Depressed and alone: the mental health of radical extremists

“Islamic State fighters often present themselves on social media as a fearless band of brothers, but a new report finds radicalised jihadis are more likely to be anxious, depressed and lonely.”

Poor chaps, the report doesn’t say whether they had unhappy childhoods or were bullied at school, but help is on the way:

“We believe strongly in a public health approach, where those at risk of radicalisation are identified and helped.”

Jolly good, but is this really the answer? They don’t seem overly bright, apparently before heading off to fight jihad their choice of reading material is “Islam for Dummies” and “The Koran for Dummies”.

48 thoughts on “Depressed and alone: the mental health of radical extremists”

  1. Well, Arrers, it seems that for every extremist cause there’s a good supply of willing participants. May we presume that they are all social misfits? Certainly the anecdotal evidence says yes. I suppose we all seek the meaning of life!

  2. Hello Janus.

    Perhaps fairly dim social misfits, who may end up rather dead on their search for the meaning of life! I doubt very much if the majority have a clue what they are getting themselves into.

  3. There certainly seem to be a few cases of the “Mum, I want to come back” syndrome, Araminta. I suppose the fact that these wannabe jihadis didn’t realise they’d be fighting other muslims shows they’re not very clued up.

  4. Indeed, Sheona. I suppose there must be some who take to this brutality like a duck to water but it may prove a bit much for some of them. Bit of a shock after working in an office in Birmingham for example and living at home.

  5. I actually don’t know, Janus but IS have a very sophisticated PR department. Come and join in the slaughter on YouTube and other social media.

    But according to the article it’s a cure for depression:

    “Islamic State propaganda videos have previously claimed jihad is a “cure for depression”, a sign perhaps that the sophisticated social media operation is aware of the audience it is targeting.”

  6. I heard on the news that it is estimated there are as many as 15,000 of them from Western countries. A truly amazing number.
    I gather the Canadians are somewhat exercised about it as they so pride themselves on ultra PC itis, non judgmental, non discriminatory flim flam. To find their own have ‘been and gone and done it’ is somewhat ego deflating! I gather some swamp life from Calgary went off to fight and has subsequently been killed in Syria. Jolly good, one less!
    What is of far more concern is the fact that they may slip back to their host countries without discovery.
    The more that find a satisfactory conclusion to their depression at the end of a bullet the better. Think of all the money the NHS will save on mental health facilities!
    Just goes to show the stupidity of letting them in in the first place. Russia seems to be the only place that got it right. They slapped a no right of abode in ‘White Russia’ on the ‘stans after independence. I gather travel permits to Moscow etc are virtually impossible to acquire. Interestingly any immigrant labour are not allowed to bring families and have to live in barracks. Just what we in the West should have done, fixed time labour permits and then home you go.
    What a world we have created, well some of us have anyway, trouble is for any of us that do not wish to be anywhere near multiculturalism there are very few uncontaminated places left. I suspect it will all end in tears and a blood bath, it always does if the past is anything to go by.

  7. Tina.

    True the number of recruits from the West is truly staggering. I have no idea why they would want to leave the relative freedom and comfort of the West to support such a cause, but then as we have said, they are not exactly the brightest of bunnies it would seem. It can hardly be to support their fellow Muslims because as has been pointed out they are fighting other Muslims!

    I have no doubt that many of them will be canon fodder and may well end up dead, but it would appear that in the case of the UK, we don’t seem to have any means of denying them entry or keeping an eye on their movements once they get back. Quite absurd.

  8. I haven’t read any of the online propaganda, but I bet it doesn’t mention the fact that killing other muslims is the name of the game. In fact it probably lies and makes out that infidels are busy killing muslims in Iraq and Syria and so on. No mention of Shia/Sunni divides, just all brothers together.

  9. ISIS sites are blocked in Germany and anyone suspected of being even remotely sympathetic to them will be put under surveillance and will be tagged so that their every movement will be tracked. Also, anyone calling for Sharia law in Germany is to be turned into the police immediately. German nationals who go to the Middle East or Africa to fight in Islamic wars are also having their passports cancelled and a legal way to strip them of their citizenship is being found.

  10. I guess that in the same way that some lonely vulnerable people are easily snapped up by other cult-like groups just as Mormons, JW etc, some are also vulnerable to be convinced by the ISIS doctrine. The more isolated people become, the more they need to find a home. That’s my interpretation anyway Ara.

