BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Youth Violence



Youth and young adulthood are stages of development where risk factors for violence are most evident and pronounced. Consequently, more people at this stage die from acts of violence compared to all diseases combined (Irwin, Berg & Cart, 2002). On a daily basis, young people across the world are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities. These exposures to violence cause significant physical, mental, and emotional damage in addition to long-term behaviour disorders that can last well into old age.

Youth violence is a global health problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 200,000 homicides yearly among youth and young adults aged 10-29 years, making homicide the fourth leading cause of death in this age group. About 83% of these perpetuators and victims are male, and most of these deaths occur in low and middle-income communities across countries. In the United States, homicides among individuals aged 15 to 24 were one of the top three leading causes of death in 2015. A study in Ontario Canada showed that 10% of students reported having carried weapons (such as guns or knives) while 6% reported having participated in gang fights (Adlaf, Pagua-Boak, Beitchman & Wolfe, 2005). Of the individuals that reported carrying weapons, 79% had experienced a physical assault in the last year (Wortley & Tanner, 2006). Therefore, it remains unclear why these young people carry weapons; whether to offend (commit crimes) or to defend themselves against criminals.

The term youth violence cuts across a wide range of behaviours and actions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), youth violence can be described as the harmful or destructive behaviours carried out by youth beginning from early ages of life,  and may continue into young adulthood. Some implicated behaviours and actions that constitute violence among youths include bullying, slapping, pushing, shoving, hitting, fist-fighting and killing. Some kinds of violence, such as bullying, can cause more emotional harms than physical harms while others, such as robbery and assault (with and without weapons) can lead to serious injury and even death. Exposing young people to violence can also  hinder development, cause traumas and create long lasting scars. These youth are usually underserved, and the social assistance and welfare systems responsible for their upkeep are often  fragmented, indifferent, inefficient and ineffective.

The best way to tackle youth violence is through prevention; stopping it before it starts. Several prevention strategies have been identified and proper application can help stop or prevent the cycle of violence. Schools and communities can help reduce youth violence by developing interventions  that combine prevention and treatment strategies. Center for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) has the following recommendations:

  • Support marginalized communities by building capacity for healthy and supportive environments.
  • Engage and include communities most involved in youth violence, in identifying solutions
  • Create strong community and school-based programs and service
  • Provide parenting resources for families to improve parent-child relationship as well as to address mental health concerns linked to youth violence
  • Develop tools and targeted interventions that support individuals, families and communities along the continuum of prevention, intervention and treatment

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