Extremist views were on full display at the Jan. 6 Capitol riots one year ago. Bringing loved ones out of radical ideologies became a new priority for many who saw how far their views had gone.

After the 2020 election and insurrection, nonprofit organizations aimed at de-radicalizing individuals involved in extremist movements saw an uptick in requests for help. And while many believe that the growing numbers of Americans turning to extremist movements are due to political beliefs alone, groups like the public health nonprofit Parents for Peace believe that a worsening mental health crisis in the United States is partially to blame.

Myrieme Churchill, the executive director of and a psychotherapist for the public health nonprofit Parents for Peace, told Boston Public Radio that extremism is “a drug of choice” for many individuals trying to cope with trauma.

“In a way, we don’t think about extremism as a coping mechanism,” Churchill said. “But it is one — the same way people will reach out to booze or to drugs because it’s a shortcut way to not feel or to deal with underlying issues.”

Churchill pointed to her colleague Chris Buckley, a veteran who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. After getting into a Humvee accident that sent him home to Georgia from Iraq, he found himself turning to drugs — as well as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. It wasn’t until his wife Melissa searched for an intervention that Buckley left the group in 2016.

“For him, he felt that the numbing — the PTSD, the wounds, the pain — were very similar to the rush from hate and from drugs,” Churchill said.

Although Parents for Peace has identified unresolved trauma as a potential pathway to extremism, their approach to deradicalizing individuals often takes different forms. Churchill says that the nonprofit attempts to get through to people by tailoring recovery to specific trauma.

“With extremism, often the case with that is it takes a very sophisticated protocol where we collect information about the family [and] the person themselves,” Churchill said. “Because when people are being groomed to extremism, the grooming is tailored, so the recovery has to be tailored.”

While Churchill acknowledged that the Jan. 6 Capitol riots marked a pivotal point in extremism, she believes that the public should focus on the threat of a currently growing extremist movement instead.

“We talk about January 6, and that was a big deal,” Churchill said. “But what is a big deal right now is that we are seeing a large number of ‘nice liberal families’ in the Boston area, or suburbs all over the United States, of kids that are being groomed into white supremacy, neo-Nazi groups, Atomwaffen, Islamist and hard left-wing [groups].”

Myrieme Churchill is a psychotherapist and the executive director of Parents for Peace, a non-government, public health nonprofit that helps families and communities address and treat the radicalization of loved ones.