Mental Health Care For Youth Offenders In The Juvenile Justice System

In December I was asked to speak on a panel at Wheelock entitled “Young Minds Behind Bars: The State of Mental Health Care within the Juvenile Justice System” to join in a discussion about the current state of mental health services in our Juvenile Justice system.

The panel was assembled by students of Wheelock College’s Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy department with professor William Rodriguez . Joining me on the panel were Rebekah Conway Roulier and David S. Cohen of Doc Wayne Athletic League ; Bill Briand, Director of Residential Services, Department of Youth Services , Metro Region and Paul Collins, a current student at Wheelock College.

Wheelock class on youth advocacy I was thrilled to hear that so many were interested in talking about the need for mental health support as part of what is offered in the rehabilitation of youthful offenders.  One idea that I presented was the idea of intervening earlier — more of a prevention model than a reaction model.  The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis  (BGSP) offers a doctorate in Psychoanalysis and Culture which looks at systems and how the unconscious impacts our institutes, like the department of juvenile justice.  Programs like the School-Based Counseling Collaborative between BGSP and the Boston Institute for Psychotherapy provide such a service by going into Boston-area schools, including Boston Public Schools, and offering community-based (therefore accessible) mental health counseling.  This is similar to models that have been around for a while, such as mobile dentists, vision screeners, and audiologists who visit the schools to provide care in their respective areas “where those who need it most—kids—are at.”

In terms of the current state of affairs around mental health and “talking” based therapies, one good person to read, although it is difficult to get his books in the United States, is Oliver James .  His two most popular books are Affluenza and The Selfish Capitalist , where he looks at the rise in mental health problems in first-world, post-industrialized countries.

I am happy to be a part of Wheelock with its career training through field experience and internships starting Freshman year with the Human Growth and Development course requirements (30 hours each semester of HGD in the field noting things about the physical, cognitive, and social/emotional growth) and hope the dialogue around juvenile justice and mental health continues!