Integrating Mental Health and Education Fields into Countering Violent Extremism


Project Details


Research Question: How can we involve professionals from the mental health and education fields in countering violent extremism? Are there lessons to be learned from other types of intervention programs?

Increasing attention has been drawn to the need for an expanded role for mental health care in countering violent extremism.  Incorporating mental health and education fields into countering violent extremism holds significant potential in enhancing prevention and intervention capacities. However, to do so effectively requires a better understanding of how to reconcile assets and contingencies from education and mental health with CVE needs and contingencies.  The proposed work conducts a systematic literature review and convenes a targeted workshop with CVE, law enforcement, mental health, and education professionals including representatives from the three CVE “pilot cities.”  It will produce in a rapid time frame a short conference report and brief, as well as targeted cross-training primers for CVE, mental health, and education practitioners.  The cross-training provides primers to CVE, mental health, and education practitioners on the relevant key concepts, assumptions, and approaches of the other fields to give practitioners from each field a more informed and realistic understanding of the other. (Note: the cross-training draws on prior research, best practices, and training experience and not solely on the literature review and workshop funded by this project). 

The project yielded:

Primary Findings:

Three key findings were:

  1. communities need to have a say in how to prioritize and organize actions intended to make them strong;
  2. strategies for addressing the threat of violent extremism need to be organized and led by community-based multidisciplinary teams who draw upon mental health, public health, religious, education, and law enforcement frameworks and remedies; and
  3. efforts to address violent extremism should adopt a comprehensive approach to promoting community safety which includes ideologically inspired violent extremism as one of many forms of violence that afflict communities.

This project involved a review of education and mental health literature by a multidisciplinary team inclusive of education and mental health professionals (N=5). The search focused on English-language literature post-1985. An iterative consensus process was used to identify key concepts and best practices that could potentially contribute to the development of healthy, resilient communities and counter targeted violence.

Multiple relevant themes from education and mental health were identified and integrated into one overall framework. The results of the literature review were then presented and discussed at a two-day meeting, supported by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs and comprised of experts from education, mental health, law enforcement, federal agencies and Muslim communities (N = 25). This convening led to a revised framework, report, and other materials for dissemination.


Project Period: