From Depression to Gang Culture: A Universal Aid

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From Depression to Gang Culture: A Universal Aid

I, you, me, he, she, it, they, we, us.

The English language is littered with pronouns. They are a necessary compartment to everything we say, everything we write.

Except in science.

Perhaps it is not the same everywhere—but when reporting on an experiment at my school, one must refrain from using personal pronouns.

For example, one would say, "The water was poured" rather than "I poured the water," or risk losing a mark.

Very occasionally, I wonder if the same system should apply to sportswriting. Or is the personal aspect what sets it apart from other forms of journalism?

Globalization, and the loss of the personal touch, is just one of the massive problems the world faces today.

Walk into a Starbucks or a Costa, and nine times out of ten, the service will be sub-standard, the tables sticky, the queues long.

Walk into a cafe owned locally and, nine times out of ten, you will find the servers chatty and helpful, the tables immaculate, and the queues bearable because everything else is high-quality.

The same goes for bookshops. In Waterstones and Borders, the people who work there only view it as a job, as a way to earn a bit of cash. In any locally owned bookstore, the employees are usually the owners; they care about the business, they want to make it succeed. 

Each customer is valued and because they care, they are able to recommend books, which is more than can be said for any international bookshop I've ever been to.

From suicide and depression, to alcohol, drugs and gangs, the difficulties faced by children and teenagers today are vast.

More so than in any previous generation: We have constant images of stick-thin models telling us that is how we "should" look, pressure to have the latest model of the latest phone, designer clothes becoming a virtual necessity to survive in the consumer-based culture of high school, cigarettes and alcohol being the "cool" choices.

And that's without even mentioning that the onus is on us to solve the various crises of the age, most prominently that of fuel—a daunting prospect if ever there was one.

And yet people wonder as to the root cause for the sharp spike in teen suicide rates in the year '03-'04. (In '04-'05, the rates came down slightly, but were still much higher than during the steady decline mid-1990s.)

A few months ago, I heard a news report of a Chelsea fan who committed suicide after his team lost. At that moment it struck me—sports are a lifeline for many people, worldwide.

When we have nothing else left, we take comfort in the constants of life. Win or lose, sports provide an escape.

For this man, the loss proved too much to bear.

The sentiments of escape have been echoed by a man named Willie McNab. As a boy growing up in Glasgow, he couldn't understand the gang culture of violence and arson, when all he wanted to do was play football.

Today, he travels with a team of people to venues all over Glasgow. They carry with them a mobile football pitch, so that kids can play without fear of crossing gang boundaries.

The pitch is set up in particularly troubled areas, and at times when the local police say are most conflict-ridden. It is a four-a-side pitch, and so jackets and bags are used to create goals for other pitches—"old school" street football.

And it works. Kids come from all over to play football, and there are marked improvements in the level of disorder.

At the same time, the honing of young talent on these small pitches provides a glimmer of hope for the future of Scottish football—but that's a different matter.

As ever, money is the issue. If the funding becomes available, for such a project as this to go global is, on paper, a marvellous idea. But in practice? Not so much.

It takes a rare type of person to be willing to do what McNab has done, and I don't see the right people being found in countries and cities across the world. Kids are smarter than they are often given credit for—they can tell when somebody is in something for the wrong reasons, i.e. money.

Perhaps I will be proved wrong—in fact, I hope I will, because all over the world there are problems with gangs which need to be tackled.

Gang culture and depression are two very different issues, with two very similar treatments (counselling and antidepressant drugs notwithstanding).

Many treatment courses for depression have regular exercise as a basis. The "runner's high" is no myth—certain chemicals usually associated with pleasure and pain-killing are produced in larger quantities, both during and after exercise.

It is the general consensus that exercise must be taken regularly to maintain the effects, however. In the same way, the football programme in Glasgow must be maintained to prevent the youngsters returning to the lifestyle of drink, drugs, and violence.

Our world is far from a pretty one, yet sports somehow give the children of the future, not to mention the adults of the moment—heck, they give everybody—a fighting chance.

For in sport we may seek refuge. Always.

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