In the case of Andrea Yates, the crimes that she has been convicted of have been determined to have been caused by her diagnoses of mental illness, which includes the diagnoses of schizophrenia. Many people tend to ask the question, is this really the case? Schizophrenia has been diagnosed in hundreds of thousands of people across the country, but the amount of people who commit crimes with this disease is much less than people would think. Schizophrenia leads those who suffer from it to have trouble easily processing the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior which can lead to inappropriate actions and feelings, and can lead to a complete withdrawal from reality and the person’s entire life and family. It’s main distraction from life is caused by the excessive hallucinations and delusions that take over the sufferer’s cognitive functioning. It may also cause them to do things they usually wouldn’t if they feel they are being threatened or endangered. However, the chance of someone turning to a violet crime or action is much more prevalent in people who abuse drugs while they are suffering from this mental disorder.
The risk of attack by someone with schizophrenia is much less in those who do not abuse drugs. When a person with this mental disorder uses drugs, the drugs stimulate the brain and heighten the effects that the schizophrenia has on a person. The study described by Rebecca Syed, in “Are You Really at Risk of Attack by Someone With Schizophrenia,” has shown that those who do not abuse drugs alongside the disease are only “…1.2 times more likely…” to commit a violet act than those who do not have a mental disorder. Although the chances for someone who does misuse drugs alongside having this disease doesn’t show a major increase in risk of violent crimes, “…the studies don’t tell us how much violent offending is actually caused by the mental disorder itself.” Those who are convicted of being not guilty by reason of insanity have been questioned to actually have been insane. This concept seems insane in itself. It is extremely difficult to determine the real impacts of mental illness on a crime. There is always room for dramatic emphasis on the effects that a criminal could try to use, just to help get a shorter sentence for the conviction they are facing. How can you tell who is actually mentally ill, and who is trying to emphasize an illness for their own benefit? Or even if the person is mentally ill, how can a jury decide if it was the mental illness that caused a person to commit a crime?
In the case of Andrea Yates, she was originally found to be guilty of the murder of her five children. Later on, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. This case had many controversial conversations about whether she committed the crime due to this mental illness, or due to other factors. As explained by Gary Kesling, in “Andre Yates: Ask the Expert,” there could be explanations that “may come from clusters of factors, such as family/social and psychiatric history, perpetrator characteristics such prior family history of conflict and an ongoing history of contact with social services and health and mental health providers.” This raised many questions about whether Yates actually believed the devil was telling her to murder her five children, causing her to think that this would be the only way to save them from herself. There is no way to tell if Yates truly thought she was saving her children, or if she is using this mental illness as an escape. Not only is this a major debate in the Andre Yates case, but it becomes a problem in thousands of cases each year in the justice system.
Homicide involving mental health raises many questions and involves complex maneuvers when determining the actual cause or reason for the homicide. Schizophrenia is just one of the many mental illnesses that continue to be questioned when brought into play in the court room. Mental health must be thoroughly researched and diagnosed to fully determine if someone is actually as mentally ill as they claim to be. When the perpetrator pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, it turns the case around and brings up many issues within the jury. This continues to be a major debate, as some people believe the mentally ill still deserve jail time, but others believe they need the help required to get them better instead.
Kesling, G. (2006, September 1). Ask the expert: The Case of Andrea Yates. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=fe9d653a-63d8-4d3b-b270-20f26b85b43b%40sessionmgr102
“Schizophrenia.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml.
Syed, R. (2013, June 19). Are You Really at Risk of Attack by Someone With Schizophrenia. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/are-you-really-at-risk-of-attack-by-someone-with-schizophrenia-14656