Society’s views about mental illness can influence their views regarding police-response strategies used with the mentally ill. The purpose of this study is to analyze the question: does mental illness impact perceptions of delinquent behavior and police responses? It is important to understand the effects of these interactions to better assist those affected by mental illness and avoid uncertain risks/injuries to the police and citizens involved in an incident. Labeling theory suggests that people may come to identify and act in ways that reflect how others label them as well as come to define mentally ill individuals in accordance with the label. My interest in understanding how police label mentally ill individuals as either deviant (out-of-the-norm) or criminal because of their condition motivated me to explore what other people thought about this.

This study used survey analysis to collect data from 349 Facebook participants. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 scenarios (excerpt A and excerpt B). The only difference between these two scenarios is that excerpt B directly relates to mental illness while excerpt A does not mention mental illness.

In relation to labeling theory, I predict mental illness will impact the perception people have about how police may respond to situations involving the mentally ill. Further studies should expand this research to examine this connection more thoroughly. The broader implications of this research is that it could create awareness as to ways in which to improve police training tactics that could in turn result in better support between mental health services and law enforcement.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Huff-Corzine, Lin


Reckdenwald, Amy


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program



Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date

May 2017

Included in

Sociology Commons