Mental health screenings, risk behavior interventions needed in juvenile justice system

January 28, 2008

Kids who have been arrested and are depressed are more likely to use drugs and alcohol and engage in unsafe sexual activity that puts them at greater risk for HIV, according to new research from the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center.

Findings of the study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, suggest the need for depression screenings as part of the juvenile intake process in order to determine appropriate mental health, substance use and HIV risk behavior interventions.

“We know that symptoms of depression may be a factor that is linked to both drug and alcohol use and sexual risk-taking behaviors,” said lead author Marina Tolou-Shams, Ph.D., of the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center and an assistant research professor of psychiatry at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “However, juvenile offenders aren’t routinely screened for emotional difficulties, such as depression or anxiety – rather, everyone tends to focus more on their conduct or behavioral problems.”

She said that understanding more about the association between depression and risky behaviors can help create protocols for appropriately screening, assessing and identifying the needs of juvenile offenders and lead to positive health outcomes.

The current study is one of the first to examine the link between substance use, mental health and sexual risk among high-risk youth who have an arrest history but may not have been detained or incarcerated. According to Tolou-Shams, these kids may be at similar risk to those detained but are often released back to the community without ever having their needs comprehensively identified.

Researchers assessed the depressive symptoms, sexual behavior, substance use, risk attitudes and mental health history of 835 sexually active adolescents and young adults, ages 15 to 21, from Providence and Atlanta who participated in a larger, multi-site HIV prevention program. A quarter of the study participants had an arrest history.

They found that juvenile offenders with significant symptoms of depression, such as feelings of loneliness or worthlessness, reported much greater drug and alcohol use. They were also more likely to use these substances during sex, used condoms less, and had more psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts than arrestees without depressive symptoms.

The authors caution that the study’s findings need to be replicated with a larger, more representative sample of kids with depressive symptoms. However, based on these findings, they say substance use and HIV prevention efforts within the juvenile justice system that include strategies to regulate mood may help juvenile offenders reduce emotional distress, thereby reducing the likelihood of risky behaviors.

“Models of juvenile correction that address mental health and physical health are crucial, because arrestees’ contact with the legal system may represent one of few opportunities to address health issues,” the authors said.

Source: Lifespan

Explore further: Increased air pollution linked to bad teenage behavior

Related Stories

Increased air pollution linked to bad teenage behavior

December 13, 2017
A new study linking higher levels of air pollution to increased teenage delinquency is a reminder of the importance of clean air and the need for more foliage in urban spaces, a Keck School of Medicine of USC researcher said.

Q&A: How is the US opioid crisis affecting children?

December 12, 2017
Public attention to the historic wave of opioid addiction gripping the U.S. has focused mostly on its effect on adults and the thousands who have died of overdoses. Missed by much of the spotlight, though, is a hidden epidemic: ...

Children on sex offender registries at greater risk for suicide attempts, study suggests

December 6, 2017
A new study led by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that children who were legally required to register as sex offenders were at greater risk for harm, including suicide attempts ...

Teens mixed up with the law may fall through Medicaid cracks

October 2, 2017
(HealthDay)—Teens on Medicaid who have been arrested at least once are more likely to seek costly emergency room care and less apt to receive preventive primary care, a new study suggests.

Retailers suffer, but officials say raising tobacco age decreases smoking

October 3, 2017
In the past year, Cody Rector has seen most of the regular customers at his smoke shop near Loyola University disappear.

Discovery of new genes will help childhood arthritis treatment

April 22, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists from The University of Manchester have identified 14 new genes which could have important consequences for future treatments of childhood arthritis.

Recommended for you

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.