  11. According to Christopher, the German government’s got it right. No return to Britain, then they can all go and be alone and depressed in Mecca or somewhere. I’m sure the Red Crescent will look after them.

  12. But, but….attributing these activities to ‘mental health’ is a step too far. Were all the Nazi youth mentally inadequate? What about the Christian martyrs? And Japanese warriors?

  13. If they weren’t pretty depressed when they left I’m sure they must be by now!

    I have a picture in my mind of one of these nutters sat on a rock in the middle of the desert with an AK by his side a a 6″ knife strapped to his waistband looking up at the coalition aircraft in the sky, knowing that there’s not a single thing that he can do about them and wondering if he’s gonna be next. 🙂

  14. We take passports away from those suspected of going to fight – I think it would be far better to let them go and not let them return.

  15. I agree completely, Boadicea. These characters have chosen Islam over country and I hope they’ll be very happy together, but I doubt it.

    Janus, I think there are several reports on the depressed state of young muslim men, at least in the UK. Poorly educated and unemployed, forbidden to have normal relationships with muslim girls, unable to go out drinking with the lads, they are not only depressed but repressed. I should think they are easy prey for unscrupulous recruiters of cannon fodder. And then they find themselves totally out of their depth in a country lacking the basic amenities of a council house in Bradford.

  16. Sheona, yes, I agree: repressed and underpriviliged in many ways. So what are the more aware and less belligerent muslims going to do about it? Charity begins at home, etc.

  17. Hi Christopher.

    I think the German Government has the right idea in this instance.

    Hi Boadicea.

    I think that it a much better idea too. If they want to leave then fair enough, but I don’t think they should be allowed back, which seems to be the case here too.

  18. Hello Gaz.

    Yes, it seems to be the case that some of these people are just that, socially isolated, frustrated and depressed and very easily influenced by the thought of belonging,. But as Soutie says the reality of the situation they find themselves in when they get to these places is hardly going to be a cure for this depression!

  19. Yes, Sheona excellent comment at 9.09 am, but judging by the choice of reading material described in the article some of them don’t really seem to be very clued up about Islam.

  20. Arra. “I have no idea why they would want to leave the relative freedom and comfort of the West to support such a cause, but then as we have said, they are not exactly the brightest of bunnies it would seem. “

    I think your phrase ‘relative freedom and comfort of the West’, perfectly sums up the complete disconnect between the average Westerner and the disaffected Muslim youths. Don’t get me wrong, I think these people should be drowned in pigs blood, but that does not mean I do not understand how they are totally frustrated with their lives in the UK and how they seek to make a difference, albeit a wicked and, to us, completely idiotic and barbaric difference. Millions of people feel totally constrained by the Western society which you appear to endorse. And if those people are unwilling or unable to conform, then the option of doing something radical becomes very appealing. Millions of people, British people, have fought foreign wars because life back home was pretty infuriating.

    One could argue, I think, that the Pilgrim Fathers who left the relatively safety and freedom of England, took similarly drastic risks in crossing the Atlantic in boats that would not begin to be considered seaworthy today, to go and live in a far off hostile land, all on account of their faith.

  21. Indeed, disaffected citizens always have a choice – leave! But expect consequences if they return, either from the authorities or from their fellow citizens.

  22. Hello Sipu.

    “Millions of people feel totally constrained by the Western society which you appear to endorse.”

    Yes, I suppose you are right, I do endorse Western Society despite being aware of its faults, if only because I have never lived anywhere else! But yes, it is probably easier to understand their reasons than the course of action it provokes.

    The disaffected we are discussing here from the West seem to be predominantly second generation Muslims brought up and educated here. They seem to want to go and support the cause of a terrorist group in Syria and Iraq and most of seem to have every intention of returning to the country of their birth rather than remaining abroad. I’m not sure I would in any way equate their jihad with the motives of the Pilgrim Fathers.

  23. Janus, I imagine the response of the “more aware and less belligerent” muslims will be what it has been so far – SFA. They seem unaware of the strain put on young muslims with “the family” on one hand sticking to the primitive traditions of their religion and the freedoms offered by the society in which these families have chosen to live. The solution might well be FIFO.

