Is There an Association Between Mental Illness and Violence? – Prof Paul Mullen

Posted on December 29, 2018

Prof Paul Mullen is Professor Emeritus at Monash University. Previously he was a consultant at the Maudsley and Bethlem Hospitals, Professor of Psychological Medicine in Dunedin, and Professor/Director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Psychiatry. He has published over 200 papers in refereed journals, and co-authored several books on child sexual abuse, jealousy, and stalking. Clinically, he was involved in assessing and managing mentally abnormal offenders. He has assessed a number of lone actor mass killers including some claiming to be politically motivated. He has also evaluated members of terrorist groups including at Guantanamo Bay.


Author Quotes

One of the things that is becoming clear, is the importance of severe mental illness in certain kinds of violence within the general community.


It’s surprising it’s been taking so long to look at this seriously and to gather the data. There is still, among many mental health professionals, a conviction that there is no association between psychotic disorders and violent behaviour. That is wrong.


One of the strange things about this is that there is no record of events, as I have defined them, occurring in western civilisation before 1913.


Professor Mullen introduces this presentation with an overview of the association between psychosis and stalking, assassination, terrorism, and lone actor massacres.

Focussing on lone actor massacres, Prof Mullen explains the psychology behind the lone massacre act of violence.

Moving on to the methods used in lone actor massacres, he explains how these differ according to the country in which the crime is committed, often becoming more commonly used in combination, e.g. motor vehicle plus knife attack.

Extensive research reveals that this type of crime did not exist before 1913 in western society, although it did exist in other societies.

Prof Mullen ends this video excerpt with a discussion of how the British Colonial administration dealt with this through capture and incarceration of murderers in psychiatric units (Jahor Barru unit).

Take Home Messages:

  • There is good evidence to show that a significant number of people who commit stalking and attacks on public figures have a diagnosed psychosis.
  • Lone actor massacres are usually planned attacks on victims chosen at random.
  • In western society, guns are still the most widely-used method of massacre.


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