“October 18, 1985 Detroit, Michigan: During halftime of the homecoming football game between Northwestern High School and Murray-Wright High School, a boy who was in a fight earlier that day, pulled out a shotgun and opened fire injuring six students.” (K12 Academics)
School shootings are nothing new. They’ve occurred at various times since the 1700s. What is new is the amount of media attention given to such incidents. What isn’t new is the lack of intervention when a student exhibits signs of escalating the situation, for example, the fight earlier in the day.
Escalation of violence is in part egged on by the media—news which circles around repeating itself like an earworm (a song in the head which doesn’t stop). Media outlets use sensationalism to drive viewers and clicks online in order to beat out the competitor and raise advertising revenue.
Social media is an additional avenue of escalation—videoed homicides, suicides, threats, bullying, even online harassment among neighbors.
Today’s stressors coming through these mediums ramp up community anxiety, person by person: racial tensions, war and rumors of war, cultural shifting in values and morals, the stock market, hurricanes, volcanos, Ebola, politics, etcetera.
In both cases, what was initially meant for good—news, media, talk shows and social media, have turned sour and bitter. In many cases, it has caused us to hate one another.
There are also homegrown stressors affecting families: mental illness, cancer and other illnesses, rising autism rates, the cost of food and medicine, access to medical care, debt, crime, work, aging, divorce, housing needs, domestic violence and abuse, etcetera.
Cumulatively, these outside and inside stressors affect individuals, families and homes. Scott Armstrong, President and CEO of The Bridge Effect Foundation (TBEF) states, “Children are the stress indicators of what’s happening in a community.”
Armstrong is creating TensionTrac which will map a community’s tension levels based on consistent locally collected data. It will check how much serious crisis events affect a community. Government intervention resources will be given the data about specific hot-spots and crisis de-escalation can begin.
Similar types of TensionTracs have been used successfully in Wales to cut down soccer fan violence and by Yale University identifying what people believe about climate change.
Cindy Bridges, wife of a youth pastor, is Director of Child and Family Initiatives at TBEF states, “What’s not measured can’t be managed.”
Armstrong has a Masters in Quality Systems Management and is a Lean Six Sigma Blackbelt, this is not judo or karate, but a high-level certification of a professional who leads improvement projects.
Begun in 2016, TBEF has de-escalation specialists in place. Director of Community Outreach, Robert Campbell, already offers a free program to teach crisis de-escalation skills to caregivers for emotionally volatile adults and children thus avoiding incidents with emergency responders. “The Bridge Effect has identified serious training gaps in law enforcement, nursing and emergency health care skills training,” he states.
Incidents like the Sandy Hook Elementary and Parkland shootings impacted Armstrong as the father of an 11-year-old daughter. He adds, “I can only imagine their families’ eternal regret. We must all do what we can to prevent these horrible episodes from reoccurring in our communities.” Armstrong began TBEF after working in the mental health industry and noticing many gaps--holes where service didn’t get to the person who needed it most.
Armstrong decided to make a difference in the world in a new way, by doing something that mattered. Armstrong, Bridges and James Lamb, are working together with an advisory board and a team of volunteers to raise funds to open a Center for the Arts where at risk children may come and participate free of charge. Early intervention is key. Problems left unattended worsen. Armstrong states that these problems create overwhelming anxiety, an inability to communicate to teachers and police, thus feeling the need to lash out and resort to violence.
Teaching a child a performance art builds self-confidence without the need to have a gun and assert himself over others. Use of the Arts relieves stress, irritability, helplessness, anger and frustration in a fun way that is beneficial to a child’s future. Arts are also a means of speaking out about the hurt experienced in childhood from neglect, abuse, abandonment and emotional needs not met. TBEF plans to begin with two areas of performance art and add from there.
Armstrong has already been in talks with the city of Fort Pierce, Florida, the mayor of nearby Port St. Lucie and other government officials regarding the use of a building to house the center.
Armstrong works with the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center population in Indiantown, Florida, one of only two maximum security facilities in the State of Florida for those incompetent to stand trial by reason of insanity. With over 200 beds, the facility is always full. His role is as the performance improvement and compliance administrator, monitoring the care, safety and treatment management processes performance to the Department of Children and Families and Forensic Department of Justice level.
He sees the result of untreated mental health illnesses and understands how the crimes these individuals committed could have been headed off with early childhood intervention. Today’s shooters were yesterday’s children.
Most of America’s shooters have been on prescription drugs for mental health illnesses. In October 2017, Austin Frank, former Hill staffer of Today in Politics wrote, “And the result is that a significantly higher percentage of mass shooters were on antidepressants than in the U.S. population at large… The number for teens and young adult mass shooters on antidepressants is well over a majority...Too many modern-day mass shooters and murderers have been on these meds to call it a coincidence.”
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, a mental health watchdog, has investigated school violence, revealing in February 2018, “that at least 36 school shootings and /or school-related acts of violence have been committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs resulting in 172 wounded and 80 killed.”
Armstrong believes it is imperative that the signs of potential violence, known as leakage, be understood, discussed and given attention before an incident occurs. Lives are at stake.
In June 2018, the FBI released the Study of Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters which covered shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013. It states, “The most frequently occurring behaviors were related to the active shooter’s mental health, problematic interpersonal interactions and leakage of violent intent.”
Leakage comes through social media, video, text, phone calls, email or even in person. Such threats can also come through student assignments, passed notes or artwork. Leakage can be intentional or unintentional to a third-party.
Prevention, the FBI states, is not and cannot be a passive process. It needs strong and ongoing commitment by the community. This includes the adoption of programs and policy “to support targeted violence prevention efforts,” building of threat assessment teams, and education. Everyone must be on board.
TensionTrac is the first of its kind, no other exists like the one Armstrong is creating for monitoring community tension. Armstrong refers to it as “an innovation in community health management.” Armstrong and his team have devoted their time and money to this community without cost, for the purpose of saving lives. Maybe even your child’s. Armstrong intends to see the use of TensionTrac nationwide. Won’t you support him and The Bridge Effect Foundation, filling the gaps, finding the children, keeping citizens safe.
Contact Scott Armstrong: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
*Mr. Armstrong’s comments on this site are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Correct Care, LLC.
© 2018 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org