  24. Not quite actually sure I buy the not too bright bit. Evidently quite a few of them were kids accepted at university for half way decent courses. Not one presumes that thick? I suggest they may have bought the primers to make sure they did not commit too many solecisms on arrival. Most of them would not have been there before or only to Pakistan. It also appears that ISIS seems to be far more able in the technical/engineering department than Al Qada ever were, so some of them can’t be that thick.
    One wonders whether they are any different in their motives from any of the youth protest movements. Where the reality kicks in is that they are joining a psychotic murderous organisation, One wonders how many of them truly understand the implications of that when they sign up in comfy suburban Leicester/Bradford? Equally when they get there and realise the horror of it all, they are trapped. There is no British Consulate to run to to say they have made a mistake. I doubt they are able to get out without incurring a death sentence.

    In a way I suppose I feel rather sorry for some of them. To be led down such a primrose path of starry idealism into such an amoral murderous quagmire from which there is no honorable return must be a pretty grim wake up call. Others will take to murder like ducks to water. One way or another let us hope that as many as possible achieve their 72 virgins as quickly as possible in the middle east. After the depredation of the Northern cities in the UK how on earth are they going to find all these virgins? They will have to have Muslim ones, how amusing!

    Ara, one thing in common to nearly all nutter religions is their unassuaged need to persecute others. The pilgrim fathers were very keen on their witch trials which generally ended up with some poor old biddy being drowned or burnt. Plus they were totally repressive, no singing/dancing etc etc. What is not made clear in UK history is how many of them slid quietly out of the Massachusetts community and resettled in Maryland further down the coast where the Catholics had a settlement and didn’t persecute anyone or at least not on an industrial scale. So there are parallels with more extremist Islamic societies. Just look at the persecution of the Anabaptists in Massachussetts with reference to the Sunni/Shia caper.

  25. Tina.

    I have no doubt that they certainly all can’t be as dim as this article suggests, but it’s hardly likely they interviewed all 500 or so of them from the UK! Certainly it must be a bit of a culture shock for some on arrival. Ironic certainly that there are immigrants in great numbers trying to get into the UK and the US and millions in Syria fleeing from the war, when these youngsters are outward bound and grimly determined to join the cause of some of the most oppressive nasties to emerge thus far.

    Yes, all religious zealots are hell-bent on imposing their views on the rest of mankind, and their methods haven’t varied much over the centuries. Pretty depressing state of affairs at the moment.

  26. Yes indeed, Janus. Ship the family back to whichever islamic hellhole their ethnic origins indicate and then the wannabe jihadis coming “home” will not involve danger for the UK, but it would preserve their right to a family life and mum’s home cooking.

  27. Yes, I think there is a vast difference between volunteers rushing off to the Spanish Civil War, for example, to defend the legitimate government of Spain against Franco and his Moroccan thugs and running away to join a bunch of thugs not defending anything.

  28. The reason these ‘youth’ feel isolated is quite simply because they are.

    And whose fault is that?

    B*** successive PC governments have encouraged immigrants to live their culture in a country that has moved on from a patriarchal society, bound by religious constraints, centuries ago. They have allowed ghettos of an alien, medieval-minded culture to thrive in the midst of a society that believes in freedom of thought and equality – and told them that that is quite acceptable.

    Then there are those wretched PC thinkers who have refused to take a stand on the relative worth of ‘belief systems’, cultures and practices, and insist that we should respect and accept all and everything as being of equal worth. They have silenced common sense criticism with cries of ‘racism’, fascism or some other such derogatory term. Not all belief systems, cultures and practices are ‘good’; there are some that are down-right evil.

    Both Governments and PC propagators have actively encouraged immigrants to believe that their values are of equal worth to those of the society in which they have chosen to live. They are not. The teachings of Islam, along with many other fundamentalist religions, are not compatible with those of more egalitarian societies.

    It is not surprising, therefore, that many immigrants have continued to bring their children up in their own culture. Why would they do otherwise? Only those, like a certain lady on the ‘other place’, have had the sense to see that for their children to get the best out of their adopted country they needed to be brought up ‘British’. While some, like others on that same place, have asserted their ‘right’ to live their culture in Britain.

    It is not surprising, to me, that many young Muslims feel alienated and isolated from the culture that they see around them. They have been brought up to believe that their religion is superior and that the world they live in is degenerative. Is it so amazing that they feel isolated? Is it surprising that they want to destroy a society in which they have no place?

    I’d almost feel sorry for them if they were not such a danger to the world as I hoped it would be when I was younger where religion seemed to have taken its rightful place in society – simply a matter of personal preference. They are a danger – and the only reason that I have entered this discussion as to why they are acting as they are is to hope that Western Governments will finally tell their immigrant communities to do, what that certain lady on the ‘other place’ has done:

    — FI
    or else FO.

