Knife crime has become a part of everyday life

Last night, I shook my head in disbelief as I read about yet another young man being stabbed do death.  The utter shock I felt was not because a young man had been stabbed, but rather that it was another to add to the numerous stabbings that had taken place over the past week.  I am sure that a stabbing has been reported in the news every day, since last Monday, and a number of them have been fatalities.

Tears filled my eyes as I read about one more life being thoughtlessly taken away from this earth and the people who loved him.  Sadness clouded my heart as I thought of the ripple effect that this one pointless act would have on so many others lives, including that of the offender.  But most of all, I felt sick to my stomach as I considered the utter lack of respect for life that so many young people seem to have.  When did they stop caring?

Why has knife crime become a normal occurrence in our society?  It worries me sincerely, because I am starting to feel that we are running out of time to put a stop to it.  It seems that using knives is becoming an everyday activity for the young and they won’t hesitate in using them, no matter how ridiculous the circumstances may be.  Carrying knives seemed to revolve heavily around feelings of safety, but now I think that it is more than that.  Knife crime appears to have escalated into something else altogether and it is quite disturbing.

Yet what disturbs me the most is that it could be someone I love who is the next victim of a knife attack, and I could not bear to see that happen.  Although there wasn’t six stabbings in ten days, this recent knife attack took place in Croydon, the borough in which I live.  This fatality was about 15 minutes away from my home and all I could think was, that could have been my friend.  Nowadays, anyone could be at the sharp end of the knife for any little reason, and I think that is what worries me the most.

We need to be doing something to reach out and talk to these young people, get to the real root of the problem and understand why carrying knives has become a normal part of their lives.  It is absolutely essential that we take action now, because this is a problem that is already out of control and it is getting more and more difficult to rein it in.  The lives of our young people are at stake.

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What do young people see as success?

A couple of weeks back, I asked what you see as success, which was a question mainly aimed at young people.  I understood that we all look at success differently, with one person’s definition of success varying from another, but I was not sure about what young people’s definition of success would specifically be.

I was intrigued to learn that in spite of age, gender or peer group, the vast majority of young people that I spoke to see success as achieving their goals – specifically their personal goals.  These may be career goals (getting a secure job), academic goals (passing exams, finishing with a 1st at uni) or lifestyle goals (having a nice super-bike, learning to drive).  Whatever they might be, young people seemed to have set goals in mind that they wanted to reach.

Photo by Ice Princess.
Image by Ice Princess.

A 20-year-old male said: “I see success as totally fulfilling one’s goals or aims to a desired standard.  To me, it’s more  of a destination rather than a journey, so perhaps you could have an unsuccessful journey but a successful destination.”

It appears as if young people want to look back on their life and feel proud, like they’ve achieved and accomplished something.  They look at success as a process that will eventually lead to something great or meaningful.  However, there are some who not only want to achieve their goals, but also achieve their dreams – interestingly enough, those that mentioned dreams were in their 20s (with the exception of one 19-year-old).

I also began to understand that young people want to work for their success, as there is something special about achieving what may have been so long out of their reach.  This 22-year-old man illustrated it best: “Success to me is having a goal or dream that seems almost impossible to achieve, yet somehow you achieve it, and there is this amazing feeling afterwards, like you’re unstoppable.

A small number of individuals in their early 20s view happiness as success, rather than achieving their goals and dreams.  A 22-year-old woman said: “To me, the real meaning of success is happiness, to be able to wake up everyday happy within yourself.”  However, another young woman also saw fulfilling achievements and accomplishments alongside being happy as success, because they would “in turn make you happy”.

Photo from Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo from Pixabay and used under Creative Commons License.

I was a little surprised at how few individuals linked success to happiness, but this highlights the society we live in, where happiness seems to be a continuous afterthought.  And does the fact that only individuals in their 20s mentioned happiness suggest a slight gap between them and the teenage generation?

