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Experts emphasize studying indicators of targeted violence

Gun Control Rally
Posted at 2:56 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 17:59:14-04

DENVER, Colo.  — Colby Rogers has a tough job.

As a clinical lead, he identifies the sources of targeted violence and figures out how to prevent it. He does his work at the Colorado Resilience Collaborative at the University of Denver.

"It can range anywhere from the atrocities that we've seen recently, school shootings, or terroristic events that happen domestically. It could be extremism," Rogers said.

He asks what we all ask – why and who. Why do people result to committing such violent acts as mass shootings? Who are the people who commit these crimes?

"We start looking at pathways to violence instead of profiles to violence, that would mean instead of looking for the bad eggs, we're looking for the bad barrels and what kind of environment is engaged to set up individually that what we refer to is risk factors or indicators versus protective factors," he said.

While it can be easy to finger point to the white, teen male demographic, The National Association of School Psychologists says "there is no profile of a student who will cause harm," and focusing on them can lead to false accusations and more damage.

"The internet can be a wonderful place for connectivity, and it can also be a wonderful place to hide," he said.

What Colby does is look at common risk factors, and one of the biggest in society right now is young people's reliance on screens.

"I think we are a disconnected society. Your average adolescent spends somewhere around seven and a half hours of entertainment alone on screen time. Then we add to that school with screen time, we disconnect them, and you're allowed to silo into these mental worlds of the online abyss," said Rogers.

He says this can be dangerous when individuals already have other risk factors.

"The internet has also allowed individuals to pray off of individuals that feel a disconnect, feel a loss of isolation and connectivity, and that fill increased rates of mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

The National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher advocacy group, recently looked at how teachers can reduce violence.

A study from last summer indicated students turn to extremist groups when they feel excluded, deprived, or lack purpose. It also found that radicalization happens online on social sites like YouTube and TikTok.

"In my private practice, I hear parents all the time that they pick up on the warning signs, but they don't have the resources, and I think that that is where we really have not done a great job in mental health is being able to make available or understood resources that are out there," he said.

Rogers says parents can have conversations with their children, check in with teachers about their behavior, and monitor screen time.

"If a kid is thinking it, they're feeling it. If they're feeling it, they're going to act upon it. And so I think our job is to is community mental health is to help parents understand how to have these difficult conversations when an indicator, so to speak, is unveiled," he said.