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Mobile youth services working with communities across Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
The Link Between Mental Health And Behaviour

The link between mental health and behaviour

Studies link low level mental health with antisocial behaviour…

I recently attended a strategy board meeting for Worcester City Early Help discussing the low level mental health, this spurred me on to find out what links there are between; low level mental health, risk taking behaviour and consequently anti-social behaviour.

I find this fascinating and wanted to share some key findings and their relevance to our work here in Worcestershire.

From the Early Help Needs Assessment evidence review:

Youth Crime/ASB

There is evidence that many risk factors associated with crime and anti-social behaviour can be identified at a very early age and highlight the importance of parenting and childcare programmes to support healthy social and emotional development (e.g. Allen, 2011). This positive development must continue through universal services in schools and youth activities, with attachment to school being one of the key protective factors. It is important for young people to have activities out of school, as evidence suggests that if they use drinking alcohol as a pastime they are at greatest risk of drinking heavily and unsupervised (Morleo et al, 2012).

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, 2013) shows that a diagnosis of conduct disorder is strongly associated with poor educational performance, social isolation; and in adolescence, substance misuse and increased contact with the criminal justice system. This association often continues into adult life.

Alcohol and drug use – links with ASB

There are clear indications nationally of a causal link between alcohol and drug use amongst young people and becoming involved in criminal activity. For example, in a study of 15,000 children and young people aged 14 to 17 (Green & Ross, 2010), drinking alcohol regularly (once or twice a week) was a strong predictor of becoming involved in criminal behaviour in the following year (Figure 1). A 15 year old drinking once or twice a week is six times more likely than a non-drinker to be involved in graffiti, ASB or vandalism, even after adjusting for other things.

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The Worcestershire picture

Analysis of the percentage of Victims, Accused and Arrested 0-18 year olds in Worcestershire as a percentage of all records (Figure 2) shows that the volume of crimes and hence arrests and accused is reducing year on year. The percentage of all victims who are 0-18 is reasonably constant over the last 5 fiscal years whereas the percentages of accused and arrested have both dropped significantly over time.

This would suggest a reduction in criminality in under 18s; however, it is important to state that there have been considerable efforts to keep young people out of prison through initiatives such as Restorative Justice (RJ). This scheme also has the advantage of giving the victim of crime the opportunity to tell the perpetrator how they have been affected and an opportunity to propose restorative actions they can do to remedy the situation. This might be actions to benefit the community.

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  • Allen, G. 2011. Early Intervention: The Next Steps. London: The Cabinet Office.
  • Green, R. & Ross, A. 2010. Young people’s alcohol behaviour and its relationship to criminal outcomes and other behaviour. London: Department for Education.
  • Mentor. 2013. Drugs, alcohol and youth crime – counting the cost. London: Mentor
  • Morleo, M. et al. 2011. Changes in young people’s alcohol consumption and related violence, sex and memory loss. NWPHO.
  • NICE 2013. ASB and conduct disorders in CYP: recognition, intervention and management. Clinical guideline 158. London: NICE.