Thursday June 15th | 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EDT

Hate crimes in the U.S. have been rising for years and white supremacist organizations represent by far the biggest domestic terror threat, according to the FBI and organizations who track the activities of organizations espousing hate and violence.

So what leads people to get involved in violent hate groups, and – perhaps more importantly – how can they be helped to get out? That was the question posed by MindSite News writer Laurie Udesky in a story, Breaking Away from Hate, recently published by MindSite News and republished by USA Today and Wisconsin Watch. Udesky’s in-depth report profiled the former white supremacists who have renounced hate and formed a movement that works to extricate other Americans from violent hate groups. 

During the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, teenagers and youth spent more time online, and many fell under the spell of extremist recruiters. By 2021, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based racial justice organization, could identify 733 hate organizations, including neo-Nazi, pro-Confederacy and racist skinhead organizations, along with white nationalist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, Patriot Front, Proud Boys, Stormfront and the National Justice Party.

What role does trauma and poor mental health play in a person getting involved in hate? Experts cited in Udesky’s story explain that although it’s not possible to predict who will get involved in violent extremism, mental health issues may be an important  vulnerability that leads people with other risk factors to embrace hate and violence.

Register for this live conversation and read more about the panelists below.


 Pardeep S. Kaleka MS, LPC, co-director of Not in Our Town and de-radicalization specialist for Parents 4Peace | Pardeep also serves as a professor of Peace Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the co-author of “The Gifts of Our Wounds” and an award-winning columnist with the Milwaukee Independent. A first-generation immigrant from India, Mr. Kaleka has spent more than 25 years in law enforcement, education, social services, counseling and assisting hate crime survivors and perpetrators across the U.S. with recovery. He has helped develop policies and practices to build healthier, safer, inclusive communities across the US. In 2012, following the murder of his father in the hate killings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, he co-founded Serve2Unite, an organization nationally recognized for bridging school and community groups.

Arno Michaelis, former white supremacist and author, filmmaker and interventionist at Parents4Peace | In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Arno Michaelis was a neo-Nazi skinhead, a reverend of a self-declared Racial Holy War, and lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion, which sold 20,000 CDs and is still popular with racists today. Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by people he once hated all helped to turn Arno’s life around, bringing him to embrace diversity and practice gratitude for all life. Arno is now a speaker, filmmaker, author of “My Life After Hate”, and co-author of The Gift of Our Wounds. Refuge, his latest film project, is now available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu. 

Christopher Buckley, former white supremacist, certified peer mental health specialist (CPS-MH), and consultant at Parents4Peace | Buckley’s work is grounded in his personal battle with PTSD and addiction, the aftermath of his army service in Afghanistan. In his post-army life, Buckley fell into the destructive path of the KKK, using hatred and anger as outlets. Faced with an ultimatum from his wife, he chose family over the hate group. His journey from extremism is featured in the film, Refuge. Today, Buckley’s works to prevent others from falling into the same trap. He performs direct interventions with individuals at risk, and has established a Trauma & Recovery Program to equip veterans and police officers with positive coping mechanisms. His work has gained national attention, with features in The Washington Post, New-York Times, People, CNN, and Bloomberg Magazine.

Dr. Stevan Weine, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago | Dr. Weine’s research focuses on health, mental health and health, and violence prevention. His work has been supported by nine grants from the NIMH, two from NICHD, two from DHS, one from the OAR, one from CRDF, and three from NIJ. He has received two NIH Career Scientist Awards. Over 130 manuscripts and 3 books from Dr. Weine’s program of research have been published or are in press. His area of expertise is in administering preventive, clinical, and community interventions and also in conducting intervention, services, ethnographic, clinical, and implementation research.


Laurie Udesky, MindSite News Reporter Udesky has been reporting on mental health, social welfare, health equity and public policy issues for more than 25 years. Her stories have been published by the New York Times, Kaiser Health News, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, She worked as a foreign correspondent in Turkey and has won journalism awards from Investigative Reporters & Editors, the Sidney Hillman Foundation, the Exceptional Merit Media Awards and the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists, which honored her for an investigation of family courts called “Custody in Crisis” and a three-part audio series called “Out of the Shadows: Battling the Stigma of Depression.”

Rob Waters, MindSite News Founding Editor Waters is an award-winning health and mental health journalist who has worked as a staff reporter or editor at Bloomberg News, Time Inc. Health and the Psychotherapy Networker. He was a contributing writer to Health Affairs and his articles have also appeared in the Washington Post, Kaiser Health News, STAT, the, Mother Jones and many other outlets. He was a 2005 fellow with the Carter Center for Mental Health Journalism. His reporting has focused on mental health, public health and the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. In 2021, his mental health reporting was honored by the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Institute for Health Care Management, and the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California. 

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