Early community action is key to helping people avoid the path to violent extremism. As a friend, family member, acquaintance or community worker, you can make a big difference because you may be most likely to notice changes in someone’s behaviour. One of the most effective ways to reduce occurrences of violent behaviour is to remain connected to people you care about, even when you disagree with their choices, or find their beliefs confronting.

Below are some ways you can try to connect with people you are concerned about:

  • Bring concerns out into the open: Aim to create an environment where healthy discussion is encouraged and people feel comfortable to express their ideas, in order to reduce the need for them to take their beliefs ‘underground’. You may find that you need to try different ways to encourage them to open up, and you may not connect with them on your first attempt. Also remember not just to talk about the behaviour that is bothering you. Keep talking about the everyday things you’ve always talked about together.
  • Help people have their say: Many of us have ideas of what changes we’d like to see in our society, but it can be hard to know how to turn these thoughts into positive action. If someone is advocating for social, political or ideological change, remind them there are positive ways to bring about change. Link them to people or organisations that can help them to enact change without the use of violence.
  • Model respectful debate in person and online: Listen to what the person has to say, but set boundaries about how you talk to each other. End the conversation if the situation becomes inflamed, but let them know you will be ready to talk again when everyone is calm. Likewise, demonstrate respectful online interactions.
  • Encourage critical thinking: Remind people that they are in control of what they watch or read, and that they shouldn’t accept information or arguments without question. Your goal should not be to stop people from accessing content you don’t approve of – rather to expose them to different sources and perspectives, and have them critically examine the content they engage with.
  • Link them to support: Step Together’s helpline support workers can refer you to local support organisations or practitioners who can help address issues of concern for the person – it may be they could benefit from links to a local youth group, employment service, or a mental or physical health service.

If you’ve noticed a significant change in someone’s behaviour, reach out for help as soon as possible. Our Step Together helpline support workers can listen to your concerns and talk through possible next steps.

For more information or to seek help, call Step Together on 1800 875 204 on Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm.

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