Violence and Mental Illness

youth violence
youth violence

The following short article explores the role of interpersonal violence in establishing power over those with whom we disagree, get one’s needs met, and solve problems.

Using negotiation and interpersonal discourse instead of violence to meet our personal needs or achieve a goal is a skill learned and practiced from the ages of 2-5.  Trembly, et al. In 2005 in their book, Developmental Origins of Aggression, stated that when persons above the age of 5 use aggression toward others to get their needs met, they have not mastered the skills of communication cooperation, and negotiation needed to be used in their interpersonal engagements. The children that have not accomplished these skills are often the victims of childhood abuse and neglect (ACEs, CDC.GOV). What they learn in childhood is that violence is a legitimate means to solve problems and get one’s needs met. Dr. Moffitt established with her research that externalities behavior problems among youth can have a lifelong trajectory (2019).  The research of other research also established that the trajectory can be interrupted through family and youth interventions and effective treatment.

Interpersonal violence accounts for 180,000 deaths and 16 million non-lethal traumatic injuries in emergency departments over the last decade.  In an  introduction to a group of articles in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 1/2/21, Issue 1, Pages 1-5 by Jeffery Swanson proposes that the available data indicates that only 3-5% of those committing interpersonal violence are “mentally Ill.” This introduction uses only 3 major mental illnesses, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Major depression to describe the complexity of mental illness and the need to reassess our understanding of what is mental health and what is mental illness.

The siloing of mental health, addictions, developmental issues, neurodiversity, trauma, criminal justice, child abuse and neglect over the last century have hidden the complexity of the roots of interpersonal violence.  It is in the interactions of mental illnesses and brain disorders that scientists will discover the complexity of the origins of acts of interpersonal violence.

The new terminology which we should be examining and using is relationship and behavioral heath which encompasses mental illness and substance abuse.  It also includes the concepts of conduct disorder in youth and personality disorders in adulthood. These very outdated terms are pejorative misnomers for the effects of childhood trauma on the brains and development of children which last a lifetime when not sufficiently treated.  These misnomers influence us to miss the point when looking at the need for treatment and legal and social interventions to stop the abuse and neglect of children in our society.  Untreated childhood abuse and neglect is where we will find answers to the origins of interpersonal violence.