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Does Extremism Protect You From Depression?

Professor Jeremy Coid completed medical training at Sheffield University and training in Forensic Psychiatry at the Maudsley and Broadmoor Hospitals.

 

He was trained in research at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, where he completed his MD.

 

As Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist he established the medium secure service to East London for mentally disordered offenders.

 

He has extensive experience of giving evidence in court as an expert witness in cases of serious violence, sexual offending, and on childcare. He has been an advisor to the Department of Health, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defence on management of high risk offenders.

 

He was appointed Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychiatry in 1987 and awarded a personal chair in 1995.

 

This Podcast focuses on the recently published paper entitled: ‘Extremism, religion and psychiatric morbidity in a population-based sample of young men’ published in the British Journal of Psychiatry by Jeremy W. Coid, Kamaldeep Bhui, Deirdre MacManus, Constantinos Kallis, Paul Bebbington and Simone Ullrich

Background (from the paper)

There is growing risk from terrorism following radicalisation of young men. It is unclear whether psychopathology is associated. Aims: To investigate the population distribution of extremist views among UK men. Method: Cross-sectional study of 3679 men, 18–34 years, in Great Britain. Results: Pro-British men were more likely to be White, UK born, not religious; anti-British were Muslim, religious, of Pakistani origin, from deprived areas. Conclusions: Men at risk of depression may experience protection from strong cultural or religious identity.

FROM THE PAPER:

 

The prevalence of depression was significantly higher among Pakistani and Black minority groups than UK-born White men...

The key finding was that men... with neutral or undecided views, were more likely to be depressed. Anti-British extremist views may have offered protection against depression, specifically among men of Pakistani origin. These findings correspond to the hypothesis that lack of personal identity and meaning, with unfulfilled need for belonging, create psychological vulnerability both to extremism and anxiety and depression. Within this theoretical framework, attributing blame, identifying responsible perpetrators, strong national or other cultural identity, and active support for or opposition to a cause, may protect against depression. For some men, depression may be a precursor to ‘mobilisation’, leading to active support for and consideration of involvement in terrorism or armed conflict along a pathway of radicalisation. Lack of identity and uncertainty, together with depression, may contribute to a vulnerable state in which personal crisis can act as a trigger, resulting in an opening for new beliefs and values, encouraged by people holding similar values that legitimise violence. Relatives’ and friends’ experiences of social exclusion, including poverty and reported experiences of racism, may have influenced these individuals to take a more active position. Factors such as turning to religion or new political beliefs triggered by a war (against people with similar cultural and religious characteristics) could result in a protective sense of empowerment involving new meaning, belief systems and identity along a pathway ultimately leading to violent action. However, since we cannot determine the direction of association in this cross-sectional survey, respondents with depression may simply have been less likely to fight for or against their country or to hold extreme views because of their depression.