In the wake of the recent riots that occurred throughout the UK there has been strong condemnation of Social Media as the catalyst for inciting violence as well as a huge outcry in the media about the sophisticated use of Social Media platforms to orchestrate looting by organised gangs.
In an article at The Guardian.co.uk the Labour MP for Westminster North is quoted as saying that “the Government should launch an independent inquiry into the triggers for the events, focusing in part on the role of social media in the spread of gangs…”
In Karen Buck’s view there has been a widespread denial of the seriousness of gang culture in central London and she added: “The way that gangs have emerged very strongly in the past few years has been facilitated by the use of social media.”
It cannot be denied that gang culture is a growing problem in the UK, and this seems to have promoted a proliferation of rap and hip-hop music videos made by gangs emulating the aggressive lyrics of US rappers, and promoting the glorification of belonging to a gang.
MAC-UK is a charity that makes mental health accessible to deprived young people and engages with youngsters who may be involved in gangs. According to MAC-UK it is increasingly well known that one in three young people who offend have a mental health need which is unmet at the time of offence.
The charity was founded in 2008 by clinical psychologist Dr. Charlie Alcock who, after completing her clinical training in New York working with young offenders attached to street gangs, returned to London determined to change the situation in a radical way. Charlie founded MAC-UK alongside a group of young people from the Rowley Way Estate in Camden. Music and Change was a pilot project that saw 25 youngsters taking part in workshops including youth-led music, mental health, and life-skills.
MAC-UK is beginning to have a very tangible and real impact on the way in which mental health support is made accessible to some of the country’s most vulnerable young people.
Social Media can assist in understanding how gangs function, but the bigger picture should be to find ways for young people to invest their energy in positive social projects that can help them change their lives. Blocking access to Social Media networks, as outlined by Prime Minister David Cameron in August 2011, is not the answer. Projects like MAC-UK are the way to move forward.