A new study from London’s Queen Mary University claims the majority of young men in gangs are suffering from some kind of psychiatric illness.
Researchers assessed 4,664 men aged between 18 and 34 from across Britain, including areas with high ethnic minority populations, social deprivation and gang membership like Hackney.
The study looked at connections between levels of psychiatric illness, violence and gang membership. Of the 108 who claimed to be members of a gang, a quarter screened positive for psychosis and 85.8% had an antisocial personality disorder. Around a third of these had attempted suicide and more than half had an anxiety disorder. However, the study found instances of depression were significantly less common among gang members and violent men.
Around 1% of British men aged 18 to 34 are gang members. This rises to 8.6% in Hackney, where one in five black men admitted to gang membership.
The man behind the study, Professor Jeremy Coid said the way these men are helped should change: “With street gangs becoming increasingly evident in UK cities, membership should be routinely assessed in young men presenting to healthcare services with psychiatric illness in urban areas with high levels of gang activity.”
The BBC cites London charity MAC-UK as a group who are already working on this. Based in Camden and Southwark, MAC-UK targets mental health in young people involved in gangs and antisocial behaviour in an innovative way.
Dr Charlie Alcock, chief executive officer of the charity and a clinical psychologist, says youth offending is a public mental health issue, “We support young people by taking mental health on to the streets and working with them in a place which is convenient and comfortable for them.”