In the first article we looked at how knife crime is currently impacting society. We looked at the Strain theory and Economic theory - both which look to understand why young people are partaking in violence. The two theories fail to exhaust all possibilities as to why knife crime is so prevalent and so in this article, we will be exploring deprivation and mental health.
As well as relative deprivation, signified by income inequality, research has shown that material deprivation is also a factor determining violence. Material deprivation can be defined as the inability to afford basic resources and services such as sufficient food and heating. Such deprivation generally has a negative effect on educational achievement, and as studies are suggesting, boosts violence in society.
Part of the study on material deprivation, as recorded by the Centre for Crime and Justice, involved analysis of accident and emergency attendees for assault in Chorley. The variation in the rate of assaults between the most and least deprived was nine times as great in the deprived areas.
Furthermore, a connection between mental health and violence has been explored as a theme of research over many years. It’s difficult to know whether it is deprivation which leads to poor mental health and results in increased violence, or whether it is initial poor mental wellbeing which impacts on the lifestyle of a person and the places they end up in. The Strain Theory does suggest that if one’s mental wellbeing is too poor for them to work their way through the legal, working world, they may end up committing illegal activity instead.
Adverse childhood environments, such as childhood mistreatment, when combined with predisposing individual conditions, have been identified as factors that increase the likelihood of violent behaviour. Links between traumatic experiences and behaviour that can be labelled criminal are widely evidenced to be attributed with the roots of violence.
These individuals don’t suddenly have an improved mental state once committing acts of violence. Rather, a survey of young men in Great Britain, self-described gang members showed high levels of mental ill-health.
Ultimately, as lay people concerned about children joining gangs and illegal street activity, what can one do? In a review published nearly ten years ago, the Centre for Crime and Justice examined the elements of ‘public health’ strategies which aimed to reduce injury and distinguish three layers of prevention. Research showed that there were promising impacts of specific programmes such as nurse visitation at homes, school-based interventions, schemes for ‘at risk’ youth and therapeutic family support programmes for those with known behavioural challenges.
Investing time in youth programmes and extra-curricular societies is worth the time and effort. But, young children and people can’t spend all day at school or youth clubs. There’s a significant period of time where they are left to their own devices at home and on the streets. It’s during this time that is the responsibility of parents and carers to do their best to guide young people. A stable home environment, where young people are free to speak and ask for help, is what can result in the best impact on the state of society.
The government did say they intended to ‘crack down’ on drug supply, move away from criminal justice and engage with young people. However, there are going to be many difficulties, particularly in bringing back that societal trust. So to aid the bridges of trust to be rebuilt, work to build the best home environment possible.
As a community, we need to collectively work together to reduce the rate of knife crimes. Instead of pointing fingers at individuals for the increase of knife crimes, let us proactively support and encourage our youth into finding jobs, work experience, and get them involved in projects. Unfortunately with the government cuts, youth services and centres were greatly impacted. But fear not, why not show your support and donate to such empowering charities such as as INSIDE SUCCESS (you may have seen some of their young enthusiastic volunteers campaigning throughout Oxford Street, London).
Inside Success collaborate with young people to create an online digital interactive magazine to support young people in up-skilling and getting into employment. The content includes jobs training and employment opportunities. It also contains issues that young people relate to and feel is important to their well-being. This includes employment opportunities, local positive activities, artwork, useful helplines and support services and interviews with local talent and inspirational people.