There are 4 groups of violent people: 1. Chronic delinquents/criminals; 2. Those that are severely mentally ill or autistic with 1 major public eruption of violence; 3. Those with primarily family violence 4. Those that are violent within groups such as gangs and terrorists. Youth violence is found in all 4 categories. Youth violence prevention is possible in all 4 groups. This article discusses groups 1 and 2.
Youth that are chronically delinquent and aggressive generally have problems beginning around ages 5 or 6. They often come from families that are chaotic, violent, abusive, neglectful, and have low warmth, high conflict, and poor disciplinary practices. If the violence in their young lives is sufficient to be traumatic it can interfere with normal social, self-management, and problem solving development. Youth Violence Prevention in this group must involve families and coordination of care.
Violence Prevention for Chronic or Mentally Ill/Autistic Youth
The Chronic group frequently consists of the youth that cross over from the child protective services programs to the juvenile services programs. They are often called “Crossover Kids (50-72% of the Juvenile Services population).” These children show signs of aggression that can be seen in kindergarten or elementary school, often in bullying and out of control behaviors. In fact, developmentally, children should no longer be using aggression to get their needs met by the time they enter school.
Youth violence prevention requires developmental skill building, supportive coaching, therapy with their entire family, and communication among all agencies involved with the family. They may also need medication. All members of the youth’s family with mental health, substance abuse, criminality, rage and anger, or violence problems must be in their own individual treatment for their children to be able to grow up to be healthy.
Youth that are mentally ill or on the Autism Spectrum and at risk for violence are more likely to have emotional outbursts (yelling and screaming and hitting objects) than outward aggression toward people. They also may be extremely intelligent. In either case, as in the group above, their social, self-management and problem solving skills are delayed. When facing reduced support and a major life problem that injures their ego, they can erupt into a major public violent act. Youth violence prevention necessitates developmental skill building, supportive coaching, and working with the family is the treatment of choice. Those in this group will also need medication. All treatment providers must coordinate their interventions. Parents may need to stay involved with these youth well into adulthood. This may mean that the parents obtain the means to hospitalize their children when they become dangerous, despite the fact that they are adults.
Social Support for Youth Violence Prevention
Social support is something that everyone recognizes as important in times of stress. It is more important for those that have immature skills for interpersonal relationships, self-soothing, problem solving, and moral reasoning. When someone lacks these skills, it is urgent for them to have someone that can help them learn these skills in real life situations, such as a life coach. A better term for them might be “Success Coaches.” Once these children are identified, they and their families should receive intensive supports and coaching to strengthen their “Skills for Success.
To eliminate the stigma of mental health services, it is necessary to change the view of the service and make it as desirable as Coca Cola or any other brand advertised on TV. A promising way to eliminate the stigma of behavioral health is through Health Homes. Health Homes combine medical and behavioral health services. Services can be provided in an office or in the family’s home. Mental health and wellness services become part of the “Health Home,” which is a growing movement across the country.
For example, no one is hesitant to take their child to the doctor for a broken leg, but many hesitate to take a family member to a therapist for mental health issues. However, both physical and behavioral health need to be readily accepted and the movement for health homes, to join physical and behavioral health may accomplish this.
Health Homes assess a wide spectrum of strengths, skills, and problems of every person entering the program. It becomes the entry door for other services that are attached to it, such as mental health, substance abuse, developmental skill building, physical health, and family health. It is a model that has great promise for youth violence prevention.
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Dr. Kathy Seifert is a psychologist, author, lecturer and entrepreneur. Her websites include DrKathySeiftert.com Care2Systems.com , and PreventBullyingNow.info . She is the author of several best-selling books including, “How Children Become Violent,” “Youth Violence,” and “Big B and little b Bullies” as well as relaxation MP3’s. Dr. Seifert has appeared on CNN, FOX, Discovery ID, and Ebru TV. She is an Official Bullying Expert on HowToLearn.com and writes a blog for Psychology Today called Stop the Cycle. Seifert’s new campaign is called “Stop the Cycle of Violence”
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