Terrorism and Mental Health

This issue of the International Journal of Risk and Recovery presents three of four papers that delve into key issues on the categorization of terrorism, psychiatric assessment of individuals involved in terrorism, ethical issues in the assessment of those involved in terrorism, and preventive and rehabilitative approaches. The fourth paper was published in the previous issue. The themes are diverse though equally important, and the authors offer unique insights into the psycho-social, geopolitical, and ideological underpinnings of terrorism.

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Terrorism Typologies and Considerations for Clinical Practice in Psychiatry

Typology development entails systematically clustering related attributes among individuals or groups to examine trends that might explain complex human interactions and behaviours. This approach has demonstrated its usefulness in behavioural sciences with important implications for policy, etiology, course, and treatment. Our review article provides an overview of terrorism typologies and examines their implications for clinical practice. We argue that the theoretical nature and heterogeneity of existing terrorism typologies limit their clinical usefulness, highlighting the need to develop empirically driven typologies.

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Psychiatric Assessment of Individuals Charged with Terrorism and Those at Risk of Engaging in Acts of Terrorism

Terrorism is a multi-faceted phenomenon that entails a strategic and instrumental use of violence to achieve ideological or political goals. Despite decades of research in the field, empirical data to guide clinical practice is lacking, and controversies surround the role of psychiatrists in assessing terror subjects. Our paper provides an overview of the social, psychological, and political-cultural risk factors for radicalization to terrorism; the assumed link between mental illness and terrorism; the relevant legal issues; and the threat assessment and management tools. In the absence evidence-based clinical guidelines, a thorough understanding of these issues helps inform psychiatric assessments of individuals charged with terrorism or those at risk of engaging in acts of terrorism.

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Ethical Issues in the Assessment of Terror Subjects

The psychiatric evaluation of people who have committed acts of terrorism requires a unique sensitivity to cultural and political context. This is because terrorism has multiple definitions and can be used to silence political and ethnic minorities. There- fore, professional appraisals of risk and threat may require an ethics approach that intertwines individual and community factors, considering history and culture along- side individual risks. Narrative ethics using root cause and liberation theories may be one method to assess both contextual and personal contributions to terrorist behaviour, and provide a robust account of the cultural and contextual realities of terrorism.

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Sexually Motivated Homicide: Descriptive Characteristics and Empirical Evidence

The assessment of individuals charged with a sexual offence has evolved over many years and has become more specialized. The most comprehensive evaluation is available in specialized centres for assessing and treating sexual deviations. Sexually motivated homicide is an extremely rare event. Empirical studies have provided evidence-based characteristics of those who commit sexual homicide and the nature of sexual homicide offences, particularly in the last 10 years. This has assisted in defining whether a sexually motivated homicide has occurred. It can also be incorporated into sexual behaviour evaluations when factors associated with a sexually motivated homicide may be recognized before the person acts out violently. This paper reviews evidence-based research on sexual homicides and how this is used to classify whether a homicide is sexually motivated. Risk factors associated with sexually motivated homicides are reviewed.

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