Recently, SNL star Pete Davidson posted this on his social media account (now deleted):
“i really don’t want to be on this earth anymore. i’m doing my best to stay here for you but i actually don’t know how much longer i can last.”
If you’re not familiar with the term “leakage”, that is just a glimpse of what it can look like. Essentially, it is a cry for help and an opportunity to intervene. The general definition is: “leakage in the context of threat assessment is the communication to a third party of an intent to do harm” to oneself or others, and those forms of communication can vary from letters, diaries, blogs, social media posts, videos, emails, or voicemails.
Regarding targeted violence and according to the FBI, in four out of five cases the shooter told someone about their plans or revealed their intentions on social media. Between 2016 – 2018, forty percent of acts of violence in schools were leaked on social media. In short, leakage is something we all need to understand and pay attention to. But what is it we are looking for exactly?
Lots of kids say and do things they don’t mean, and in retrospect, it’s easier to identify a signal of illness, harmless adolescent ranting, or a loaded comment with clear intent to hurt. In fact, there is a term for this retrospective piece of information: a token. School and public safety leaders always want to identify leakage before it becomes a token.
Absent a multi-disciplinary threat assessment process, the unclear intention, combined with the frequency of violence at schools today, can lead to the dismissal and/or desensitization toward threatening language. Regardless of whether something is intended as a joke or to be carried out, we need to collectively raise our level of consciousness.