Adolescent gang members and mental health (2)

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The prevalence of psychiatric disorders in detained youth is greater in comparison to the counterparts in the community (60–70% versus 20–25%). Youth who are detained have increased rates of psychiatric co-morbidity; ethnic and gender differences have been identified There are higher rates of psychosis, anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, suicide attempts, alcohol dependence, and drug dependence in young adult gang members in comparison to violent and non-violent men; however, both gang members and violent men had a lower prevalence of depression.

Why do people join gangs?

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Abuse, neglect, domestic violence and poverty…. Basically if you grow up in the hood and from early age on all you see around you is people getting hurt, killed, abused… what do you expect? In addition to that, if you experience abuse at home it makes you feel so little, helpless, hopeless and vulnerable that you try to get away from it. Children usually form a bond with their mother. She is the first caregiver, the first human being a newborn get in contact and build a bond with. She is the first person a child trusts and depends on when it comes to protection. Second comes dad.

Now imagine mom getting beat up by dad and a little 3-4 year old sees that. What the child develops is a thinking like, if mom can’t even protect herself from the beating, how could she protect me. And at the same time you as a little dude can’t trust your dad no more either because if he beats your mom he will most likely beat you too sooner or later. And if he is and abuser, how would he prepare you for real life, without gang banging, without violence and all that. He can’t because he most likely has never learned it himself.

And if it isn’t abuse it is usually because other family members are members. It is very impressive if the older cousin is a gang member doing all the stuff your mama told you not to do. It is curiosity. It is wanting to do what the older boys do. But even that goes back to underlying emotional abuse at home. Abuse doesn’t always have to physical. It can be that your parents try to protect you so bad from the world that it make you feel so insecure and small as a child that you start looking at your older brothers or cousins or uncles and you start seeking excitement.  You start wanting to experience life and you start feeling overprotected and you start trying to break free.

If someone always makes every decision for you there comes a point where you start feeling that it isn’t right-which is usually in the early teens, when you start realizing that in other families things are different and you start trying to figure out what is right and wrong and of course as a boy at 12-13 years of age you start looking at older male family members and other boys in the neighborhood. Same goes for when you are neglected at home. No matter what kind of abuse it is, physical or emotional – most boys join gangs around that age for the reasons I mentioned.

And if all this comes with poverty and being constantly told, no, you cant have this, no we cant go there, no I don’t have the money for this or that, you will go out and try to get things on your own and at 13, 14 there is only very few ways to make money fast.

Like I said in the beginning all these things can be broken down to a child developing insecurities and the idea that they are not good enough for this world. They want to be something, a part of something, they are seeking a meaning, a feeling of being important in this world and they start covering their insecurities and weaknesses by joining gangs, where they have to prove that they are somebody who deserves respect and acceptance – things they received at home.

The only problem is that if a young dude tries to cover up his perceived shortcomings and weaknesses with aggression and anger, he will develop serious mental health problems and disorders but as a young dude you don’t see that part coming. I wish something could be done about this tho.