Are medical professionals the key to weeding out terrorism in our society?

In light of the countless shootings, stabbings, vehicular attacks, beheadings, suicide bombings, etc., one has to really wonder what is

In light of the countless shootings, stabbings, vehicular attacks, beheadings, suicide bombings, etc., one has to really wonder what is taking place in the minds of killers around the world, and why their mental health wasn’t questioned more.

This morning, there were reports of the German police fatally shooting a teenager last night, after he attacked passengers on a train with an axe and a knife, seriously wounding three people and injuring many others. He was killed in pursuit as he attempted to flee. In May, a mentally unstable 27-year-old man carried out a similar knife attack on a regional train in the south, killing one person and injuring three others.

The terrorist who carried out last Friday’s Nice attacks — Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel — was described as a “weird loner” who “became depressed” when his wife left him. A psychiatrist who saw him in 2004 told L’Express that Bouhlel had come to him because of behavioural problems and that he diagnosed him as suffering from”the beginnings of psychosis.” He was known to the police for assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats and robbery, but had no previous convictions for terrorism.

The Orlando shootings killer Omar Mateen, had his former wife say that the man responsible for America’s deadliest ever mass shooting was physically abusive towards her, had mental health issues and was “obviously disturbed, deeply, and traumatised”.

A recent inquest into the Lindt cafe siege gunman Man Haran Monis has heard that he was a dangerous, selfish psychopath and lone wolf terrorist who would have killed more hostages had police not ended the ordeal. A psychiatrist described him as having a “complex personality disorder that led to vicious, deceitful, manipulative and anti-social attitudes and behaviour.” While alive, the terrorist was seeing two psychiatrists at the same time.

The internet and television channels operated by extremists are sometimes the only media that impressionable people see and hear. Obviously, however, not all who are exposed to this will grow up to strap bombs on themselves. Whenever the exposure to propaganda occurs, the mind of the future terrorist reacts with intrigue and sympathy for the cause through some form of identification with it, if other important risk factors are also at play.

Dr. Ervin Staub is a professor of psychology, author, and expert on the topic of terrorism. In his research, he has concluded that there are three types of terrorists. There are those who identify with the suffering of a group, those who react to the experiences of their own group, and lost souls who feel no purpose in life until they join and identify with another group’s cause. These lost souls appear to be the ones heavily targeted and recruited on the Internet. More often than not, these lost souls are targeted on the basis of having weak mental health.

While all terrorists may not be sociopaths or psychopaths, they do tend to fight a psychological war. By manipulating the population into changing behaviours and living in fear, they build a society that is susceptible to senseless fear-mongering, and one that can be based on hate rather than acceptance.

Could mental health professionals raise red flags about extremely anti-social behaviour and help prevent terror attacks?

  1. Silva Rigutti  

    Would this describe the Islamic religion? “complex personality disorder that led to vicious, deceitful, manipulative and anti-social attitudes and behaviour.”

  2. Joan Marshall  

    Why is it that only the Muslims albeit a minority among them are out to kill people particularly innocent people? What is their aim? I hear now that there is Fatwah by good Muslims who will kill the bad Muslims and it is about time something was done. The Koran preaches Peace I am told. When is this carnage going to stop? For this one short life why cannot the Bad Muslims be stopped. Bin Ladin has been removed now ISIS. Dear God save us. Any fanatic of any religion would put me clean off. Wouldn’t dream of dating them or marrying them. Sounds severe but everyone is entitled to their opinion in a FREE democratic country.

  3. Maybe the psychologists / doctors etc. could sit down with religious leaders of all denominations and hold workshops in regards to the Youth in there religions and how easily at those impressionable years they can be influenced by either ones speaking peace or others speaking murder and hatred. And maybe those who are experiencing current problems should be speaking out to the youth that ” violence and hatred ” is NOT the way to gain anything other than ” violence and hatred “.

  4. Robin Henry  

    The common thread through almost all (and I say almost) is Islam. Whether Islam causes mental deficiency, is only followed by people with no or low levels of critical thinking, common sense, analytical skills, and self-esteem, there is nothing more certain than the potential for Moslems to create horror.

    How we could expect medical practitioners to guess what’s on a Moslem’s mind is anyone’s guess. The safest way is to remove the cause from the problem or the problem from the cause.

  5. I believe that in many cases, the medical professionals as well as educators may miss indications that an individual is mentally unstable. In reflection after an event there have been indications, however how can anyone really predict how another person will behave?

    Political and Religious acts of terrorism are not acts because of mental illness, these people have been indoctrinated in such a way that even close friends and family members are unaware.

    Our society is becoming more fractured, people are often socially isolated and this may contribute to the decline of mental stability. For any human to kill another is not the behavior of a stable mind, therefore every person who has ever committed murder is mentally unstable. For a person to plot and to carry out mass murder, must also be mentally unstable. Islamic State terrorism is something else.

    Perhaps what is needed is more unity, tolerance and acceptance and instead of supporting wars, humanity needs to share love and care.

    Instead of deploying military might, perhaps deploying food, medical aid, farming equipment and education might be more productive?

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