    I’m not hopeful

  29. Thanks, Boadicea.

    I agree with some of the reasons for the isolation of these young Muslims but not all. Yes, uncontrolled immigration and muddled PC thinking is certainly a contributing factor as are the sheer numbers. I disagree with your perception of Islam being a fundamental cause of this.

    When the original Muslim immigrants arrived in Britain, they were not defined by their religion. They were generally hard working, law abiding and kept a fairly low profile. It was not until Islam became almost synonymous with terrorism and their numbers increased that they were regarded as hostile, potential terrorists and regarded with suspicion.

    I also believe that Muslims who have integrated and brought their children up as “British” remain largely unnoticed: it is the ones who do not who attract all the attention. We have had many discussions about what we mean by British cultural values, but some of the present activities indulged in by the indigenous youth here in city centres at the weekend are filling me with a certain amount of horror, never mind the average Muslim parent!

    So yes some of those who choose to return from abroad may undoubtedly prove a danger but these days you do not have to travel far to be radicalised, the internet and social media seem to be doing a splendid job.

    I live in hope that some of them, at least, will realise that life is not so bad in their adopted countries in the West!

  30. I find it very interesting that after so many years knowing each other in ‘corresponding style’ that attitudes have changed so much.
    Always having been a declared racist, xenophobic, atavistic type I never once thought they were a comfortable addition to Western society and always thought their lifestyles and religion were incompatible with ours from University on.
    I have small consolation from the grim satisfaction of hearing of a few dead aspiring jehadists from the west. What really horrifies me is what are we going to do about the rest of them?
    The silent masses of fellow travelers that dominate the Eastern cities of the UK, because fellow travelers they most definitively are. Their very silence is indicative of their parasitic attitude to their host country. There is no way they can be repatriated, too many of them.
    The solution is going to be very unpleasant indeed, maybe not in our lifetime, but it is going to make the Third Reich look like a picnic in due course.
    God rot the multiculturalists and politicians that thought this was going to be a good idea. Far right parties are gaining traction throughout Europe. It looks as if everyone has simultaneously had enough of them.
    It is ironic that the EU in it’s effort to make sure WWIII would never happen seems to be causing the very circumstance that will guarantee its occurrence.

  31. CO, let’s blame the Church (for its love-thy-neighbour) and the Empire (for its hello-have-a-UK- passport). What a losing team they are! Add a few Euro bleeders and you get migrant chaos.

    Followed, as you say by an equal and opposite reaction, called Right Wing in some parts. Armageddon.

  32. Tina and Janus.

    I don’t know, you could be right, but we are unlikely to be around to witness it. There are about two and a half billion Muslims and they are just as,or even more nationalistic/ tribal than the Anglosphere and Europe. At the moment it seems that the followers of Islam, the extremists that is, are more inclined to wage war on each other than unite and take on the West.

    The Middle East and Africa seem to be the main trouble spots but numerically I think more Muslims live in Indonesia and the Indian sub continent.

    TIna. Yes, we have all been corresponding for seven years or so on various sites and the world has changed, so I suppose we may have changed our perception of events somewhat.

  33. We should have started repatriation some time ago, Christina. All the extended families of the 7/7 bombers should have been returned to their countries of ethnic origin instead of being hailed as the families of heroes or martyrs. All those families who have had a member convicted of “honour” killings aka murder should be returned to countries which think such a thing is not only normal but laudable. If we started getting rid of such people who have demonstrated that they are incapable of fitting in to a civilised western democracy that might have some effect.

  34. Araminta

    When the original Muslim immigrants arrived in Britain, they were not defined by their religion. They were generally hard working, law abiding and kept a fairly low profile.

    I once thought that too – until I spoke with that certain lady from the other side! She disposed of that particular idea very swiftly and said that, while initially they had kept their heads down, many despised Western culture and values but said nothing until there were sufficient numbers to make a fuss.

    On my last visit to the UK, I met a new carer for my mother; a very nice young women, 21 years old, who had gone to the UK when she was 3 months old. All her siblings were born in the UK. In outward appearance she could have come from anywhere. She wore no scarf and spoke beautiful English. In the course of the conversation she remarked that she was continually reminding her fellow Muslims that they should not be demanding concessions, because they were, after all, living in a foreign country. There was no sense of identification with the UK, its history, its values – nothing. I didn’t pursue the subject – nor ask her what she would do when my mum wanted a bacon butty!

    As far as I’m concerned, Islam is the problem. It actively promotes ideas which are opposed to those we in the West value and encourages a ghetto type mentality with no integration. Two opposing cultures in one country can never sit easily together.

