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Mental Health Connection to Terrorism

Posted by Brian Spence on Mar 25, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Terrorism, Mental HealthA terrorist is a person who is willing to commit mass mayhem and even murder in pursuit of a political cause, even at the cost of his own life. Is the mentality that drives someone to commit acts of terrorism, sometimes through being a suicide bomber, solely out of political zeal or is there a mental health aspect? According to a recent article in Forbes, many terrorists already have mental health issues, with a history of violence, before deciding to commit violent acts because of politics.

The insight suggests a way to stop terrorism before it starts is by identifying people who are at risk and treating them proactively.

Various studies suggest that people with violent mental health issues are especially vulnerable to radicalization. Many terrorists can channel already violent tendencies in service of a cause. Moreover, the process of radicalization can exacerbate already latent mental health issues. Let's face it, someone who is willing to blow themselves up in a crowded street or open fire on a large group of people at a concert or sports venue are not normal.

The idea that terrorists have mental health problems that lead them to commit mass casualty attacks suggests that more research is needed to track instances of terrorism to find the root, psychological causes. After such a study, public health methods can be developed to help decrease the population of potential terrorists, thus decreasing the instances of terrorism.

A therapeutic approach to combating terrorism in no way suggests condoning terrorist acts. Mass murder is a crime, no matter what the root cause is and should be prosecuted and punished as such. The idea is to stop terrorism before it happens. A person with mental health issues who has gotten treatment is less likely to commit crimes of any sort, politically motivated or not. To paraphrase the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of prosecution.

To learn more about this and related topics, visit the Mental Health section of our blog.


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