Homicide and mental illness

Perpetrators’ prior contacts with psychiatric services

Summary of report 2020:7

This report describes diagnosed mental health disorders among perpetrators of homicide in Sweden between 2005/06 and 2017.

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For the purpose of this study, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) has combined data on homicides, which it collects regularly from the criminal justice system, with information on homicide perpetrators’ prior contacts with outpatient and inpatient psychiatric services and their accessing of medication for mental illness. The information on medication and contacts with psychiatric services was
obtained from the National Patient Register and the Prescribed Drug Register, both maintained by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare.

The study’s main focus has been directed at contacts with care services in the twelve months immediately prior to the homicide. The prevalence of mental illness, operationalised in this way, is described for all perpetrators for the period in question, broken down into categories including gender, age and type of homicide. The study also includes an analysis of the trend over time. In all, the study has analysed information relating to approximately 800 homicide perpetrators.

Brå has recently conducted a detailed analysis of homicides linked to what has been termed the criminal milieu (Brå 2020b). This report provides an additional perspective on homicide in Sweden. The results of previous studies show that while shootings linked to the criminal milieu have increased in Sweden over recent years, these cases still do not account for a greater proportion of homicides than homicides within the family. In addition, the legal documentation examined in this research shows that there are more often indications of mental illness among the perpetrators of these family-related incidents (Brå 2019b).

The aim of the current study has been to use healthcare data to develop more in-depth knowledge about mental illness and homicide.

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