Series| Catalysts

The mental health movement for Chicago’s inner city youth

This new model of group therapy in schools is resulting in fewer gangs and homicides.
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Chicago has been plagued by cycles of drugs, gangs, and violence – each contributing to the staggering 305 murders in 2018, which gave the city one of the highest homicide rates in the country.

In an environment where seeking help carries a negative stigma, young men of Chicago have been carrying the weight of these experiences on their own, facing years of unimaginable trauma and potentially continuing the same dangerous cycles. Until now.

Meet the leaders of Becoming A Man (BAM), who are revolutionizing support for these young men by moving the conversation inside public school walls to provide the space individuals need for positive transformation.

Dekevious Wilson is the Senior BAM Counselor at Morgan Park High School, located on the far south side of Chicago. As someone who grew up without a father, who also lost his mother at a young age to domestic violence, Dekevious can relate to many of the young men in his program.

Dekevious now leads weekly group cognitive behavioral therapy sessions during the school day that provide support, stability, and teach young men how to slow down high-stakes situations, rather than lash out. And his work is paying off.

The University of Chicago Crime Lab conducted a two-year study on the effects of BAM. They found that students of BAM programs are 50 percent less likely to be arrested for violent crimes and 19 percent more likely to graduate.

By having a physical presence in schools, Becoming a Man has been able to create the consistency, trust, and relationships necessary to break the cycles of trauma, violence, and recidivism created by toxic environments.

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