Inner City Communities: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

What is PTSD & what is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. The condition affects roughly 1 in 3 individuals and it can develop immediately, weeks or even years later.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is having regular/uncontrollable worries about a variety of everyday life issues. It’s a long term issue that causes individuals to feel anxious about a wide range of issues and situations rather than 1 specific event. People who suffer often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.

Why do I think it’s applicable to inner city communities?

I feel a fair amount of people growing up in inner city areas and council estates in the UK will suffer from ‘Complex PTSD’ which occurs when people who have repeatedly experienced traumatic events, such as violence, neglect or abuse. A lack of emotional support for some of them results in bad mental health from early. As a consequence, self medication, isolation, retaliation, carrying a weapon to protect themselves are all unintended consequences that may and can occur.

When I think of all the things I’ve seen and witnessed from an early age, before even becoming a teenager, I now realise these are things no teenager or child should ideally be seeing. Then, I consider how many people go through similar experiences, some are even worse, and I realise that so many people won’t ever get the support they really need to deal with such issues. Everything obviously has a knock on effect to the way you perceive things and even go about life after you have such experiences early on in life.

If you grew up in a council estate or low socio-economic area it’s quite likely you grew up in a household that struggles financially; living pay-check to pay-check and just about getting by. Parents, who would have tons of struggles and issues going on, would make sure you ate at night in any way they could i.e. working excess hours, had school uniform sorted out and provided whatever pocket money they could give us daily/weekly. When you consider the following: those on housing benefits are more than 2x as likely to to have a common mental health problem than those not in receipt of it (35.1% vs 14.9%), children & adults living in households in the lowest 20% income bracket in Britain are two to three times more likely to develop mental health problems than those in the highest, it’s easy to visualise how those of us who grew up in inner city communities are prone to developing bad stages of mental health and also, mental health illnesses such as anxiety and PTSD.

One example of many similar cases within my local area

The context I am referring to with PTSD is the fact it can be caused by: violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery. Similarly, in the context of GAD, I’m referring to the regular worries about everyday issues and constant feeling of being anxious in ‘ends’ (your local area) or just generally. It’s very ironic the day I started writing this blog I was walking through an alleyway in my council estate and a neighbourhood friend was cautious when he turned the corner sharply and saw me walking towards him with my hood up, someone he has known for more than half his life. The initial quick second of someone coming around a dark corner, that has no cameras or lights must have thrown him off for a second. But can I even blame him for saying “Bro, I thought I was getting bucked for a second.” Last year, he was attacked in the same area he had grown up in and left in intensive care. A simple but sad mistaken identity nearly cost him his life.

Literally, for looking like someone else and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then, to further add to the paranoia, last week, on the exact same road he was attacked on, someone else within the community was stabbed multiple times. So I think to myself, can you blame him? It’s saddening that this is the place he has grown up his whole life, made memories in and now all of that is pushed to the back of his mind when walking around in his own community. This may be shocking to some reading, who haven’t grown up in areas like this but those of us who have grown up in such estates and areas know how much of a norm such stories are.

What I feel like contributes to such mental health issues?

In my perspective the following list are examples of things that can cause or contribute towards causing PTSD and GAD in inner city and low socio economic areas:

  • Financial struggles you witness from young (seeing parents exhausted and just about getting by)
  • The violence you are prone to witnessing or being a part of (just in my actual estate around there’s probably been 10+ stabbing that I know of in last 5-10 years)
  • Drugs within the community being normalised (often as a source of income due to lack of opportunities, guidance, to help family and many more reasons)
  • Seeing the same people addicted to drugs and alcohol daily is a negative experience (so many just outside shops – some dying/overdosing – this being normalised is a negative start to life in a sense)
  • If you’re involved in a certain lifestyle due to various reasons you more often have to constantly watch over your shoulder and that’s not a fun experience if we are being real (the amount of stories / times I’ve seen people get run up on is crazy)
  • Violence /robbery (I don’t know now but back in the day people used to get robbed and held at knife point etc for things like blackberries etc)

Music telling such stories – A few Examples

  • Kano = Teardrops/ Trouble/ Free years later
  • Stormzy = Lay me bare/ Don’t cry for me/ One Second
  • Dave = Psycho/ My 19th Birthday/ Question Time
  • D-Block Europe = Prescription drugs/ Set in stone/ Change
  • Hardy Caprio = All the time/ 9 months/ Wifey Riddim

(highlighted = properly explain trauma and difficult experiences)

I feel this type of rap music at times speaks for a larger population of people who’ve grown up in inner – city communities and council estates within London and the rest of the UK. They paint a picture of what it’s like to go through life living in such areas and also show the different things that contribute to getting in situations that can cause bad mental health to occur, such as PTSD and GAD.

Are there any solutions/ what can we do?

  • Pop in centres/sessions to talk to someone in council areas (need investment) Decrease wealth inequality in the UK
  • Pan african saturday schools / general saturday schools (keeps teens occupied)
  • More extracurricular activities outside of school (mentoring/sports/education related)
  • Schools employing for therapist (feel like there should be 1 for every 25-50 students)
  • More people from such areas becoming involved in therapy/counselling (will be able to understand issues to a greater extent)

Of course tackling stigmas too (more awareness, conversations and solutions)

Too many young people have either experienced things that no one at all, let alone a young age, should experience. Young people in such communities need to stop being neglected and need more support. Generational change is essential as this epidemic cannot continue to occur. I don’t know what would work best or what would even work but these are just some rough ideas I feel would work in my community and some similar ones. Conversations with substance and putting ideas forward is the first step to tackling any issues in my perspective so yeah, this specific conversation is an important one as it’s one I’ve constantly seen growing up within my area and as stated in my example earlier, still see today.

There’s beauty in the struggle is a line I appreciate in J-Cole’s ‘Love Yourz’ and it’s relevant here. When I think how many peers from similar communities have excelled society’s expectations of them it brings me satisfaction. There’s so many university students who come from such places and go to elite universities. Also, many others are doing many other excellent things not related to education. But, people from similar communities to me are the UK’s future politicians, actors,
sports stars, business owners, teachers, activists, YouTubers, consultants, lawyers, CEO’s. So yeah I guess there is beauty in the struggle…

Marley Ahmed is a talented guest blogger to The RealTalk Blog platform. Also the author of his own page, Let’s Talk Society, Marley digs into some of the societal trends and topics he feels more awareness and conversation should be had. We are happy to have Marley joining the RTB family, hoping you enjoy his posts as much as we do!


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