Mental Disorders among Incarcerated Youth Often Overlooked

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS -- A majority of adolescents at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center in Houston, Tex., suffer from mental disorders--especially depression and drug abuse, Dr. Dina Domalanta said at the Southern regional meeting of the American Federation for Medical Research.

Most of these teens are not receiving treatment for their problems, said Dr. Domalanta of the University of Texas, Houston.

In an evaluation of 179 adolescents aged 11-17 years, 73% met the criteria for depression; 18% of this group met the criteria for severe depression based on the Beck Depression Inventory and the Patient Health Questionnaire. Overall, a slight majority of the depressed adolescents were girls (52%).

The study population was 50% female; in terms of race, 41% were black, 35% were Hispanic, 19% were white, and 5% were of another race.

Only 19% of the depressed adolescents had been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder prior to incarceration. Although 96% of those previously diagnosed with depression were taking antidepressants, 78% of those who met the criteria for severe depression had received no mental health care prior to incarceration, Dr. Domalanta commented.

Drug abuse was the next most common cause of mental problems in the test group, affecting 41% of the adolescents. …