Some religious young people associate success with their beliefs.  Various individuals see it as living the life God planned for them, fulfilling what God wants them to fulfil, trying to be a good Muslim, following the path God leads them down or trying to get to Heaven.  One 19-year-old female said: “I believe success occurs when you take on Jesus’s character, because in doing that, everything falls into place.”

Image by Melissa Bube and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by Melissa Bube and used under Creative Commons License.

Referring to their beliefs revealed what was in the hearts of these individuals, yet such a small number of these types of responses raises the thought that religion is becoming a lot less meaningful in our society.  It suggests that believing in something is far less important than having all of the “goods” that this world has to offer.

Others see success as love, family, material things, freedom, being content in their personal achievements, settling for nothing less than the top, helping others better themselves, gaining all you need in life, living meaningfully and unsurprisingly, making money.  I was genuinely surprised that more young people did not mention money.

Yet ultimately, young people want to grow and be able to look back at their life and say that they’ve accomplished something – they may have failed at certain stages, but failure is all part of the journey to success. “Success is when you excel further in your life than you were previously.  Success is a good feeling – it means progression as an individual, as well as maturity,” said a 25-year-old man.

Success seems to mean a lot to young people, as it allows them to look at themselves, all that they’ve been through and everything they’ve become.  A 15-year-old male puts it beautifully: “Success means a lot, as it means you have learnt from your prior failures and haven’t given up.”

Image from Willow Oak Counselling.
Image from Willow Oak Counselling.

There is also a sense of pride, as they want others to see them as individuals who do their best and are making something out of their lives.  A 19-year-old young mother said: “Having a child makes me want to achieve nothing but the best for me and my daughter, and settling for nothing or less, as we were created to be the best… My success will be when my daughter is old enough to see all I have done for her to lead and direct her.”

Gaining an understanding of what young people see as success was an eye-opening experience, which forced me to consider what I see as success.  I hadn’t paid much attention to this fact before, so thinking about it was quite tough, but I eventually came to my conclusion.  To me, success is being truly happy and becoming the person that you’ve always wanted to be; you will have reached your dreams and be living the life that God wants for you.  How do you view success?

Photo by OTA Photos and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by OTA Photos and used under Creative Commons License.

 

Sex education should be a major focus point in schools

The education system seriously needs a revamp to meet more of the social and emotional needs of pupils.  Too many young people are going out into the world without necessary social, relationship and overall life skills, because they are often ignored in favour of academic teaching and increasing the knowledge/skills that will help them to gain a job in the future.

One particular area that schools need to have a much stronger focus on, which is sex education.  However, it is not solely sex education that needs to be addressed, but relationship education.  I have been shocked by the number of recent articles covering sexual issues and abuse among young individuals, especially on the subject of pornography.

According to an article on the Independent website, new research revealed that “most young people find it “too easy” to accidentally see pornography while online, and almost half of teenagers regard sending sexual photos or videos as part of “everyday life””.  The research also revealed that a large number of young people think that growing up would be easier if pornography was harder for them to access. 

Pornography affects the way that individuals view sex and alters their expectations, especially young minds who may not have yet had intercourse or even been educated on subjects of a sexual nature.  Children watching pornography has led to rape, as they explore what they have seen onscreen, and young people watching porn can lead to damaging effects on their relationships.  Some wanting to copy what they see in pornography has led to boys coercing girls in anal sex , which can be risky and painful, for females in particular.

A large number of young people, particularly young men, do not seem to consider the wellbeing of others or even respect them enough as an individuals, leading to problems and sometimes abuse in relationships or even casual sexual encounters.  It does not help that we live in a highly sexualised society, which has led to many individuals thinking that sex is mandatory in a relationship and forcing a number of females to feel that intercourse is necessary in order for them to gain male attention.

Sex (and relationship) education needs to be taught from when children are in primary school, especially with the technology that they have at their fingertips and are so effortlessly able to use.  Young people need to learn about porn, sexting,  respecting females and of course, sexual intercourse.  However, they need to be taught about these topics in a productive way that will not only help and get through to young people, but will also provoke the best response from them.  After all, no one wants to be sitting through an awkward sex education class.