    We have, at the moment, a rather outspoken Senator, who is demanding the banning of the burka. In an attempt to make her look silly, the media recently asked her what she knew about Sharia Law. Her answer is one that I, and am sure many others, would agree with. She said that she knew nothing about it, didn’t have to know anything about it, there was already a set of laws in Australia and everyone should abide by them.

  35. Good lord is it really seven years ara?
    We are all so very different but here we seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Seemingly as is most of white humanity in the first world.
    I do approve of sheona’s partial solution. I suppose the bloody EU law prohibits this currently? One never hears of any of them being chucked out of Europe. It might well aid the others to find out which side their bread is buttered. I wonder if they realise quite how much they are disliked these days.
    I do find it ironic that only China and Russia had the sense to keep them repressed and in their places in more ways than one, from day 1. If only, if only!

  36. Thank you, Boadicea.

    Our views inevitably are influenced by many things, but I understand why yours have changed.

    Sharia law is probably a topic on its own, but I think we have already discussed the subject here. As far as I am concerned we have a perfectly good legal system here as well, and Sharia courts are a process of mediation and not binding legally unless both parties agree. That’s the theory anyway.

  37. I’m guessing re the seven years, Tina but it must be quite close. Yes, we are all very different and I dare say we still are, but after this amount of time, things have changed quite dramatically and certainly events are such that we are feeling somewhat beleaguered here in the first world. It lends a certain solidarity.

    Regarding China and Russia, I’m not sure if we just don’t hear about the revolts, this business is spreading and the internet cannot be controlled. The reaction may just be worse because of the repressive regimes.

    How much of this business is due to a certain amount of meddling by the west in these area? We have toppled regimes of which we disapprove and the alternative is proving to be far far worse.

  38. Araminta

    The problem is with the mutual agreement!

    I have just been transcribing some 17th and 18th C wills, where it is clear that the father is determined that the money he is leaving to his daughters is ‘for their sole and only use’ – some even mention that it should not be used for their husbands’ debts! The money was to be paid to the daughter or her approved representative. I wonder how many women in that era would have been able to withstand pressure from a husband not to hand the money over!

    I feel the same about sharia decisions – you and I and a few others here would be able to withstand the pressure from family and community to refuse to accept such a decision – but I’m not so sure that many Muslim women would be so strong – and I don’t think it should be a decision they should have to make when there are perfectly adequate laws available which treat all parties equally.

  39. How much of this business is due to a certain amount of meddling by the west in these area? We have toppled regimes of which we disapprove and the alternative is proving to be far far worse.

    Absolutely right – we should have stuck to the policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of another country.

  40. That I do agree with, Boadicea. The attempt to regulate Sharia courts here was just because of this very problem. They were happening anyway,and there is nothing to stop people coming to their own arrangements about matters of inheritance or certain family matters, or civil disputes, provided it is not against the law. It was rightly or wrongly perceived that it would be preferable that they were regulated in the same way as other sorts of mediation.

    The best regulated ones are now required to have a qualified lawyer in attendance, and some of these lawyer are actually female, but I suspect this is not the norm. Still it is progress,and only education and time will enable Muslim women to withstand such pressures.

  41. What with sharia, halal and mosques in the Midlands some of the places literally have more the look of Islamabad! It has gone so far beyond the thin edge of the wedge. One wonders will it end up like Spain with the country split into two halves?

    Bizarre isn’t it when the previous dictators of Libya, Egypt and Iraq begin to look reasonable! A lesson in letting sleeping dogs lie. They never could handle democracy, a big mistake from day one thinking they would appreciate it, they just take it for weakness.

    It does appear that both Russia and China keep their muslim populations in their traditional locations. Apart from the Chechen escapade in that school in Russia , Russia has taken great care to reduce a considerable proportion of Chechnya to rubble in retaliation, the aggravation of it all is fought out on their patch not back in the white heartlands. Now there’s a thought! A good bombing of Bradford to pay out the iniquities of jehadists and rapists! One has to note that Chechnya has been a great deal quieter since they started quite such punitive retaliation, there is a lesson to be learnt there however unpalatable. I rather admire Putin, he knows just how hard to stand on the backs of their necks. Pity some of the western politicians don’t take a few lessons!

  42. PS Interesting ara your comment re solidarity. I agree. It will be even more interesting to see how long it takes, if ever, to transfer to a common purpose and policy.

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