On Wednesday, Sandy Hook Promise, a gun violence prevention group in Newtown, CT, launched its annual back-to-school PSA. The PSA — called Back-to-School Essentials — is meant to bring attention to Know the Signs, a program that teaches about the signs exhibited by those who are contemplating violence and how to intervene.
Nicole Hockley, cofounder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, says that more than 7.5 million children and adults in all 50 states have completed the group's programs, which have helped prevent multiple school shootings and suicides, reduced bullying, and helped young people get the mental health assistance they need. Hockley has worked with clinical psychologists who study youth violence to create these programs.
Hockley began this work after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where her 6-year-old son Dylan was killed along with 25 other children and educators. "The rewarding part of this is saving lives," she tells Refinery29. "It's the only reason I do what I do. Every time I look at our anonymous reporting system and I see another intervention take place, I see that there's another family that's staying whole. I'm doing this to keep kids alive and keep families intact, and I'm proud of how that happens. I wanted to make sure other families didn't have to go through my experience."
Prevention works, Hockley says, because four out of five shooters tell someone their plans before carrying out a shooting.
She stressed that prevention needs to go hand-in-hand with tighter gun laws. "We need a lot of different actions in order to create change. There are groups focusing on legislative actions, and we decided we would do it through social change," she says. The group, however, has also worked on multiple pieces of legislation, and recently helped reintroduce the STAND UP Act, which would expand suicide prevention and threat assessment training.
"This isn't only a mental health issue," Hockley says. "This is around conflict management, anger management, not being able to regulate emotions — and having access to means to carry out the threats."
Watch the new PSA, below.