Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune article supports a position I’ve held for years. By ignoring or under-serving people with mental health problems we are manufacturing state wards, preteen moms, and felons and this is making our cities dangerous and unsafe.
Our current policies of dumping the mentally ill in detention, jail, and prison places a huge burden on educators & juvenile, criminal justice workers, and especially the families (often grandparents, and foster and adoptive parents) that live with them.
Not much good comes from incarcerating people with mental health issues. Recidivism is now 70 percent after many years at 66 percent.
Not much teaching gets done in a classroom populated with disturbed youth on Prozac. Safety and behavior management becomes the teachers primary concern at the expense of educating all the other youth. Our nations miserable graduation and drop out rates, STD rates (we lead the world), and crime rates (we also lead the world) are all tied to how we ignore and under-serve people with mental health issues.
Forcing foster/adoptive parents and service providers (educators, social workers, juvenile & criminal justice workers) to be the front line in managing mental health issues of the children and youth in their charge is an overwhelming task that rarely ends well for the children and youth. These children need professional guidance to overcome the serious issues that have triggered dangerous behaviors and the explosive increase in psychotropic medicating of five and ten year old children in our society.
The article points out that 70 per cent of the youth in juvenile justice suffer from a mental health issues and 50 percent of juveniles in the system are on psychotropic medications. In the criminal justice system, 80 per cent of the women and 25 percent of the men are receiving mental health services.
What is not stated in the article that 90 per cent of the youth in juvenile justice have passed through child protection services & that at least a third of the children in child protection services are proscribed psychotropic medicines for their behavior problems.
What people fail (or refuse) to see is that the vast majority of the mental health issues that trouble our communities today result from abuse and neglect that started at the birth of a child to a mom with her own child abuse/mental health issues. From the medical community and my own experience as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem (almost 20 years) this is the core issue.
If these troubled moms had been helped to deal with their own troubles before having babies, the families they later had could be just fine and the cycle of abuse and dysfunction ends.
Instead, generation after generation of disturbed youth are now filling our schools and streets and making parts of our cities dangerous places to live. It’s way more expensive and far less effective to provide services to an 18 year old in the juvenile justice system than it is to make sure a two year old gets the care he or she needs to survive in this world.
It is also the right thing to do.