Academic level – Undergraduate 1-2
Type of paper – Coursework
Topic Title – Understanding psychosis
Psychosis is when one loses touch with reality and a symptom of a severe mental illness.
If someone is in the midst of a psychotic episode, such as Andrea Yates, and they commit a crime, such as murder, are they culpable?
How should this be handled? Do you think punitive or rehabilitative consequences should be implemented? Explain why.
Psychosis is a symptom of some of the most challenging and troubling mental health illnesses, and it is typically assumed that a person during a psychotic episode is not culpable for their decisions. Even a minor form of psychosis leads to odd thinking patterns, paranoia, and delusions (Spielman et al., 2020). A person with psychosis often has a poor perception of reality and may believe that their behavior was logical due to a particular belief they had during the episode. A situation when someone loses touch with reality also highlights that someone is not culpable for the crime.
Furthermore, the case of Andrea Yates demonstrates how a criminal can be found not guilty. While Yates was initially accused and found guilty of the murder of her children, the appeal allowed the case to be re-tried, and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity (Crane, 2022). This factor illustrates that understanding the role psychosis has on a person’s behavior is not yet complete. The case of a mother who was left alone for a limited amount of time yet managed to kill her children was dramatic, especially because her husband was told not to leave her alone with them. It demonstrates that even medical professionals view people in psychotic states as dangerous to themselves and others.
Finally, I believe such crimes should be solely rehabilitative, but the law and medical systems must control the person’s treatment. A person who was insane when committing the crime may not even remember doing it. Punishment can only worsen their psychological state. Nonetheless, because the person has already demonstrated such tendencies, it is crucial to implement systems that will observe an individual’s behavior even after release. It would help such people receive psychological help and the needed medications.
Crane, E. (2022, June 22). Here’s a look at cases where insanity defenses have been successful in the US. New York Post. https://nypost.com/2022/06/22/cases-where-insanity-defenses-have-been-successful-in-the-us/
Spielman, R. M., Jenkins, W. J., Lovett, M. D., Aruguete, M., Bryant, L., Chappell, B., Dumper, K., Lacombe, A., Lazzara, J., McClain, T., Oswald, B. O., Perlmutter, M., & Thomas, M. D. (2020). Psychology 2e (2nd ed.). OpenStax.