Glimpses [US Version]


Across America, there will be young people who will go to bed hungry tonight. There will be those who aren’t concerned about whether they will go to school tomorrow and others who are undeterred if they get charged with an offence or are even imprisoned. There will even be those who are indifferent about whether they die tomorrow because they don’t feel loved, valued or wanted.

Across America, there will be young people who will go to bed hungry tonight. There will be those who aren’t concerned about whether they will go to school tomorrow and others who are undeterred if they get charged with an offence or are even imprisoned. There will even be those who are indifferent about whether they die tomorrow because they don’t feel loved, valued or wanted.

Welcome to the world of delinquent young offenders, gang members and knife and weapon carriers. A place where highly expressed emotions, extreme exuberance and feelings of being consumed by anger are the norm and which regularly manifest in uncooperative, defiant, and hostile behaviours toward peers, parents, teachers, and other authority figures.

Welcome to the world of psychiatric labels - ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and Conduct Disorder - and mental health services that are overwhelmed and under-resourced, whose main solution is to prescribe psychotropic medication to young people, which increases their risk of violent behavior and suicidal ideation.

Finally, welcome to the world of poor parenting, absent fathers and a plethora of social problems that keep on growing and include neglect, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment, racism, bullying, poverty, self-harm, homophobia, illiteracy, inadequate housing, truancy, drug and alcohol issues, underage sex and an excess of anti-social behavior.

These social issues are not just indicative of America. They occur in almost every country in the world. Children and young people are constantly being robbed of their childhood because of poverty, abuse and neglect. The ability to be resilient and to survive is about as good as it gets – to escape death before adolescence has ended is an achievement. The ugly face of crime and abuse constantly regurgitates its pain and suffering from one generation to the next – different actors but similarities in the script to the upcoming generation. Therefore, while it can be said that time never stands still, it is also wise to know that some things in life don’t change quickly. Glimpses is a collection of 26 short stories consisting of 16 males and 12 females – aged between 14 and 18. It depicts life in the 2000s and provides snapshots of the lives of young people in the UK and Ireland.

Many young people find a belonging in crime and like-minded peers that they don’t meet at home or in education. They quickly become enmeshed in gang and peer behavior, which tricks them into believing this way of life will bring relief from their emotional trauma and pain. Those who are brutalized by abuse and neglect easily become brainwashed into reckless lifestyles fueled by drugs, crime, violence and murder. Any moment of joy is short-lived. Unfortunately, these lifestyles are doomed to fail. A gang career lasts between the ages of 13 and 22, but essentially, this period becomes their whole life as they often end up dead, in prison or all washed up. Gang members are getting younger and rise up the ranks by demonstrating a willingness to stab to prove themselves and afterwards often gloat about such attacks on social media.

It is essential for young people in society, like those featured in Glimpses, to re-establish belief in their capabilities to rebuild their shattered lives. It is not a mere question of being able to tell the difference between right and wrong. Many young offenders are traumatised because of the emotional anguish they have experienced and, as a result, have lost all connection with the spiritual essence of themselves. Instead, they dive headlong into anti-social and offending behaviour. Their untapped potential has never been given the opportunity to manifest itself because of the traumatic domestic situations they have experienced. This will only add to these young people's total lack of self-esteem.

Most people will have heard of the word ‘psyche’ but may not fully understand what the word means. In simple terms, it means the mind or spirit of the person. The Greek derivation of the word means ‘breath’ and ‘life’. Our psyche accounts for our deeper feelings and attitudes that form our opinions and behaviour. It is our inner layer – our inner ‘template’. All of the characters illustrated in Glimpses will have damaged psyches. Their experiences have meant their behaviour is formed to such an extent that they cause damage to others and themselves simultaneously. Deep down inside, these young people are souls crying out for help. They are in pain and lash out at those closest to them as a direct response. They want others to feel the anguish and suffering they endure daily.

They deserve the right to have a support system in place to help them rebuild their self-confidence and realise they can have a better, more meaningful life. They need a secure structure to enable them to start restoring their lives, and this must consist of a balance of discipline and love in equal measures. They are not lost causes, as many people in society would have us believe. Instead, here are young people who were harmed by the adults who were supposed to care for them in the first place.

There are few happy endings in Glimpses, so it is important to think about who or what could make a difference in young lives of this kind. We need proper investment in creating a support network for disaffected teenagers, including educational institutions that don’t give up easily and cater to those not academically interested. More vocational courses need to be made available to create a curriculum with more practice-based learning like apprenticeships in music, carpentry, plumbing, mechanics and electronics. More community workers are needed to target those living in deprived areas to act as mentors and role models. These workers need to relate to the young people and their experiences and will have lived through similar experiences or, at some point in their lives, been involved in crime, violence and gangs before realising the folly of this lifestyle. Indeed, some of the best community workers are reformed characters who can share their experiences and follies with those who are going through similar situations, where the pitfalls, woes and fallacies are explored and discussed. Further investment in breaking the cycle of destruction is to invest more in the care system. While the system is fragile and imperfect, it is necessary to keep it in place to protect the most vulnerable who can no longer remain within the family home. More foster parents are needed who can make a difference in a young person’s life and who will not give up easily on those who are challenging to look after. Foster parents with a good understanding of diversity and the needs of disaffected and traumatised children are essential too; those who can introduce them to boundaries, routines and offer stimulation in activities and animal welfare and take them on family holidays.

Only in the last few decades has ADHD come to the forefront of psychiatric diagnoses for children and young people. It is a big money-making industry with pharmaceutical companies joining forces with the psychiatric profession in medicating as many as possible. Diagnoses of ADHD are spurious and not based on any credible scientific evidence. As a social worker, I have never known a child take ADHD medication and thrive, either in education or any other area of their life. It is ludicrous to think that putting an amphetamine-based stimulant into a young body can produce any meaningful outcome. Mental health services for children and young people are often overstretched and poorly resourced, with long waiting lists. Governments may espouse rhetoric that they want to invest in young people but turn a blind eye to national services that think it’s okay to leave them in distress and wait for up to a year to see a counsellor. This is tragic, given the high numbers of young people who are depressed, anxious, self-harming and have suicidal ideation or who are confused about their sexuality or gender identity, cases of which increase annually.

It is unlikely that any government initiative will ever bring widespread change. Instead, it is usually a person who makes a difference in a young person’s life, whether a caring and compassionate foster parent, social worker, teacher, youth or community worker, police officer or therapist. This will be that person who has valued and respected the individual and their diversity and who, somewhere in their involvement with the young person, will have made their presence felt by saying or doing something that plants a seed and influences the young mind. In this sense, the giver becomes more important than the gift. The kindness of the human touch prevails and is valued and remembered long after the young person enters adulthood and takes on a whole new set of challenges.

As a writer, I try to incorporate both sides of humanity into my writing, having learned that life is far from grim and that there is enough kindness, compassion, love and humour to overcome life’s obstacles, regardless of how much misery, abuse, or injustice exists.
Written by Declan Henry


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