With the onslaught of recent murders from Newtown Connecticut to Nehemiah Griego, a 15-year-old who shot his family to death in Albuquerque New Mexico, it's hard to tell if the world is becoming more aware of violence among our teens or simply becoming desensitized. To hear of a public shooting in today's world is becoming more of a frequent nightmare than a distant memory.
There are various problems in both the juvenile justice and mental health systems that contribute to the lack of treatment among our adolescent population. We must become informed about them in order to understand what we are missing.
Challenges in the system
Troubled children and adolescents often find themselves entangled within the juvenile justice system and most are in need of a range of mental health assessments. Unfortunately, the majority of our society immediately rushes to judgment, assuming acts of violence and aggression are not fueled by a psychiatric illness. While the majority of violent acts are not, some are and they occur in cases where a mental illness is severe or untreated.
In 2008, homicide was the second leading cause of death for youth’s ages 10-24 years old (Youth Violence, 2008). Even more devastating is that individual’s under the age of 25 “accounted for 52.0% of those arrested for murder in 2006" (as cited in Youth Violence, 2008).
A serious discussion on mental health, violence, and crime is continually needed among families, caregivers, and professionals. Adolescents are developing into adults and their brain is undergoing vast changes. The brain doesn't fully develop until age 25. As a result, many teens engage in impulsive, immature, and sometimes murderous behaviors.
Such actions are often the result of untreated, severe, or misdiagnosed mental illness, but they can also be the result of an underdeveloped brain. There are often multiple variants that could contribute to senseless killings.
For more information on violent crimes in the United States, visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics. To sign up for my free monthly recap newsletter, click here.
Bryan, S.M. (2013). Defense attorney weighs in on case of slain family. Chron. Retrieved January 24, 2013, from http://www.chron.com/news/crime/article/Teen-spent-much-of-day-family-sl....
DocuThesis. (2011, September 12). Adolescent development and juvenile justice. Retrieved January 25, 2013 from, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WSU-KY69zw.
Youth Violence: A report of the Surgeon Generals. Violence and mental health. (2009). Retrieved January 18, 2013 from, http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence/chapter3/sec2.html#c....