Juvenile Offenders with Mental Health Disorders: Who Are They and What Do We Do with Them? 2nd Edition

Article excerpt

Juvenile Offenders with Mental Health Disorders: Who are They and What Do We Do with Them?, 2nd Edition, by Lisa Boesky, American Correctional Association, 2011, 350 pp.

Regardless of whether youths with mental health disorders should be placed in juvenile facilities or on probation, the fact is that many youths with mental health disorders end up in the juvenile justice system, according to author Lisa Boesky, Ph.D. Once there, it only makes sense to manage these youths with respect to their mental health disorders and their developmental age, gender and special needs. Appropriate response to these youths can reduce youths' stress and inappropriate behavior, and eventually their delinquency.

Juvenile justice staff who are able to manage youths with mental health disorders are less stressed and find their jobs more rewarding. The first step in learning to manage these youths requires understanding what mental health disorders are most common and how they will appear in youths in the juvenile justice system.

Boesky begins this process by describing the most common mental health disorders in separate chapters covering disruptive behavior disorders, mood disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, developmental disabilities, psychotic disorders and substance abuse disorders. Along with descriptions of the symptoms as Listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, she describes what these symptoms look like in youths involved with the juvenile justice system. Brief case descriptions of youths exhibiting symptoms of these disorders help the reader connect the symptoms with youths they have supervised in the facility or in the community.

In addition to the mental health diagnoses, Boesky describes several other factors that may affect the behavior of these youths, including suicide and self-injury. Attention is also given to special issues of gender--including gay, lesbian or transgender youths--and the effects of head trauma. Common among this population are youths dealing with multiple diagnoses or conditions which adds to the complexity of the youth's needs and increases the challenge of managing these youths. Boesky also describes cooccurring substance abuse and mental health disorders that are frequently found among this population and the need for an integrated treatment approach moving away from either argument of needing to treat one disorder before the other. The most important of these factors is that these youths are adolescents coping with all of the challenges adolescence presents. …