The controversial relationship between mental health and offending
Mental disorder and crime, particularly violent crime, are often thought to be closely linked. While this may sometimes be true, the links are often overstated, and this chapter therefore aims to explore how mental health and offending may be related. We begin by discussing the challenges involved with defining what we mean by key concepts like ‘mental disorder’, ‘mental illness’ and ‘mentally disordered offenders’. The chapter introduces readers to clinical definitions of mental disorder, as defined by diagnostic classification systems like the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 and the World Health Organization’s ICD-11, along with the legal framework under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983 (as amended by the MHA 2007) in England and Wales. After considering a range of definitional issues we turn our attention to the relationship between mental health and offending. This is followed by a discussion of the challenges involved with assessing the risk posed by mentally disordered offenders and consideration of some of the key methodological limitations in the field of forensic mental health. The chapter concludes by discussing the implications of these issues for policy and practice.