How can we drive down youth violence? – Part 2

Shaniqua continues to look back on a deep conversation at The Kickback, focusing on youth violence.

It was a real big conversation on June 18th, which means that I had to divide the write up into two parts, but that just means double the gems and knowledge for you. There is just so much to be taken from this discussion.

Part 1 focused on all that those present wanted to get off their chest about youth violence, and how mental health and youth violence are linked, so if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, go and catch up now.

Photo by Antonia Francis.

After speaking about the link between youth violence and mental health, I asked everyone if they thought that mental health support and services could contribute to prevention.

There was a mixture of yeahs and maybes, with Rhianna backing up her yeah by adding that people have to want to go to the services – “This is where we have to destigmatise counselling. The everyday person goes counselling,” Antonia expressed.

Hakeem thought that counselling should be part of the curriculum, with everyone having counselling once a week, which Rhianna responded to by saying that groups therapy would be more feasible. “Group therapy could be really good for youth violence,” Rhianna added.

I followed this up by asking if young people are aware of the mental health services and support available. Most didn’t think so, and Glenn added, “If they are aware, I don’t think they know how to reach out to them.” He later went further to say, “They don’t know what’s out there. They only know what’s in their environment.”

Leeman thought that speaking about it on a social level could help, while Rhianna thought that the services need to go into schools and reveal themselves – “It needs to be more accessible and more options of therapy need to be more available.”

Photo by Antonia Francis.

I then moved the conversation on from mental health, asking: “Why is there so much emphasis on weapons and acts of violence rather than the young people themselves?

Antonia quickly said, “It’s easier to focus on the weapon than the actual person. With a person, you actually have to talk to people and focus on them.” Rhianna thinks that the media pushes the knife agenda, because it elicits fear – “People are more likely to be scared of the knife than the person.”

Elliott also expressed that he never really understood the violent side of things, despite knowing people who carry out acts of violence.

Photo by Antonia Francis.

When I asked if anyone had been personally affected by youth violence, Glenn said, “I have all my life.” He went deeper by sharing, “I’ve had friends that are dead now due to it. There have been times when I’ve thought, am I ever going to escape this?”

Glenn also doesn’t think that it’s always as easy to go to therapy – “I have friends that are still in that life and I’ve tried speaking to them, and that’s hard enough. Bringing someone in, they’ll be sceptical.”

A very interesting thing Glenn said was, “I’ve been stopped and searched more than I can count, and it is so jarring. It just provokes more violence.”

As Glenn continued to speak, more and more came up, which led to us touching on money and the process of growing up. This caused Leeman to make a point – which made me think real hard and stayed with me even after the conversation was done – “I know some men who act very young, because they are institutionalised. They’re stuck after coming out of jail.”

Photo by Antonia Francis.

To round off the conversation, I asked the question, what steps can we take forward to make change and drive down youth violence?

  • “The government needs to sit down with one of the ringleaders and ask for their cooperation.  There needs to be more regulation.” – Elliott
  • “Engage.” – Elisha
  • “Maybe exploring the curriculum idea.” – Jamie
  • “Managing connection with social media.” – Leeman
  • “Talk to the young people.  Talk about what’s going on in their life.” – Rhianna

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