Extremist groups using pandemic isolation to lure people of all ages, anti-extremism nonprofit says

National nonprofit helping families intervene to prevent violent extremism

SAN ANTONIO – A nonprofit group is helping raise awareness about the increase in extremism in the United States and the need for loved ones to seek help before it’s too late.

Myrieme Churchill, executive director for Parents4Peace.org, says the organization’s hotline has been “hot, hot, hot since COVID-19 (pandemic)” started a year ago.

The nonprofit Parents for Peace offers help and guidance to parents who find themselves with loved ones who have committed a violent extremist act or are headed in that direction.

Churchill says that, based on the families they help, those who are becoming radicalized range from 11 years old to 75 years old, and their callers seeking guidance are both parents worried about their children and young children who are concerned about their parents.

Extremists have been known to target those who are part of political and social movements, Churchill said.

“Issues of anxiety and depression. That is one of the keys to go into extremism (that) has been overwhelmingly high. There’s not one case that I haven’t handled that doesn’t have to do with mental health or identity crisis or someone that is struggling with some kind of grievance,” Churchill said.

If you find yourself with a loved one that’s having extremist views, don’t fact-check them, Churchill said. Try to stay close to them and be engaged with them so you can find a way to pull them out of committing anything extreme.

Churchill said families should think about their situation before their loved ones started having these views and what changed that lead them there. She says families are often at a loss of where to turn to for help.

Parents for Peace also takes calls from clinicians who want to learn how to help guide families.

Melvin Bledsoe started the nonprofit in 2009 after his son, Carlos Leon Bledsoe, opened fire in a military recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas, after he was converted by Muslim extremists.

If you need help for your loved one, call 844-497-3223.

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

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