View Full Version : Mental health and political violence

10-27-2014, 07:18 PM
Thanks to Twitter two useful academic references to US-UK research, one is online and the other only an abstract. The theme is Mental Illness and Lone-Actor Terrorism, although far more is covered.



What is of note is that a third of:
Lone-actor terrorists regularly engaged in a detectable and observable range of activities with a wider pressure group, social movement, or terrorist organization.

07-29-2016, 09:11 AM
Mental health as a cause of terrorism and violence has appeared before on the Forum, but appears to be increasingly important after recent attacks in Europe and the USA.

Many issues, not just prediction and response, are involved and these two articles help.

Within the first article. Some may alight on Brian Jenkins thought: 'stray dogs' not 'lone wolves':
...looking for a cause that will give them meaning and make sense of their mental turmoil. Crucially, an extremist ideology offers them the possibility of transforming their identity: to re-imagine themselves not as failures (http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/the-terrorist-mindset-the-radical-loser-a-451379.html), but as warriors, whose prior difficulties are not personal shortcomings, but evidence of the cultural decadence that they now disavow.Link:https://www.opendemocracy.net/benjamin-ramm/we-need-to-rethink-relationship-between-mental-health-and-political-violence? (https://www.opendemocracy.net/benjamin-ramm/we-need-to-rethink-relationship-between-mental-health-and-political-violence?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=e5f357d108-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-e5f357d108-407365113)

The second is an article from The Guardian, with a sub-title:
It is possible to be both a terrorist and mentally unstable

(A sample passage) As with any kind of sectarian indoctrination, religion can become a kind of healing or means of achieving redemption after a dissolute past, which corresponds perfectly with the apocalyptic vision of Isis. Many conversions to jihadism are preceded by a trail of violence and humiliation.Link:https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/29/beat-terror-understand-why-explanations-attacks-nice

Incidentally IIRC the Forum has looked at US mass killings, notably at schools, but those posts appear to be a wider US terrorism / lone wolves thread. Mental Health appears in too many threads. Maybe the thread on Congresswoman Gifford's shooting will help:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=12229

SWJ Blog
08-10-2016, 03:43 PM
Mental Illness and Terrorism (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mental-illness-and-terrorism)

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mental-illness-and-terrorism) and make any comments at the SWJournal (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).

08-11-2016, 10:37 AM
Three articles on the subject today in my email box.

Following the murder of a US tourist in central London last week a curious story in The Guardian:
One way or another, the attacks in Russell Square represent a gap in Britain’s system of public safety – be it in national security, or in how Britain’s under-resourced and severely strained mental health system looks after those who need it most.

(Then almost following a police script) About half of all people feared to be at risk of terrorist sympathies may have mental health or psychological problems, a police study has found. The police study of 500 cases dealt with by Channel, an anti-radicalisation scheme, found that 44% of the individuals involved were assessed as being likely to have vulnerabilities related to mental health or psychological difficulties. A further 15% were assessed as possibly having vulnerabilities but more assessment was needed. In May, Chief Constable Simon Cole, who is in charge of the Prevent programme, which aims to protect people against radicalisation, told the Guardian: “There would appear to be, from the work we have been doing, a link to people who are vulnerable around mental health.”Link:https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/04/key-questions-to-be-answered-on-the-london-knife-attack

I am puzzled at the reference to a study of Channel, as so far no external review, let alone by academics, has been allowed of the project's work. There are anecdotes that the mentally ill are referred as the CT budget is seen to have more money.

A British academic neuroscientist has written a commentary and two key passages reflecting the debate here are:
Caution must be taken when interpreting the link between extremist violence and mental health. Mental health problems are relatively common (1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year) whereas violent extremism is extremely rare.
Whilst there is an increased risk of violence in severe mental health conditions, the vast majority of people struggling with a severe mental illness are non-violent. Similarly, many violent extremists will not have mental health problems. If not handled carefully, the implications of linking extremist violence to mental illness may perpetuate the stigma (https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/charles-merrett/lets-change-how-we-think-about-mental-health) surrounding mental illness and consequently discourage people with mental health needs to seek help.Link:https://www.opendemocracy.net/jessica-j-steventon/radical-thinking-can-violent-extremism-be-prevented-by-addressing-mental-health? (https://www.opendemocracy.net/jessica-j-steventon/radical-thinking-can-violent-extremism-be-prevented-by-addressing-mental-health?utm_source=Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=2c4f8e90c8-DAILY_NEWSLETTER_MAILCHIMP&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_717bc5d86d-2c4f8e90c8-407365113)

The third short piece / letter is by a Belfast-based Consultant Psychiatrist, who takes a contrary stance:
Politicians, the media and others all too often respond to terrorism by lazily and superficially claiming it to be ‘psychotic’, ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, ‘psychopathic’ or (most mindlessly of all) ‘mindless’. Islamic State are disgustingly murderous, but Abu Bakr al Bhagdadi and his activists are not driven by mental illness. It is very worrisome if psychiatrists contribute to this unscientific discourse.Link:http://pb.rcpsych.org/content/terrorism-it%E2%80%99s-not-mental-illness-it%E2%80%99s-politics

01-31-2017, 10:40 PM
An article in CTC's Sentinel and the Abstract states:
The wave of Islamic State-linked terrorism experienced in the West over the past couple of years has rekindled debates surrounding mental disorders and terrorist engagement. A very preliminary survey by the authors found that out of 55 attacks in the West where the 76 individuals involved were possibly influenced by the Islamic State, according to media reports, 27.6% had a history of apparent psychological instability, a percentage comparable to that found in the general population. This figure is driven largely by individuals inspired by the Islamic State, as opposed to those directed by it, however. The percentage is likely overinflated for several noteworthy reasons, including poor reporting, low benchmarks, and the tendency to overuse mental health problems as a ‘silver-bullet’ explanation for terrorist involvement. The relationship is, in fact, far more complex than typically presented.Their conclusion starts with:
It is simply too early to come to a definitive answer regarding the role of mental health problems and various forms of Islamic State terrorism. Mental disorders appear more prevalent among those inspired by Islamic State than those directed by it. Beyond that, however, it is difficult to make clear conclusions.Link:https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/is-there-a-nexus-between-terrorist-involvement-and-mental-health-in-the-age-of-the-islamic-state

02-04-2017, 05:38 PM
Considering ISIS is an army of psychopaths, this thread should be cross-hyperlinked with the other one.

OK then:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=22994