By Dr. Chua Sook Ning
The NST Online report of Selva Kumar Subbiah addressed the social stigma against convicts and rightly affirms the civil rights of all citizens regardless of one’s past.
Unfortunately, the article ends with this: “The American Supreme Court has interpreted this recidivist tendency as a mental health problem and sentences of prolonged incarceration have been handed down.”
To cite the American Supreme Court’s judgment in this article without proper context and explanation is unfair to the many Malaysians suffering from a mental illness. The American Supreme Court are experts in the law, not experts in mental health.
1. Psychiatrists and Clinical Psychologists alike have protested the “sexual predator” legislation which provides for indefinite involuntary commitment of people who have committed serious sex offenses to mental health treatment facilities after completing their prison term (Reardon, 1992, Alexander, 2004).
2. This legislation assumes that the predisposition to sexually violent behaviour is a mental illness which warrants treatment. Sexual violent behaviour is not a mental illness, it is a criminal act. The link between mental illness and sexual recidivism is weak or not significant (Kingston et al., 2015; Hanson & Morton-Bourgo, 2004).
3. This articles serves to perpetuate the notion that people with mental illness are violent when in fact, people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims, than perpetrators of violence. It contributes to the stigmatization of mental illness by associating mental illness with sexual violence.
We hope that NST Online will openly state that there is no evidence that sexual recidivism is a mental health problem, despite the American Supreme Court’s ruling.
Dr. Chua Sook Ning is a Clinical Psychologist and a lecturer at the National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She believes in raising public awareness of mental health by encouraging open and public conversations of mental health. She also is also working on early identification of mental health conditions by promoting mental health screenings and. training communities to recognize mental health conditions. Finally, she is working with a team of international researchers to develop accessible and affordable mental health interventions.