Back in the summer of 2011 a man named Anders Behring Breivik carried out an attack by bombing government buildings in Oslo, resulting in 8 deaths, then went into a youth camp posing as a police officer and killed 69, mostly teenagers. A further 151 people were left injured. On the 29th November 2011 however, he was declared by psychiatrists as insane, and was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia (BBC, 2011). This means he is more likely to go to a psychiatric ward than a prison, which caused a lot of objection and uproar with many people. But is this right, and is this diagnosis doing justice to the families left with a missing mother, father or sibling? I believe it does, and is the best thing for us to do as a society, as I will explain in the rest of my blog.
Originally, from a set of rules called the M’Nachten rules the legal definition of insanity meant a criminal was unable to tell whether right from wrong at the time of the offence, which occurs in only 1% of cases, and is successful in only 0.3% of times (BBC, 2011). A common argument is that many criminals will fake insanity to get off lightly (I presume people are gaining this assumption from Miloš Forman’s masterpiece ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’), but this statistic proves that not only does it occur extremely rarely, it is also quite unlikely that the psychiatrists are convinced. It is also the most shocking crimes that make the front pages, where there is a higher chance of mental illness being involved, which is why it occurs a lot less than most people think.
Schizophrenia is also a very devastating condition for those who have it. The suicide rate amongst individuals with schizophrenia is at 10%, which means they are at more risk of being a danger to themselves than other people (Roy, 1986). It has also been found there is a strong genetic component towards schizophrenia as having a first degree relative with schizophrenia leaves a 6.5% concordance rate, whereas having a monozygotic twin leaves a 40% concordance rate, meaning the individuals with it can often not help or control their behaviour (Picchioni & Murray, 2007). Of course, I believe these individuals should be moved to a place where they can not harm anyone else, but I believe prison to be a place to punish people, but more importantly rehabilitate people, as that is what is really going to make where we live a better place. For example, a study found that very little violent crime (consistently below 10%) is attributed to schizophrenia, and substance abuse puts individuals at a much higher risk (Walsh, Buchanan, & Fahy, 2002). We need to make sure we take care of individuals with schizophrenia so we can understand it as best as possible, and trying to prevent crimes like we saw in Norway happening again, and that is what the aim of sending a person like Anders Behring Breivik to an institution achieves.
BBC. (2011, November 29). Norway massacre: Breivik declared insane. Retrieved March 2012, 25, from BBC Online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-15936276
BBC. (2011, November 29). Who, What, Why: How do you assess a killer’s mental health? Retrieved March 25, 2012, from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15928316
Picchioni, M. M., & Murray, R. H. (2007). Schizophrenia. BMJ , (335) (7610) 91–95.
Roy, A. (1986). Depression, attempted suicide, and suicide in patients with chronic schizophrenia. Psychiatric Clinics of North America , (9) (1) 193-206).
Walsh, E., Buchanan, A., & Fahy, T. (2002). Violence and schizophrenia: examining the evidence. The British Journal of Psychiatry , (180) 490-495.