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The Role of Trauma and Mental Health in Violent Extremism

The Role of Trauma and Mental Health in Violent Extremism
21st July 2022 ICSR Team
In Features, XCEPT

The full Briefing Note can be accessed here.

Please read on for the Key Findings.

  • Traumatic experiences can be linked to violent extremism. Adverse childhood experiences (e.g., child maltreatment) and moral injury (e.g., behaviours that violate values and morals, including betrayal from leadership) are two types of traumatic experiences that appear to be particularly relevant to violent extremism and warrant further study.
  • Social and economic factors can strengthen or weaken the links between mental health, trauma, radicalisation, and violent extremism. Factors such as community level social cohesion, access to resources and a sense of agency can act as preventative measures. However, the lure of a sense of belonging to overcome feelings associated with trauma and alienation can also be a risk for joining violent extremist groups.
  • The exact relationship between mental health and how it possibly contributes to radicalisation is not yet clear. Currently, most studies are small, cross-sectional and retrospective, meaning that data on the outcome (radicalisation) and exposures (trauma) are collected at the same time. From such studies we cannot conclude if mental health issues precede radicalisation or vice versa. In addition, the types of mental health examined vary widely between studies, as does the nature of the studies themselves. Replication efforts are uncommon; therefore, the robustness of findings is presently not known.
  • Sophisticated longitudinal research in FCAS is feasible. With careful planning, it is possible to overcome and/or mitigate the particular challenges of conducting such research in conflict environments and with displaced populations.

 

This publication was produced as part of the XCEPT programme, a programme funded by UK Aid from the UK government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.

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