Social Work News: Links to Gang Membership and Depression

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A new study proves that children and young adults who decide to join gangs are more likely to be depressed and suicidal. These mental health problems are only continuing to worsen finds a news study coauthored by a Michigan State University criminologist.

The Problem with Gang life

An estimated numbed of 850,000 individuals are associated with gangs in the United States. According to the US Department of Justice, gangs remain a “stubbornly persistent” problem. They appeal to the particularly poor, minority youth as a way to escape hardship for the promise of money, protection, status, and a sense of belonging that they aren’t finding in their neighborhoods or families.

The trouble with gang life begins with the false promises given to young, impressionable youth. Many of these children and young adult’s role models lead them to believe that illegal and even dangerous behavior is a normal aspect of life.

Links to Depression

Chris Melde, an MSU associate professor of criminal justice has studied youth gang for years and found no discernible benefits. In his latest study, Melde examined national survey data of more than 11,000 middle- and high-school students. He discovered that youth who join gangs had significantly higher levels of depression and suicidal thoughts than those who didn’t join gangs.

How Social Workers Help

It’s proven that youth development workers have a positive effect on children and young adults. These passionate professional’s work emphasizes reducing exposure to risk factors, such as gangs, and increasing protective factors, such as stable peers and caring adults.

An effective social worker is creative, energetic, compassionate, and has the belief in the potential of every young person to achieve great things and make contributions to their community. Oftentimes the social worker assists in the betterments of the young person’s relationship with their parent or family, and nurtures the bond between them.

The social worker is a counselor, and their core function is resilience-oriented counseling, conducted in the context of a collaborative shared-power relationship.

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