The link between mental health and the riots
The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel is today meeting the Transition to Adulthood Alliance, of which YoungMinds is a member, to discuss the difficulties young people face with transitions.
Up to 90% of the prison population of young offenders have one or more mental health problems.
A lack of three emotional characteristics typify antisocial behaviour and criminal activity. These are lack of empathy, an absence of emotional regulation, especially around feelings of anger, and a disregard and lack of understanding of consequences. These characteristics were all present in the actions of looters and rioters and therefore indicate that criminal behaviour has a mental health element to it as young people with good mental health have empathy, are able to regulate their emotions and understand consequences.
It is well known that many young people who are involved in the criminal justice system have mental health issues; up to 90% of the prison population of young offenders have one or more mental health problems. Recent statistics from the Home Office about those involved in the riots showed that two-thirds of them were on the Special Needs Register at school. We believe at YoungMinds that violence and aggression is a mental health issue and needs to be addressed through building emotional resilience and teaching young people to mange their emotions, consider the consequences of their actions and develop empathy including those in the transition to adulthood.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) also need to make themselves more accessible to young people especially those at risk, to ensure they receive support and appropriate services. The way mental health services are commissioned and configured makes it very difficult for young people who are offending to get the support they need. For example, young people who are diagnosed with disorders like ADHD, mild learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorders and personality disorder, even if seen by CAMHS services, will not be taken on by adult services; prisons have a high proportion of young people with these disorders and therefore the gap in service provision is manifested in the make-up of the young people’s prison population where mental health problems are rife.
Many young people in the criminal justice system have a host of other vulnerabilities including being the victims of sexual and physical abuse, neglect, school exclusion, drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment and homelessness. The relationship between these vulnerabilities and mental health issues are well known and therefore poor provision of mental health support just adds to all these issues.
The transition from children’s mental health services to adult services at 18 years of age is also a problematic issue as many young people do not make the transition and end up lost in the system, not receiving the support they need and consequently their offending behaviour increases.
YoungMinds is a member of the Transition to Adulthood Alliance.
The Independent Riots, Communities and Victims Panel was set up by the Government to help understand why the riots took place.