Innovations In Clinical Neuroscience

SEP-OCT 2014

A peer-reviewed, evidence-based journal for clinicians in the field of neuroscience

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[ V O L U M E 1 1 , N U M B E R 9 – 1 0 , S E P T E M B E R – O C T O B E R 2 0 1 4 ] Innovations in CLINICAL NEUROSCIENCE 81 ABSTRACT Objective: Most of the research on suicide terrorism is conducted in the political science and international relations fields. The prevailing wisdom within this literature is that suicide terrorists are not suicidal. But how good is the evidence for this assumption? Knowing whether suicide terrorists are suicidal has implications for prevention, rehabilitation, and the "softer" side of counterterrorism designed to win minds and hearts. In addition it may deepen our understanding of suicide itself. Design: This article uses a review of existing literature to examine the arguments and evidence for and against the possibility that suicide terrorists could be suicidal in the context of a broad range of explanations for suicide terrorism. Results: Much of the evidence against the possibility that suicide terrorists are suicidal is based on anecdote or faulty assumptions about suicide. Relatively few formal systematic studies of suicidality in suicide terrorists have been conducted. Nonetheless, there is emerging evidence that suicidality may play a role in a significant number of cases. Conclusion: The field needs a more multidimensional approach, more systematic data at the individual level, and greater international cross-disciplinary collaboration. Would-be suicide terrorists (intercepted and arrested on their way to an attack) should be routinely interviewed using standard internationally accepted psychiatric diagnostic interviews as well as suicidality and homicidality rating scales. Psychological autopsies should also be routinely conducted worldwide. Since no one research site can collect all of the information that is needed, the creation of an internationally shared database that focuses on suicide terrorists rather than simply incidents is encouraged. INTRODUCTION Suicide terrorism is the most lethal form of terrorism. Unfortunately, it is on the increase. In 2013 alone, some 384 suicide terrorist acts were carried out in 18 countries causing 3,743 deaths. This represented a 46-percent growth over the number of attacks in 2012 and a 66-percent increase in the number of lethal casualties. 1 What drives suicide terrorism and to what extent is suicidality a by IVAN SASCHA SHEEHAN, PhD Dr. Sheehan is Graduate Program Director and Assistant Professor, Negotiation and Conflict Management Program & Global Affairs and Human Security Program, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2014;11(9–10):81–92 FUNDING: There was no funding for the development and writing of this article. FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES: Dr. I.S. Sheehan is the co-author with Dr. D.V. Sheehan of the Sheehan-Homicidality Tracking Scale (S-HTS). ADDRESS CORRESPONDENCE TO: Ivan Sascha Sheehan, PhD, Graduate Program Director and Assistant Professor, Negotiation and Conflict Management Program & Global Affairs and Human Security Program, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Baltimore, 1420 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD. 21201; Phone: (410) 837-5328; Email: isheehan@ubalt.edu KEY WORDS: Suicide, terrorism, suicide terrorism, suicide attacks, suicide missions, martyrdom operations [ C R I T I C A L R E V I E W ] Are Suicide Terrorists Suicidal? A Critical Assessment of the Evidence

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