Photo by Sherri Samson and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Sherri Samson and used under Creative Commons License.

The Matter of Chasing Dreams

There is a matter that has been bothering me for a long time and I feel that it is often skated over.  I do not understand why young people are not encouraged to pursue their dreams, but they are rather steered towards settling for what is considered easy or just in their reach.

This is something that starts occurring in school, when pupils find themselves being swayed by their teachers and/or their parents to focus on specific subjects that are considered more academic or that they seem to excel at.  However, what if their dream makes them want to focus on a subject that has a creative focus or that they are not necessarily the best at.  Working at the subject and putting in the hard graft will likely lead to improvements and acceleration – as the saying goes, practise makes perfect.

It then continues into early and even late adult life, as we are advised to jump into just any job that will result in us earning a wage, because for many individuals in our society, it seems to be money that drives us.  Yet how many people end up feeling unhappy and depressed, because they feel trapped and forced to work in a job they despise?  Wouldn’t we have a more positive outlook on life if we pursued what makes us happy?

Dreams are defined as a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal, which means that they are important to the individual.  In this life, we should be going after what is important and doing what we love, because it not only increases positivity, but it is also good for our mental and emotional health.  Yes, it is necessary for you to have money to get by and pay your way, but there is nothing worse than being comfortable in your misery and eventually becoming emotionally vacant.

Going after our dreams is so important and our society needs to do more to not only encourage it, but also offer their support.  It starts in the schools and at home, where the figures that we look up to should speak to us about our dreams and encourage us to go out and grab them with both hands.  There also needs to be more organisations and individuals giving young people the helping hand they may need to reach those dreams.

However, you might not entirely agree with this, so I want to know your thoughts on the subject of chasing dreams.  Is it important for you to go after your dream, whatever the cost, or would prefer to stick with what will make you the most money?  Is it your dreams or money that drives you?

 

Photo by Media 123 and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Media 123 and used under Creative Commons License.

How can we prevent knife crime?

Today I read a news report about yet another young man being stabbed to death.  However, this piece not only contained information about the stabbing of this young man, but also the stabbing of two other young men.  It is also suspected that one of these individuals was stabbed by a teenage girl, which is a rather unusual occurrence.

Although reported numbers of knife murders have fallen in recent years, knife crime remains a serious issue that shows no signs of faltering.  There seems to be a continuous flow of news stories on knife crime, whether they  are reports on stabbings, possession or laws.

Numerous lives are being affected by knife crime, which is causing outrage, as some ask for tougher sentencing, and a surge in community spirit, as a number of individuals set up charities and organisations in a bid to fix this problem.  Nevertheless, young people continue to carry and use knives, and they seem to have no intention of stopping.

Knife crime is a poison that is infecting the young community and we need to find a way to stop this poison from spreading any further.  Whatever laws that have been put in place do not appear to be having the desired effect, so we need to take action to prevent it.  As young people, we really need to pull together and figure out the best way to do this, because young people respond better to other young people.

However, it all comes down to working out the best way to reach out to young people and prevent knife crime, because until that happens, it will continue to hurt the young community until there is no going back.  So how do you think that we can prevent knife crime?

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What do you see as success?

The Oxford dictionary defines success in four ways:

  1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
  2. The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.
  3. A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.
  4. The good or bad outcome of an undertaking.

As people, we all look at success differently.  One person’s definition of success might not be the same as another’s, because we are all wired individually with various interests and life goals.  Someone might view success as having a rich husband with two perfect children, while someone else might see becoming the CEO of a major company as reaching the pinnacle of success.

What we view as success is never straightforward and nobody can give a right or wrong answer.  It all comes down to the person, or perhaps the group of people, in question.  Yet it does rouse the thought of what the young people of our generation see as success.  Do they have the same views and thought processes, or are there varying definitions of success among different “cliques”, ages or peer groups?

