How can we drive down youth violence? – Part 1

Shaniqua looks back on a deep conversation at The Kickback, focusing on youth violence.

On June 18th, we sat down to talk about youth violence, a topic that continues to be an important at YPI, resulting in really big conversation. So big, in fact, that I’ve had to split the conversation into two parts.

I started by simply asking those in attendance what about youth violence they wanted to get off their chest.
Antonia was first, saying, “I want them to stop killing each other.” Elisha said that he sees it on the news all the time and that something needs to change. Dwight asked, “When did it become okay to just kill each other?”

Glenn had quite a bit to say, as “this topic really hits close to home” for him – “It’s not just postcode wars. These are personal issues. We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know how this started… Youth clubs wouldn’t necessarily work as much as people think.”

Linking on from what Glenn said, Antonia raised the point that “we’re talking about a completely new generation”- “They may not know what they want. They may not even know what a youth club is.” Nigel went even further to say that they don’t know what their options are or what’s out there. He also brought up that “a lot of them want to make money, but school does not teach them how to make money.”

Nigel also made the point of saying, “They don’t feel valued, so if they don’t feel valued, how will they value someone else’s life?” In response, Dwight asked, “Doesn’t this show a breakdown in society?”

Photo by Antonia Francis.

We then got on to the reasoning behind the acts of violence, to which Hakeem shared that he knows some people who haven’t lived a certain lifestyle and have gotten caught up for no reason. Rhianna responded by saying that there’s always a choice in every aspect of life, and there’s always a reason why, to which Elisha added, “Everyone has their own minds of what they want to do.”

Rhianna also importantly said, “Youth violence is multi-faceted,” which I think is so vital to remember, so we keep in mind that cannot try to find a one size fits all solution, as that is only detrimental to young people.

This also brought us on to drill music, with Antonia saying, “You may see it as glorification, but if I listen to drill, I think rah, that’s somebody’s lifestyle.” Rhianna later added, “When I listen to drill music, I think, wow, what they’re going through is a lot. I think they need healing.”

From drill, we on to society – “It depends on who you class as society. If you look at them, they don’t give a damn about society. They only care about the reasons they think about,” Glenn expressed. Nigel went on to provide some serious food for thought, saying, “If you’re surrounded by people who do the same thing, that’s your society.”

We then got on to image and aesthetic – “It’s a really big image thing. What they may actually be feeling may not be real themselves,” Antonia said. This later led to Nigel sharing, “My anger stemmed from, I didn’t know how to be upset as a young man… You’re not allowed to be upset as a child.”

Photo by Antonia Francis.

What Nigel said hit me hard, as he perfectly articulated what I see all too often – young men immediately resorting to anger, because they don’t know how to be upset or fully tap into their emotions. This flowed into my next question: What are your thoughts on how mental health links to youth violence?

Antonia thinks that it’s about dealing with emotion, as the “whole emotional and mental health thing is unfair from men to women” – “Why are women allowed to be emotional all the time and men aren’t?” Dwight also said, “Depression can manifest itself in anger… You can’t deal with your emotions,” while Elliott believes, “It’s down to groups like this to sit down and ask them what they want. No one sat down to ask them that… It’s about asking what they want.”

Rhianna believes that mental health and youth violence are extremely related to each other, which she backed up by saying that a high number of people in the prison population have mental health issues, and that there’s a lot of PTSD not being addressed.

Look out for Part 2 of our conversation, when we’ll be speaking more about mental health, being personally affected by youth violence and solutions.

Photo by Antonia Francis.

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