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Kids, mental illness and violence

There’s a lot of talk about the role that mental illness may have played in the Sandy Hook shootings on Friday. It is important to emphasize the fact that mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of it, and that most acts of violence — including deadly gun violence — are not at the hands of mentally ill people. And when it comes to crime, where we draw the line at “mentally ill” is not always easy. Someone can be deemed mentally competent to stand trial and still be severely mentally ill; someone can understand the wrongness of his actions and fail at adequately pleading an insanity defense and still be severely mentally ill. Our jails are packed with disproportionate numbers of mentally ill people.

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