I would like to know your thoughts on this topic, especially the young people, as it is your thoughts that I want to capture.  I will also be carrying out further research by speaking to a variety of other young people, as I plan to bring it all together and write about my findings in a future post.  So for all the young people out there, what do you see as success and what does success mean to you?

Photo by Simply CVR and used under Creative Commons Licence.
Photo by Simply CVR and used under Creative Commons Licence.

Self Harm: Tasha’s Story

Tasha* started self-harming when she was about 15-years-old, as she took a key to her lower arm and created a short scratch.  She doesn’t remember exactly what triggered it, but she remembers having feelings of anger and a desire to see a scar – “I wanted to see if I had the ability to make myself bleed,” she said.

Self-harm wasn’t something that Tasha initially thought about, but she became more aware of it when she realised that her sister was self-harming.  Tasha said: “It upset me, because I didn’t want her to hurt herself… I didn’t want her to have issues.”

Despite self-harm becoming something that annoyed Tasha, she later turned to self-harm because she didn’t care about herself – “In the beginning, it was about not liking myself. I felt stupid, I felt unattractive and I felt fat, and no one liked me.”  The fact that she didn’t care about herself made her feel that there was nothing wrong with carrying out the act, although she couldn’t stand to see her sister hurting herself.  In Tasha’s eyes, self-harm was an accomplishment rather than an issue, as well as being a way to get the attention of someone else.

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“I’m not really in touch with my emotions… I don’t really have a lot of logical thinking as to what I do,” said Tasha.  She felt more motivated to self-harm just because she could, rather than being motivated by her feelings of hurt and pain.  However, Tasha saw it as a way of expressing pent-up anger and punishing herself for when she did things that she didn’t like.

In Tasha’s opinion, self-harm was not a “bad way” of releasing anger, because she did not have to clean up anything and she did not view it as dangerous, yet she did not want her scars to be seen.  She would self-harm on her wrist, her upper and lower arms, her hip, leg and lip by using anything sharp that belonged to her, including her nails, a bookmark, keys and a cuticle knife – “I wanted to use something that was my own.”

There was a sense of self-denial, as Tasha did not feel that she needed help, because she believed that self-harm was not an issue.  Tasha felt that self-harm wasn’t an extreme measure compared to what she wanted to do, as she originally wanted to use a knife to a bigger degree, even though that would still be considered a method of self-harm.

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Nevertheless, Tasha was able to stop self-harming about a year ago.  She doesn’t know why she was able to put a stop to it with such ease, but she knew that it felt a bit hypocritical because she didn’t want her sister to self-harm.  Tasha also expressed that she can’t be bothered to self-harm anymore, “as it takes long to heal and [she] knows it’s bad”.

Now she only wants to express her anger by grabbing grass, sand or dirt – and sometimes she feels like screaming – but unfortunately she is not doing any of these things, which means that she is not actually releasing her anger.  However, Tasha still thinks about self-harming, but she won’t do it because she only thinks about taking it to a more extreme level.

“Maybe it was pointless… [as]… it didn’t make me feel better,” Tasha said.  To her, cutting and on the one occasion when she took an overdose of pills felt stupid, extra and unnecessary – “I [thought it was] stupid, because it just [didn’t] feel real…  It feels like it should [have been] part of a programme.”  Tasha thought that nothing ever felt real and she did not think that taking the pills was anything serious – “It was just egging attention, because nothing really bad ever happened to me and no one ever felt sorry for me.”  There was also the issue of always having to lie and come up with a story as to why something happened, which annoyed Tasha, especially as she doesn’t like questions.

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Although Tasha felt that self-harming was pointless, there did seem to be a point behind it.  Tasha said: “It was me hurting myself instead of others, so it was easier, because I was in control.”  She also had no self-esteem or self-confidence (although these have improved a little over time).  However, Tasha simply does not care to self-harm anymore after realising that it was never the solution to making herself feel better.

*not her real name