Depression Screening Useful in Juvenile Justice System
> 1/30/2008 3:47:12 PM

Many of the youths who get funneled into the juvenile justice system are released without incarceration, only to find themselves in a more serious criminal, or mental health, institution as adults. While conspicuous behavior problems are often detected and addressed, there is no systematic evaluation of these kids for emotional problems. Highlighting the feasibility and importance of such evaluations, the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs published a study this month about depression screenings.

The study, conducted by the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center, evaluated 208 subjects arrested between the ages of 15 and 21, 27 of whom were diagnosed with depression. Subjects with depression were much more likely to abuse substances, engage in risky sexual behavior, and attempt suicide. These hazardous behaviors were predictable even at the first arrest, and the authors of the study believe that the link should be used to give more at-risk youth special attention. The danger from drug abuse and unsafe sex adds up; many of the older youths already had HIV. The state has limited resources, but it might be possible to short-circuit many destructive patterns if government counselors are assigned to the depressed youth most likely to become trapped in them.

It was not within the scope of this study to determine whether depression causes reckless behavior, or whether it merely correlates with it. Even if it is not the cause, it would still be worthwhile to screen for depression. Depression is not only a warning sign that reckless behavior is more likely, it also a crippling mental problem that is itself a problem worth addressing because it can drain all of the joy out of a life. Lifting the terrible burden of depression should be a high priority for the juvenile justice system, and simple evaluations like those employed by the Bradley Center can go far towards achieving that goal if they are made routine for every troubled youth entering the system.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy