Mental Health, Messaging and Security in Times of Crisis

Authors: James Mortensen1 & Andrew J. Gibson2 

Published in National Security Journal, 03 September 2023

DOI: 10.36878/nsj20230309.02

Download full PDF version – Mental Health, Messaging and Security in Times of Crisis (453 KB)


This paper considers the effects of wider mental health issues on possible crisis responses actioned by the Australian government, especially responses to extend-ed disruptions to everyday life. Lockdown protests and prominent conspiratorial narratives leading to socially destructive behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic – ranging from violent protests, to the refusal of some population elements to wear masks – give us insight into how the social risks of crises manifest, as well as an opportunity to better understand how governments may mitigate such risks. Using the COVID pandemic as a guide, the paper gives some practical policy recommendations for more effective engagement with mental health stress-ors inherent in an extended crisis, as well as suggestions for more nuanced crisis communication from government that may mitigate the heightened security risks inherent in such crises.

Keywords: Conspiracy theories, psychology, sociology, crisis, security policy, government messaging


1 Dr. James Mortensen is a lecturer at the National Security College of the Australian National University, and can be contacted at

2 Dr. Andrew Gibson is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Newcastle’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences.