You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

letters

Gang violence is a not a mental illness

LAWRENCE HARMON’S Op-ed “Treating gang violence as mental illness” (Feb. 8) uses “insanity,” “quasi-controlled insanity,” and “crazy” in ways that perpetuate the myth that violence and mental illness are closely linked. Yet when clinical criteria are used, fewer than 5 percent of violent acts are attributable to persons with serious mental illness, who are more often victims than perpetrators of violence.

Yes, research by Jeremy Coid and colleagues, cited by Harmon, found high rates of psychosis among violent gang members. However, heavy alcohol use was also very common in this group — a well-established risk factor for violence. Furthermore, the suggestion that “effective medications” may ameliorate gang-related violence is entirely speculative, as there are no medications with FDA-approved use for “violence.” Violent gang members with documented psychiatric disorders deserve compassionate and effective mental health treatment — but we must also address the social, economic, and cultural factors that contribute to violent gang activity.

DR. Ronald Pies

Lexington

Continue reading below

The writer is a psychiatrist affiliated with Tufts University School of Medicine.

Loading comments...

Wake up with today's top stories.

Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
or
Please enter a valid email
BostonGlobe.com will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com