Juveniles With Mental Illnesses

By @kathyrivas

Juveniles With Mental Illnesses

By @kathyrivas

Juveniles are in court at a young age are likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness.

Chapter 1

The Best Solution for Juveniles with a Mental Illness.

Katherine Rivas | Op-Ed | November 25, 2018

“Sixty-five to seventy percent of children in the Juveniles Justice system have a diagnosable mental health condition.( mental health america )”


“Almost two million youth are arrested in the U.S. every year. Of these youth, 70% have a mental health condition. Many end up in the system simply because they need mental health services and can’t access them in their community. (NAMI)” Many minorities are placed in the system due to horrific crimes their commit. Because of their age, it makes it difficult to sentence them since it is absurd to see a child performing crimes. It is not their fault because they aren’t introduced to the appropriate treatment. A juvenile that is diagnosed with a mental disorder during the court case should not be treated as an adult because of the undeveloped brain. According to Physiatric Today, “One part of the teen brain that is undeveloped until the mid-twenties lies…This is called the pre-frontal cortex (PFC).” The physiatric facility explains that a section of a teen brain is not developed until the age of twenty. The portion from the brain that is missing is called Pre-Frontal Cortex. The PFC is important because it helps you deal with consequences of your actions, without this, you will not comprehend your right from wrong. For that reason, sentencing minorities should be put into serious thought. Numerous judges have no clue what to do with juveniles living with mental disorders which is another reason why the United States needs to enforce a logical solution to help these children. Juveniles with mental disorder should be presented with proper treatment and deserve a second chance to display that they bring no intimidation to the community after recovery.


“The incident happened July 23 at the apartment complex pictured above in Elkhart, Indiana.( Regina F. Graham )” 

In a recent event, a famous case past in Indiana Juvenile Court system which was called the “Laughing Jack Case.” On July 23, a 12-year-old girl, her name unknown to the public due to her being underaged, burned her apartment down and then stabbed her step-mother Maria Torres to death. The girl’s name is not given to the public because she is underage. The little girl claims that Laughing Jack told her to commit those crimes. Laughing Jack is a fictional character found on an obscure website called CreepyPasta. According to Daily News, “Laughing Jack is a clown who befriends children as their imaginary friend before slicing them open and replacing their organs with candy (Regina F. Graham) ” Before the crimes, the little girl claims that she begged her father for months to help her due to the voices she heard and her alter ego she had because of Laughing Jack. During the court case, doctors had diagnosed her with Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as the multi-personality disorder. Two other doctors diagnosed her with Post Traumatic stress disorder. Both are very serious illnesses and are supposed to be treated immediately by her parents. Since her parents did not help her with treatment in time, it lead her to the juvenile court. The Judge, sentenced the little girl to a mental institution, but 16 metal intuitions rejected her. Judge Curtis was unsure what to do with the young girl due to the number of institutions that do not want to help her. She currently lives in Goshen juvenile detention center. Curtis said that “work is being done to find the appropriate place for her” (Salinger 2018).

This is why we need a better solution to sentence Juveniles that are diagnosed with mental illnesses. Due to the Laughing Jack Case, the little girl was sent to a court at the age of 12 years and she is currently living in the detention center because no one wanted to help her. This mean that she is not getting the right help from professional doctors. We can prevent future children and teens from going to court by giving them access to treatment at a young age. We need to help these children who are unaware of their situation and treat them to become better and aware of their diagnosis to solve their issues. The solution is to start from the beginning. We can prevent future Juveniles with mental health with no treatment from going to jail by seeking help from programs, acknowledging the illnesses and treatment.


There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illnesses. Mental health is likely to be caused due to a particular situation or series of events. The top well-known disorder is Schizophrenia, also known as Psychotic Disorder. Schizophrenia involves psychosis problems, for example, losing touch with reality or experiencing delusions. Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness because it can alter their reality, emotions, and behavior since it primarily affects a person’s’ thoughts. “Approximately 1 in every 100 people will be affected by schizophrenia. (What Is Serious Mental Illness? ).” Another familiar mental illness is Anxiety Disorder. People with Anxiety usually have physical signs of tension or panic attacks. The symptoms cause the heartbeat to speed up and sweating. People start to have anxiety when a specific situation occurs which makes them dreadful and unable to respond appropriately. There is also a Personality Disorder. People with this illness have extreme personality traits that are not common to social norms. They have unique and obscure thoughts that can disturb social interactions. This disorder affects their work, school, or relationships. Lastly, there is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This condition develops when one has gone through a terrifying event such as physical or sexual assault. It can even be a death of a loved one. PTSD can have lasting frightening thoughts and memory of the accidence. (“Mental Health: Types of Mental Illness.”)

