Category Archives: Binge drinking

A breeding ground for crime

The crucial question of “how should street crime be tackled?” has risen again after the sentencing of those responsible for killing the young London lawyer Thomas Rhys Pryce.  Donnel Carty (aged 19) and Delano Brown (aged 18) robbed Pryce of his mobile phone before stabbing him in the heart.

It’s very interesting to read on the BBC message boards and Have Your Say page that public opinion seem to support the “hang ’em” solution (implying that these  “scum” are lost causes, naturally doomed to forever commit crimes until the Justice System is well enough equipped to discipline and imprison them effectively) rather than taking the more optimistic view that many young people today are bored and turning to crime only in order to fill a void created by the unhealthy environment around them.

The fact which really needs to be addressed is that everyone is born with innate emotional needs that have to be fulfilled in the world if we are to flourish and be mentally healthy.  (Psychologists call these needs ‘human givens’ because they are programmed into us from our genes.) If families, schools and society generally prevent children from getting their innate needs met in balanced and productive ways, we are, in effect, stopping them maturing well by stunting their mental and emotional life.

The rising levels of violent crime occurs as young people try to meet their innate needs, which nature is driving them to do, by turning to gangs and criminal activity because nothing else more wholesome is on offer.  Delinquent behaviour follows on from a natural effort to fulfil these needs; such as for status, control, being stretched, feeling that life is meaningful and being part of a community. Crime is a destructive path to follow, but it does fulfil many of these emotional needs for these deprived youngsters.

People don’t come into the world as criminals but much of the culture in the UK at the moment provides the perfect conditions for generating mental illness and raising children to be violent and antisocial.  It is our society that is creating young criminals like Carty and Brown.

It will require drastic measures to create a more healthy society and, until there is a deeper understanding of the importance of this backed up by the political will to do something about it, these problems and the tragedies that follow from them will only get worse.

Posted by: Eleanor

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The UK needs more than ‘Supernannies’

A few weeks ago it emerged that the Youth Justice system in the UK has reached a crisis point – with literally only a few beds available.

In response, the Government is targeting parents with their £4 million “super nannies” scheme – which will install 80 child psychologists in high crime areas to teach parents good parenting skills.

I was speaking this week to an array of psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs and other health workers at a MindFields workshop and they were all in agreement that, whilst the intentions of the Government may appear to be good, changing the way children are brought up cannot be done as a short-term, ‘sticking plaster’ task of the kind politicians love so much. No one in the room felt able to trust politicians’ ability to do much to change things for the better. The feeling expressed was that they are floundering on the major issues of parenting, mental health and anti-social and criminal behaviour in just the same way they are over the war in Iraq.

To really make a difference requires long-term – a project lasting decades. That requires a bigger, more ‘true’ organising idea about what makes for a good life if it were to carry the population with it. The work would involve changing the very nature of our culture and its priorities. Just sending in 80 child psychologists to deprived areas to give ‘parenting classes’ only scratches the surface and, ultimately, will fail unless the fundamental needs of people can be met in the environment in much better ways than they are at present.

And it really must be seen as long-term endeavour. The brains of some children are already so damaged by their upbringing that they will remain a burden on the rest of us until they die. To stop this sad state of affairs getting worse will require an almost superhuman effort driven from a clear vision that guides the work over decades.

Until all agencies, education, health, government, media, work in tune with nature – the ‘human givens’ – and start to create a healthier culture by pushing for the kind of changes needed, there will be no meaningful improvements made.

The group I was talking to were unanimous that current government policies, by encouraging the infantilising of the population instead of helping it mature, are incapable of working because the laws and systems are too complex and hopelessly unrealistic. If this is a true reflection of the world we are now living in it’s not surprising then that many children are not growing up to fulfil in healthy ways what they might otherwise be capable of.

However hard parents try, many can’t help the fact that they are bringing up their children in a deeply uninspiring, criminally inclined environment that is culturally shallow. They live in a world where greedy, selfish behaviour is encouraged by strong exhortations to emotional expression that are constantly demonstrated and encouraged through the media (strong emotions, happy or sad, keep us ‘stupid’ and easy to condition) and families are collapsing.

When can we trust politicians?

We talk to a large number of people in the caring professions and education, thousands every year, and it is clear that there is a breakdown of trust between these people and politicians. No one expects politicians to do what is needed any more, yet they all expect politicians to interfere and make things worse. Despite this, changing our corrupting environment does require political leadership of intelligence and perspicacity. Even if only some of the taxpayer’s money that is wasted each year by government (£83 billion pounds according to the European Central Bank) was spent more wisely, much could be done to achieve what is actually needed, as required by the reality of the situation, instead of political ideology.

But on the present showing there seem to be no politicians interested in creating a healthier culture, or, if they do exist, they are so bogged down in power struggles and autistic bureaucratic political and civil service systems that they can’t operate. Whatever the reason, until politicians start to sincerely seek help from people who know how to facilitate making it easier for the innate needs of children and adults to be met more healthily in this country, and back them with money, the situation will deteriorate further. Children will continue to get their innate needs met but do so in ways that diminish them and society at large, as when a child’s need to connect up to larger groups and have status is satisfied by becoming part of the local delinquent criminal gang because they have no alternative.

Working with the givens of human nature should be the touchstone of any Government policy.

Posted by: Ivan

Teenage drinking affects development of hippocampus


Following on from the previous drink related post – I happened to see this sobering (haha) report in a magazine about the neurology behind teenage drinking.

Alcohol misuse in teenage years has been shown to affect the neural circuitry of the hippocampus which deals with complex behaviour such as goal setting, decision making and self control.

Young people enter their teens with their brains ‘hotwired’ to more primitive emotional expectation circuits, experiencing drastic remodeling of the higher brain as they develop, including more neural connections within and around the hippocampus.

A related study has suggested that teenagers who start drinking before they are 14 shown a higher likelihood (43%) of alcohol dependancy in later life – as opposed to people who wait until they are 21 to start drinking (9%).

It may be speculated then, that drinking too much alcohol (the limit has never been specified) throughout your teenage years may physically hinder your brains capacity for decision making and controlling your behaviour, leading to a higher likelihood of addiction.

Posted by: Eleanor