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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The Psychiatric Aspects of Terrorism: Prevention and Rehabilitation

Preventing terrorism has thus far been in the domain of national security and law enforcement agencies. The expectation that psychiatry has a primary role to play in the rehabilitation of those involved in terrorism remains controversial, although the significance of certain mental disorders has been highlighted among lone-actor terrorists. This paper provides an overview of the motivating factors for radicalization to terrorism at both community and individual levels, as well as preventive and rehabilitative approaches to terrorism. We argue that psychiatry may have a role to play in these approaches with the goal of preventing violence in select cases.

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