There are countless of other disorders that have not been mention though every illness should be acknowledged and taken seriously. No treatment could prevent life experiences. According to the Mental Health by the Numbers program ( NAMI ), “Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. (“NAMI”)” This is a primary purpose of why treatment is essential. Treatment leads you on a pathway to recovery so you can get back into the community. Due to a survey in 2004 by the American Psychological Association, it stated that “estimated 59 million people have received mental health treatment in the past two years, and that 80 percent of them have found it effective. (American Psychological)

Here are 6 top treatments that can assist you in development. The first treatment is called Psychotherapy, also known as Therapy for short. Psychotherapy is a one on one training on your mental disability by a health professional. They explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and start planning for improvement based on your mindset. A program that can help you access Psychotherapy is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SHIN). They can help you find a qualified therapist depending on your diagnosis and can help find affordable mental health services in your area. Another way to treat mental illness is medication. There are specific medications for different mental illnesses, therefore, you should ask your doctor/therapist to prescribe the right medication for you. For example, Antipsychotic is a medication that helps reduce or eliminate hearing of unwanted voices or fearful thoughts. It also supplements staying focused, makes you calm and concentrated on reality plus it helps you with social communication. Antidepressants are also an example of a medication that deals with emotional feelings such as sadness or depression moods. To clarify, this medication changes your personality not make you happy. The prescription is to substitute the sadness with other feelings. Depression can influence suicidal thoughts, for that reason, this medication can help prevent suicides. Thirdly, Hospitalization is also a treatment for mental health. The purpose for Hospitalization is to keep a close eye on patients. In Hospitals, they have support groups, which are meetings with other individuals with similar problems as you. Everyone participates by sharing out goals including guidance towards recovery. Support Groups are pleasant to have as it defines the feelings of not going through the same issues alone. You can find support groups in any Mental Health affiliations within your local community and can assist you in finding excellent resources. Similar to Support Groups, there is also Peer Support. Instead of being a group discussion like Group Support, its a one on one contact. Peer Support is extremely effective because it’s someone that fully recovered from their illness. Having a peer that has experience with the healing journey that can encourage others that recovery is possible. Lastly, the Self-Help Plan is also a treatment for mental health. It is not as effective as other methods but it can improve mental health. Self-Help Plan is an individual that addresses their own conditions without others guidance. They make up a plan that they feel is the best route to recovery though it is preferred to have a skilled mental professional to aid you to the best solutions since they keep data and see your improvement. It is also beneficial to have an experienced physician to assist with your issues considering they have expertise in mental health. (Mental Health Treatments)Treatment is acceptable and accessible to everyone with mental struggles. It is important to acknowledge that treatment cant cures you instantly. The pathway to recovery is a journey as SANE Australia stated that,” you can’t just snap out of mental illness. People with depression can’t just ‘cheer up’. People with anxiety can’t just ‘calm down’. People experiencing delusions can’t just ‘come to their senses. (Fact vs Myth: Treatment & Recovery.)” Recovery takes time and patience and commitment are fundamental to overcome your difficulties with your Mental Health.


Organizations that are making a change in our nation is the NAMI institution. NAMI stands for the “National Alliance Mental Illness.” The NAMI believes we need to help Juveniles with mental illnesses. They suppose that everyone should have access to some form of help for those who have a disorder and every community should help, plus welcome them by making sure they are not alone. (NAMI) NAMI is also partner with other programs designing to make our nation a better place. These other systems are the Stepping up Initiative and Crisis Intervention Team.

