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Protesting loudly about Prevent is popular but is it informed and sensible?

  • Jonathan Hurlow (a1), Simon Wilson (a2) and David V. James (a3)
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Abstract
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This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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1 Summerfield, D. Mandating doctors to attend counter-terrorism workshops is medically unethical. BJPsych Bull 2016; 40: 8788.
2 Bhui, K. Flash, the emperor and policies without evidence: counter-terrorism measures destined for failure and societally divisive. BJPsych Bull 2016; 40: 8284.
3 BBC News UK. Extremism discussion event held in Bradford by committee. 2016; 28 Jan (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-35430645) (accessed 8 March 2016).
4 Gani, A, Slawson, N. Lancashire police criticise BBC over ‘terrorist house’ story? Guardian 2016; 21 Jan (http://gu.com/p/4g2ag/sbl) (accessed 8 March 2016).
5 Anderson, D. Supplementary written evidence submitted by David Anderson Q.C. (Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation) to Home Affairs Committee Countering Extremism Inquiry. 2016; 29 Jan (http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/countering-extremism/written/27920.pdf) (accessed 8 March 2016).
6 HM Government. Revised Prevent Duty Guidance for England and Wales. HM Government, 2016 (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445977/3799_Revised_Prevent_Duty_Guidance___England_Wales_V2-Interactive.pdf) (accessed 8 March 2016).
7 General Medical Council. Confidentiality. GMC, 2009 (http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/ethical_guidance/confidentiality.asp).
8 Borum, R. Informing lone-offender investigations. Criminol Public Policy 2013; 12: 103112.
9 Capellan, JA. Lone Wolf Terrorist or Deranged Shooter? A Study of Ideological Active Shooter Events in the United States, 1970–2014. Stud Conflict Terrorism 2015; 38: 395413.
10 Gruenewald, J, Chermak, S, Freilich, JD. Distinguishing “Loner” Attacks from Other Domestic Extremist Violence: A Comparison of Far-Right Homicide Incident and Offender Characteristics. Criminol Public Policy 2013; 12: 6591.
11 McCauley, C, Moskalenko, S, Van Son, B. Characteristics of Lone-Wolf Violent Offenders: a Comparison of Assassins and School Attackers. Perspectives on Terrorism 2013; 7: 424.
12 Corner, E, Gill, P. A False Dichotomy? Mental Illness and Lone-Actor Terrorism? Law Hum Behav 2015. 39: 2334.
13 Spaaij, R. Understanding Lone Wolf Terrorism: Global Patterns, Motivations and Prevention. Springer, 2012.
14 Gill, P. Lone-Actor Terrorists: A Behavioural Analysis. Routledge, 2015.
15 Ellis, C, Pantucci, R, van Zuijdewijn, J, Bakker, E, Gomis, B, Palombi, S, et al. Lone Actor Terrorism: Analysis Paper. Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series No. 4. Royal United Services Institute, 2016.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 2056-4694
  • EISSN: 2056-4708
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Protesting loudly about Prevent is popular but is it informed and sensible?

  • Jonathan Hurlow (a1), Simon Wilson (a2) and David V. James (a3)
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eLetters

The correlation between mental disorders and terrorism is weak

Ardavan Khoshnood, MD, M Sc Criminology, B Sc Intelligence Analysis, Lund University, Skane University Hospital, Department of Clinical Sciences Lund, Emergency and Internal Medicine, Lund, Sweden
22 October 2016

Hurlow et al (1) contradict the assertion that severe mental illness does not have a significant role ‘overall in the area of terrorism’. The authors state that there is evidence for mental illness in cases of lone-actor terrorism, suggesting that these cases are more likely to come to the attention of psychiatrists.

I strongly disagree with the authors. Although there are several psychological factors contributing to radicalisation, experts in terrorism studies agree that those who commit acts of terrorism ‘are not mentally disturbed’ (2).

There is little consensus in the literature regarding the importance of mental illness in lone-actor terrorism. However, the evidence suggests that mental illness is not a key factor contributing to acts of violence in these cases (3). It is therefore erroneous to insinuate that psychiatrists have a role in identifying these persons. It is also highly questionable if a 'future potential Breivik' would – or could – be identified by psychiatrists. In the case of Breivik, the forensic psychiatric evaluation concluded that although he has narcissistic personality disorder, he was not affected by a serious mental disorder when committing the act of terrorism, nor at the time of the evaluation.

The role of individual preventative interventions is limited in preventing relapse in regular criminality (4) and remains highly controversial with regards to terrorism (5). The question of terrorism and mental health is extremely relevant and important, and warrants further study. However, the evidence to date shows a weak correlation between mental disorders and terrorist acts.

References

1 Hurlow J, Wilson S, James DV. Correspondence. Protesting loudly about Prevent is popular but is it informed and sensible? BJPsych Bull 2016; 40: 162–3.

2 Alonso R, Björgo T, Della Porta D, Coolsaet R, Khosrokhavar F, Lohelker R et al. Radicalisation Processes Leading to Acts of Terrorism. A concise report prepared by the European Commission's Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation. Submitted to the European Commission on 15 May 2008.

3 Danzell OE, Maisonet Montañez LM. Understanding the lone wolf terror phenomena: assessing current profiles. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression 2016; 8: 135–159.

4 Khoshnood A, Väfors Fritz M. Offender Characteristics: A Study of 23 Violent Offenders in Sweden. Deviant Behavior 2016. DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2016.1196957.

5 Ranstorp M. Introduction: Mapping Terrorism Research. In Mapping Terrorism Research: State of the art, gaps and future direction (ed M Ranstorp): 1–28. Routledge, 2007.



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