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Criminalizing Mental Health: A Report on Antiterrorism Initiatives in Illinois

Photo: / AFSC

In this report, we evaluate the state of research on the relationships between psychology, mental health, and terrorism as well as the antiterrorism initiatives that have mobilized mental health professionals and other social service providers as participants in the domestic war on terror.

We argue that current antiterrorism initiatives, such as Countering Violent Extremism (CVE):
1. rely on disproven social science
2. disproportionately target Muslim and other nondominant groups
3. force mental health professionals into unethical situations that breach professional standards such as privacy and confidentiality under expanded interpretations of “duty to warn,” and
4. criminalize and increase the surveillance of those labeled with or perceived to have psychiatric disabilities. By integrating mental health professionals into the domestic war on terror, these antiterrorism programs risk increasing health disparities, securitize the provision of social services, and, ultimately, harm targeted communities. 

Written by Dr. Nicole Nguyen, the report was produced by StopCVE Chicago Coalition, American Friends Service Committee, University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) College of Education, UIC Institute for Race and Public Policy, and the UIC Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement. 

Created Date 
Feb 28, 2020

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