Gang members more prone to depression: Study

Gang members more prone to depression: Study

Depression is a crippling disease of the mind that leaves a drastic impact on the body as well. Sometimes, it can be a root cause of numerous life-threatening diseases. When it comes to children, depression can affect their academics and other life activities. A 2016 study by the Michigan State University (MSU) deals with various aspects of depression in children, but primarily focuses on the occurrence of depressive illnesses among gang members.

Published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, the study focuses on kids who join gangs due to various reasons, such as increased cravings for money and power, higher standing in the society and acceptance by peers. The study is against the previous belief of children that by joining gangs they can get away with stressors of life. It has been observed that children consider themselves safe and secured on being recruited to gangs that are involved in wrongful activities.

Gangs make child vulnerable to substance abuse

As part of the study, lead researcher Chris Melde, associate professor of criminal justice, MSU, and his coworkers reviewed the data of over 11,000 children who joined gangs in their area. The gang members were found to experience significant depression and mental apathy, along with frequent suicidal thoughts, that proved to be detrimental to their overall well-being. Such children could not cope with everyday life challenges, and in extreme cases, their mental health condition worsened to uncontrollable levels.

It has been observed that children who have mental health issues are more inclined to join a group of delinquents than normal kids. Such kids have low self-esteem and hardly have a good social circle and so, by being a part of active gang members, they think they can achieve everything that they didn’t get from their family or school.

But the latest study refutes the claim by indicating a strong association between worsening of already present mental health issues and gang membership. The study pointed at the whopping 85,000 members in gangs that are active in the United States, suggesting that the primary motive of the youth is to gain acceptance in the society and earn lots of money. But the reality is absolutely reverse. Such gangs not only make a child vulnerable to substance abuse, but also increase his chance of becoming a victim of violence and physical abuse.

“If you think of gang membership as a coping mechanism — trying to cope with the hand you’ve been dealt in life — it doesn’t work. Kids join gangs for reasons, but when we try to find the benefits — whether it’s for protection, a sense of worth, whatever — we’re finding it actually makes an already significant problem in their lives even worse,” said Melde.

Path to recovery

Depression has an adverse impact on adolescents’ mind and overall well-being, but it is also important to understand that not all children who experience such symptoms are depressed. A mental illness, especially in youth, can affect their school and work performance, impairing peer and family relationships, and presenting frequent thoughts of death and suicide. One in seven teens aged 15-19 years has been found to attempt suicide during the depressive phase, according to a study by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. A depressed child does not have normal development in terms of physical strength and intelligence due to frequent signs of physical illnesses.

It is saddening to live with depression. Emotional health is as important as physical health. If your child is suffering from depression, you must seek professional help from the Sovereign Mental Health Services. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 to know more about various depression treatment options.

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