Support and advice
If you’re worried that someone you know is heading down the path to violent extremism, what can you do?
Sometimes you know something is wrong with someone, but you don’t know what. That can be very scary, so getting advice is the first step towards early intervention and doing what’s best for the ones you care about. If you’ve noticed a significant change in behaviour, or an interest in something unusual, or even violent, it can be worrying.
People challenging ideas and values is normal. It’s how we learn and grow. Having unusual, ‘radical’ or ‘extreme’ views does not mean that the person is a threat to themselves or others, but promoting violence as a means to achieve change is a concern.
Friends, family and acquaintances can often make the biggest difference in each other’s lives through early intervention and are likely to notice changes in each other’s behaviour. This is a key foundation of CVE work but also of many other methods of dealing with social health issues.
Everyone is different, so there’s no definitive checklist that can tell you someone is at risk, but below are some key signs to look out for. There are many reasons for changes in behaviour. Some of these are loneliness, signs of a personal problem of some kind – if not political, they may indicate violent or suicidal tendencies that should be addressed. Our Step Together helpline can help you identify behaviours that are concerning and recommend services that can help.
Please see our ‘additional services’ page for organisations that can help.
Signs that someone may be in trouble or distress:
- Loneliness, withdrawal or isolation
- Increased anger or frustration
- Feelings of helplessness or defeat
- Consuming violent content
- Advocating violence as a means to achieve change
- Intense interest in political, social or religious content that advocates violence
What can I do?
Little things that can make a difference:
- Notice early signs of worrying changes in behaviour.
- Stay connected to them – strong, loving relationships are the best protection for vulnerable people. If you’re worried about a loved one the most important thing you can do is support them.
- Keep talking – engage in open communication so your loved one feels supported and that they can come to you for anything. Even if you disagree with what they are saying, it’s important to maintain positive, open communication – listen, understand the person’s reasons for becoming involved.
- If you notice that something is bothering them, they are experiencing loneliness, there is a change in the way they act or they are sad, angry or unhappy, ask if they are okay and really listen to what they have to say. Sometimes, having a good friend or someone to talk to helps, and we feel better. If the problem is too big it might need help from a professional or community leader.
- Take an interest in their online habits – being secretive doesn’t necessarily mean they are accessing violent extremist material, but downloading and sharing content that advocates violence to achieve change is concerning.
- Make an effort to engage in their interests and be aware of friends or the groups they’re involved with.
- Ask for help from someone you trust and respect. This could be family, friends or people in your community.
- Call the Step Together helpline between 7am-9pm, every day. Asking for help is the best way you can support those you love. Step Together has trained support staff who can listen and help point you in the right direction for early intervention practices that can help someone you care about.
Sometimes, you know you should probably ask for help, but you may worry about what that means for you and the person you know. That’s why we created this service – The Step Together CVE helpline and online service is specially designed to allow you to ask questions and find information without fear of being reported.
It’s an independent place, not connected to police or security services that offers free advice and information that can help you work out your options and the best actions to take in your situation.