Mental health Awareness week provides a perfect opportunity to explore the progress the UK has made in tackling adolescent mental health issues and some of the problems which still need to be addressed in order to fully help young people. Undoubtedly the last 12 months have showcased a growing presence of mental health professionals within schools to provide support to young people along with mental health projects such as Young Minds Amplified geared towards training public sector workers to become more aware of spotting the early signs of adolescent mental distress. Therefore with this in mind it’s clear the UK has made progress in raising awareness of adolescent mental health issues amongst public sector workers and becoming more multi-faceted in how we are tackling this issue. However despite this progress, the waiting times for CAMHS still remain unacceptable with at least 60% of young people referred by GPs still failing to receive treatment. Mental health issues amongst young people today are on the rise in an increasingly unpredictable world whereby younger generations are continuously exposed to social pressures through social media resulting in mental distress. In fact although British society has become more aware of these issues and the government has showcased a willingness to tackle these problems more still needs to be done. The presence of mental health experts within schools and training teachers to become more aware of adolescent mental health issues provides an opportunity to bridge the gap of waiting times for treatment young people are currently facing. In line with this research also had a crucial role to play in showcasing how society can understand and use technological tools such as social media to tackle adolescent mental issues. With respect to mental health awareness week the Youth Voice Journal is currently sending out calls for papers on themed issues and our latest edition is dedicated to calls for research papers exploring mental health and all the prevailing issues around this topic.
With the rise of violent crime and murder in England’s capital within the first 5 months of the year I think it is important to explore what is fuelling this rise and particularly amongst young people. With 55 murders since the start of 2018 and the majority of them being young people London is facing the most unprecedented rise in violent crime and murder since 2005. However in order to recognise the reasons for this recent spike it is important to recognise the role social media today is playing alongside the more traditional socio-economic factors leading young people to engage and too often become victims of violent crime. Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick in an interview with the Times newspaper blamed social media for London’s increasing crime rate stating social media is escalating online threats into offline physical confrontation with devastating consequences. Undoubtedly social media has bought violent and criminal gang confrontations into the wider public spectrum with social media accounts dedicated to sharing violent fights or confrontations continuously gathering attention. However despite this to account the unprecedented rise of violent crime in London amongst young people down to social media alone fails to account for the impact of budget cuts on the police and the profound socio-economic factors driving young people to engage in crime. Social media today has simply amplified and exacerbated violent crime within London and particularly its impact on young people. Violent crime amongst young people today has an online public audience coercing young people to retaliate due to the social pressure of being exposed. In spite of this core roots of the increasing murder rate are still the socio-economic situations of poverty these young people find themselves in and the increasing lure of crime as a way out. Social media companies need to take responsibility in controlling the violent footage being shared on their platforms and the subsequent impact this is having on young people. Alongside professionals need to be trained in being aware of how social media is spiralling the lives of young people out of their control due to online public audiences. Although social media is not the cause of violent crime it remains a tool which we must monitor and understand in order to fully address the causes of the unprecedented rise of murders within London and its impact on young people.
In our latest blog post the Youth Voice Journal would like to explore and write about the idea of a public health approach to youth crime and how this solution could be crucial in halting London’s knife crime epidemic which has escalated to new levels in 2018. A public health model contends crime should be viewed as an infectious disease which can then be altered by challenging and changing the behavioural norms of those affected by it. In essence treating crime as a public health matter means society must address the underlying issues of social exclusion, poverty, unemployment and poor housing which resulted in a victim being stabbed. Such an approach undoubtedly requires a holistic intervention with multi-agency work among the police, housing officers, medical professionals and teachers all working together to help young people affected by crime. In fact this public health approach to crime and particular youth crime has been successfully implemented and used in both Glasgow and Chicago; two cities labelled as the murder and violent capitals of the world. In both these cities, officials have focused on helping victims and young people associated with gangs in finding employment, housing and diffusing tensions among rival gangs. In working alongside youth workers and former prisoners, officials have managed to gain access to at risk youth and build relationships in order to address the issues affecting these young people. Thus as a result of addressing the immediate needs of young people both cities and particularly Glasgow have experienced a dramatic decrease in the youth crime rate.
The city of London in the face of increasing knife crime has showcased small steps in starting to implement a public health approach to knife crime. For example the Charity Redthread has deployed a unit of youth workers at Kings College hospital in south London dedicated to working with young victims of knife crime admitted to the hospital for treatment. The youth workers work with young people in the aftermath of a violent attack to ensure their needs are meant and offer long term support with housing, employment and making sure the victims do not seek revenge. The work of Redthread showcases a public health approach to knife crime can be implemented within the city of London and also possibly succeed. Despite this the city of London still has work to do in adopting this intervention model in all 32 boroughs and ensuring funding streams are available to organisations dedicated to tackling youth crime. Using stiffer sentences and being tough on crime in London had repeatedly failed in tackling youth crime or reducing the knife crime subsequently adopting a public health model to this issue provides a viable alternative which has successfully worked in other cities.