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Preventing crime starts in schools, says 15 year old male living in South East London

Friday 6th December 2019
having risen by 7% in the last year alone. The epidemic is dramatically effecting the young community, so what can be done to change this?

When a parent chooses a school for their child, they know the school will have a big role to play in their children's life." data-share-imageurl="https://leapconfrontingconflict.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/image/banter-snaps-9o8YdYGTT64-unsplash.jpg">

Crime in the UK is on the rise. An article recently featured on the BBC stated that knife crime, in particular, has reached an all-time high, having risen by 7% in the last year alone. The epidemic is dramatically effecting the young community, so what can be done to change this?

When a parent chooses a school for their child, they know the school will have a big role to play in their children's life. After home, school is the place where young people spend most of their time. These institutions therefore have a role to play in how students develop into positively contributing members of society. Mental health issues are known to be a factor in youth crime. Therefore, vulnerable young people need targeted support since mental health issues can be very detrimental to young minds when ignored. I believe that we, as a society, should take mental health as seriously as physical health.

My school in South East London often links mental health to exams and stress in upper school years but rarely links it to crime, violence and conflict. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between mental illness and youth offending. The Mental Health Foundation has identified a higher than usual level of risk of mental illness among youth offenders.

In my experience, learning more about mental health has helped me better understand it and how I can help others who might be going through a difficult time. It has helped me to understand what to say and how to respond when someone asks to talk to me. I have seen the reduction of stigma and insensitive comments after informing the people around me about the causes of mental health issues and the effects they can have on people.

Mental health issues can result in significant conflict, both external and internal. These conflicts can include:

  • Withdrawal from friends, families and activities
  • Detachment from reality (delusions)
  • Excessive anger, hostility and violence
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings.

The reduction of stigma around mental health reduces conflict in many ways. For example, the reduction of stigma could give someone the ability to talk to friends and family about their feelings and thoughts. Talking about issues makes them easier to address and therefore less dangerous. Reducing stigma and having open conversations helps people who are suffering to get closer to their friends and family instead of withdrawing from them.

PSHE is a subject taught in most schools and will be mandatory in all English and Irish schools by 2020. PSHE helps children consider mindfulness and learn about important issues. The subject also helps to teach students that they should talk about their mental wellbeing. The problem with PSHE is that the topics addressed in class change regularly without going into enough depth and rarely deal with the issue of mental wellbeing alone.

A more thorough attempt to educate children about the support they could receive is needed. I believe that schools are crucial in supporting and preventing children from getting to a place where they cause violence, join gangs or commit crimes.

In some schools, there isn’t training for teachers on what to do when they notice students with mental health issues. Consequently, teachers may not have the capability to deal with situations effectively. Due to this, I think it would be beneficial to provide training in dealing with mental health issues for those who work closely with young people.

My school is very good at making sure students have people to talk about their mental health. Nevertheless, we need to make sure students are also aware of places to go when they are not at school or don’t want teachers and peers to know about the struggles they are having.

Caleb is doing his Year 11 work experience with Leap. He has conducted independent research into mental health and is interested in comparing his findings to his own personal experience in his school.

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