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Guidance for mental health services in exercising duties to safeguard people from the risk of radicalisation

Research on individuals who have engaged in terrorist activity demonstrates that there is no single socio-demographic profile or pathway that leads an individual to become involved in terrorism, making involvement in terrorist activity inherently difficult to predict. Vulnerability to radicalisation depends on complex interactions between different risk factors. These can include involvement in criminality, family influence, failure to integrate, or a sense of grievance or injustice.Presence of these and other risk factors does not make radicalisation inevitable or predictable. The vast majority of people exposed to risk factors do not go on to engage in terrorist activity. This might be due to the presence of protective factors, such as having a strong family life that provides a sense of belonging, self-esteem and purpose, friendships that would be jeopardised by involvement in terrorism, or being open to challenge from other perspectives.

There is a need for further research on links between terrorism and mental health. The data available on the mental health of terrorists is limited given the small number of terrorists relevant to the population. Existing evidence suggests that while there is no link between mental disorder and group-based terrorism, terrorists who act alone may be more likely to have a background that includes mental ill health.There should be no conflation of mental ill health and terrorism. There should be no assumption that an individual who carries out a terrorist attack is suffering from mental ill health, nor that someone with poor mental health is likely to carry out a terrorist act.

However, mental ill health may contribute to the risk of making an individual susceptible to adverse influences and exploitation. Timely access to mental health treatment might reduce the overall risk. This is part of the everyday work of mental health professionals, and part of their professional and statutory duties.