Public Health England (PHE) has published the findings of a review that assessed interventions to improve mental health among gang-affiliated young people.
Five studies were included.
The studies reported largely positive results, although the authors said the quality of the evidence was medium to low. Key details such as recruitment methodology, drop-out rates of participants, exact scores on outcome measures, consideration of confounders in analysis and length and quality of follow-up after the intervention were largely missing from the studies, they said.
Three of the studies reported a statistically significant mental health and/or well-being benefit following intervention.
Cognitive-behavioural group therapy led to lower levels of post-traumatic stress disorder among inmates of a juvenile detention centre, but there were no changes in anger, anxiety or depression.
A community-based peer mentoring programme led to improved knowledge and attitudes regarding violence and prevented an increase in problem behaviours among children in a neighbourhood with high volumes of gang activity.
A community-based well-being service reduced the severity of mental health needs among young people with experience of the criminal justice system and labelled as ‘gang-affiliated’.
However, the evidence was too limited in scope and quality to provide recommendations in relation to what works, the review concluded.
The authors commented: “Poor mental health and wellbeing and gang-affiliation appear to have a cyclical relationship, so this area of research should be a priority for medical and criminal justice professionals alike.”