Terrorist Assisted Suicide

How terrorist cults use mentally ill Muslim men to further their reign of terror

Posted Aug 01, 2016

Source: JulieFast/Shutterstock

When will this end? In the space of two weeks since originally writing the blog below, I've watched killing sprees by young, Muslim men spread across Europe. A bullied German-Iranian teenager opens fire and kills nine people. A Syrian refugee kills a pregnant woman with a machete. And recently, an 84-year-old priest was murdered by two Muslim teenagers in France. 

The media has treated these stories as similar and often uses the word ‘terrorist’ to interchangeably describe these men as though their killings were linked. 

I would like to change the conversation.  

There is a gaping, significant and under-discussed difference between lone, depressed and angry men who kill and are then labeled terrorists and those who kill, almost always as a duo or a group in the name of a political or religious cause. The goal for this blog is to create a new dialogue about those who kill in the name of terrorism as compared to those with documented mental health disorders who kill and are then exploited by terrorist groups. Please note that what I write below speaks directly to the second group. The French teenagers who murdered the priest were under observation as potential terrorist threats. Unlike the two in Germany who had documented mental health concerns, they are terrorists and are not the topic of my blog. 


I currently live in Cannes, France, twenty minutes away from the latest ‘terrorist’ killings in Nice.  As the world reels from yet another claimed attack by a group that seems hell bent on destroying the western idea that men and especially women have the right to live freely, my mind turns towards my research on mental health and violent behavior. 

I planned a blog on this topic after the mass killings by ‘terrorist’ Omar Mateen in Florida and became overwhelmed with the enormity of the task after a British Member of Parliament was killed by a man with a well documented mental illness and a woman in Texas, also with a diagnosed mental illness shot her daughters in front of her husband.  The fact that people with mental health disorders can be violent exists in the news daily and yet I see a disturbing silence regarding this topic in my own mental health community. People tell me, ’Julie, you want to put us back a hundred years by talking about violence in mental health!”  No. I want to move us forward so that a topic I see in my own life and work every single day is finally addressed. 

As a person with bipolar disorder (later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder) who has violent thoughts and behaviors and as a coach who works with family members and partners where the majority of loved ones show some form of violent behavior, I feel I’m inside a mental health version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. 

We need to talk about violence and mental health. 

Terrorism around the world has become a magnet for mentally ill, young, Muslim men who want to die and instead of looking into this problem as a mental health concern, we focus on gun control, hate crimes and terrorism itself. This is a mistake.

Terrorist Assisted Suicide: It's not only about gun control. 

It’s estimated world wide that 4% of people who commit suicide take someone with them. We call this murder-suicide. I describe what I see in today’s world as ‘terrorist assisted suicide,’ and feel this is the real problem we must face if we want to end the violence so common in today's youth. 

Terrorist cults understand this concept and actively look for disenfranchised, depressed, substance abusing, angry young Muslim men and quickly radicalize them to the idea that there is a better afterlife than the hell they currently experience on earth.  In my mind, this explains how Omar Mateen, known to frequent the LGBT bar where he killed members of his own gay community would suddenly kill in the name of a group he had hardly mentioned in the past.  I closely read the French newspapers and the parallels between Mateen and the Nice, France truck killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel boggle the mind. Depression, anger, relationship problems, a distinct lack of Islamic practices, drinking, substance abuse and documented mental health diagnoses make it easy to confuse the two stories. 

A quote from the local Nice-Matin paper regarding Bouhlel says it all. “C’etait un fou! Pas un extremiste,” according to a man who worked out in a gym with Bouhlel on a regular basis. It’s easy to translate, "He was mentally ill, not an extremist." Bouhlel’s father noted, “He had a depressive nervous breakdown over ten years ago and never recovered. He became angry, he cried, he broke things.”

Source: JulieFast/Shutterstock

Verbatim, these are the words I hear from my clients when a beloved child gets ill and becomes violent due to a mental health disorder.  Another chilling similarity: Both men used steroids to bulk up. Public toxicology reports on current suicide bombers and lone wolves who kill in the name of terrorism would give us more clues as to why they act as they do. Just as forced kamikaze pilots used amphetamines in World War Two, drug use by people on suicide bombing missions is well documented. I would expect someone killing in the name of an idea to be fueled by righteousness, not drugs.

These men need drugs because in my opinion they are not killing for a cause. They are killing for personal reasons and terrorist cults simply come and take the credit. 

I put quotes around the word terrorist at the beginning of this article when talking about Mateen and Bouhlel. I don’t believe these quickly radicalized young men are terrorists. They are mentally ill killers with a murder- suicide death wish. They have been slickly brainwashed by terrorist cults that know how to get into the mind of an angry, depressed, confused and hopeless young man.

In my opinion, actual terrorists rarely blow themselves up. They try to find someone mentally ill to do it for them. 

I’ll never forget an article I read of how groups in the Middle East actively searched for young men with schizophrenia for suicide bombing missions. I need to stay angry here. Otherwise, my heart will break. Preying on the mentally ill is nothing new. 

To answer my own question, When will this end? If we openly discuss the concept of terrorist assisted suicide, it naturally leads to the idea that improving mental health treatment around the world will curb this crisis. If we want to discover and help the youth in danger of being radicalized, we might not find them at the mosque. Instead, we will find them at a club or a gym, using substances to feel better, depressed, angry at the world and unsure of where to turn for help. 

This is why they so readily answer when terrorist cults knock on the door.