The Stepping up Initiative is another program that, “[directs] individuals to treatment and if they already in jail, connecting them to services to help them. ( The Problem)” The Stepping up Initiative began because “across the nation, more individuals with mental illnesses are in jails and psychiatric hospitals.” They opposed solitary confinement because they believe that individuals with mental illnesses should have the appropriate treatment for a path to recovery. The program wants every community to, “train criminal justice professionals to identify mental illness and respond appropriately.” For example, the programs train police officers to have knowledge about different mental illnesses when they have encounters with people. If a person shows any indications of mental illness, the police officer will help them get the appropriate treatment instead of throwing them in jail. 460 counties out of 3,007 in the United States have passed the Stepping Up Initiative program as a resolution to prevent Juveniles with Mental Illnesses.( The Problem and USGS) The Crisis Intervention Teams is also a program that partners with NAMI. The program is similarly improving police officer interaction with people with mental illness like the Stepping Up initiative. Crisis Intervention Affiliation believes that there should be an enforcement of lawful actions to help people experiencing mental health in every community. They also are trying to prevent the growing number of young people with mental illnesses in juvenile systems. According to the Crisis Intervention Team ( CIT), they state that “youth who experience mental illness end up in the juvenile justice system, where 70% of youth are living with one or more mental health conditions.” That is a large portion of Juvenile’s in the system because of their Mental Illness. The Crisis Intervention Team overall goal is to, “intervene early to prevent youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.” Which means they want to start helping Juveniles at a young age by providing treatment and a community that helped them improve. (The Problem.)


In conclusion, ” approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3. (http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_878.html)” Many young children have a high percentage of possibly getting diagnosed with a mental disorder between ages 8 to 18. Not being treated at the earliest age will affect your future. For example with the Laughing Jack case, the little girl told her father that she needs help because she kept hearing unwanted voices. Since she didn’t receive treated in time, it lead her the Juvenile Courts. Situations like the Laughing Jack case happens to many other minorities. According to the National Center for children in poverty, “Untreated mental health problems among adolescents often result in negative outcomes. ( Also of Interest. NCCP)” That is why the United States needs to enforce more programs and bring awareness to Juveniles with Mental Health. No children should be in the court system. Every child needs to experience life without their mental illness affecting them, That is why there are programs like the NAMI, CIT, and Stepping Up initiative and various of treatment including medication, therapy, and social supports. Programs and Treatment are the most efficient ways to guide youth with illnesses to recovery. The United States must encourage every community to build relationships with family, schools and provide mental health in every district to reduce the number of Juveniles with mental illness in jails. LET’S BRING AWARENESS AND HELP CHILDREN TO BECOME A BETTER NATION!

Works Cited

American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apaapa.org/monitor/julaug04/survey.aspx.

What Is an Earthquake and What Causes Them to Happen?, www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-many-counties-are-there-united-states.

“Also of Interest.” NCCP | Child Poverty, 1 June 2009, www.nccp.org/publications/pub_878.html.

Dailymail.com, Regina F. Graham For. “Maria Torres Stabbed to Death by Stepdaughter, 12, Who Set Her Apartment on Fire.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 20 Nov. 2015, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3326524/Girl-12-set-family-s-apartment-fire-stabbed-stepmother-death-creepy-fictional-clown-character-Laughing-Jack-told-it.html.

“Fact vs Myth: Treatment & Recovery.” SANE Australia, www.sane.org/mental-health-and-illness/facts-and-guides/fvm-treatment-and-recovery.

“Mental Health Treatments.” Mental Health America, 20 Aug. 2015, www.mentalhealthamerica.net/types-mental-health-treatments.

“Mental Health: Types of Mental Illness.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-types-illness#3.

“NAMI.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Public-Policy/Juvenile-Justice.

“Position Statement 51: Children With Emotional Disorders In The Juvenile Justice System.” Mental Health America, 25 Sept. 2015, www.mentalhealthamerica.net/positions/juvenile-justice.

Salinger, Tobias. “Indiana Girl, 12, Killed Stepmother Because Creepy Clown Character ‘Laughing Jack’ Told Her to Do It: Reports – NY Daily News.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 8 Apr. 2018, www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/indiana-girl-12-killed-stepmom-laughing-jack-article-1.2440821.

“The Problem.” The Stepping Up Initiative, 8 Aug. 2018, stepuptogether.org/the-problem.

“What Is Serious Mental Illness?” Mental Health Wales, www.mentalhealthwales.net/what-is-serious-mental-illness/.

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