, Jon Venables, only a couple of years later re-offended for, “downloading and distributing child pornography”. After the autopsy of James Bulgar it was also found that the boys sexually abused him. Now that Jon Venables have re -offended it’s clear that there is more of a “psychological” explanation to as why the sexual abuse took place.

Jon Venables must have some sort of mental illness to be in rehabilitation for so long then re-offend.  Showing that although the first offence was more down to sociocultural reasons, the later offence was down to Jon Venables being mentally ill. Especially as being convicted for the second time under the reasons of him being psychologically unwell by committing paedophillic crimes.

 Following on from the James Bulgar case it’s often shown that children who kill may be seen as victims too. As children who take part in offences such as murder are usually been abused, or neglected. They can also be found to have experienced a tumultuous home lives. Which is why they are found to have attachment issues and extreme aggressive behaviour, where the children then cannot control their emotions. They usually come from homes where past family members have been convicted of similar crimes. Which could be down to two variables.

One being they’ve imitated the behaviour/crime their past family members have committed, or the criminal behaviour has been passed down through genetics. With them gaining the same mental illness, ( If the family member was mentally ill). Or inheriting aggressive behaviour.

This is possible as biological functions in the brain e.g. The amygdala could have had severe differences from an average human mind. The amygdala is responsible for emotional responses and levels of aggression.   Which is why children who kill are “prepubescent” and aren’t fully emotionally developed.

Therefore they’re unable to use self control. Treating their victims as a target, “as an outlet for violence”. To conclude mental health can be taken into consideration when a person with an abnormal mind commits a crime. Shown in real life situations where people have been convicted of crimes which they cannot be held totally responsible for. This is proven as people have previously been convicted down to them just being guilty of the offence, but later on found that there’s specific mental issues that are repressed within the individual, which potentially could have gave a better explanation to the reasons behind why someone commits a crime. As people can’t control their behaviour, if their cognition isn’s ‘normal’  due to them being mentally ill, because of reasons like this mental illness can be held responsible for crimes when they’re mind is so far from “normal”, that the mental illness is a factor to why they committed their crime. The fact that there has been legal requirements and laws being enforced shows physical evidence of mental illness making an impact on someone to the point where they commit an offence.

If legal authorities have seen evidence of mental health impacting a crime, then it should show that mental illness can be accounted for when people offend.  However it’s fair to say that there is a relationship with mental illness and crime, in ways in which it could potentially encourage crime. Although crime could potentially encourage mental illness. As many mental illnesses, as said above has developed after a crime has took place. Therefore mental illness can’t hold full responsibility for why people offend; as many people develop mental illnesses like BPD after an offence as they’re unable to deal with their crime/crimes emotionally. However mental illness isn’t the only factor in which can be accounted by when someone commits a crime. Crimes can be committed by sociocultural means. Earlier on I explained how social learning theory can be a main aspect in why people commit a crime.

Imitating and modelling behaviour learnt from role models can be seen to be a factor why people carry out crimes, as they copy criminal behaviour of someone they perceive to be a “role model”. However many other factors can influence someone to offend. Factors including the offenders background. Back ground can affect someone in all aspects of life. Background can affect the way someone perceives the world and the way they behaviour in an environment.

For example if someone isn’t getting attention from home, like Ian Brady, they’re most likely to act out their emotion of abandonment into physical behaviour; where they are more likely to adapt criminal behaviour to gain the attention somewhere else. Therefore we can conclude that people offend because of many reasons, there’s no definite conclusion to say that people offend due to having a mental illness, as no evidence is said to be 100% accurate, despite evidence provided. Just as it says in psychology the question, “To what extend does mental health account for crime in real life” cannot take sides to offences being down the mental health as it follows the idea of post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc. Therefore mental illness can account for crime in offenders, however it’s not the only variable to why people offend, because different psychologist say it’s down to specific variables due to how, many explanations there are in the world today. 


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