Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


February 9th, 2015

Police and school officials in Fort Wayne, Indiana, are teaming-up to understand the basics of mental illness in young people in an effort to cut back on arrests of children in a mental health crisis. This partnership is inspiring to see because it is through collaborative efforts like this that young people who are at risk will get the best help.

16579192_sThe greatest way to help young people who have mental illness is to get them treatment and not to incarcerate them. The problem is that the symptoms of a mental health crisis are mistaken for delinquent behavior, and that can lead to arrest and possibly jail time.

There has been an ongoing debate in the medical community for years about the link between mental illness and criminal behavior. So why do so many Americans associate mental illness with criminal behavior? Because that is what is in the media and that’s what people remember. Think Sandy Hook. I’m sure what comes to mind for many is that the shooter was on the autism spectrum.

Behavior disorders in young people are often disrupting and bothersome to parents and teachers. It is normal for parents of teens to worry about their behavior, concerned that episodes of “acting up” may be harbingers of future antisocial, sociopathic development, or that their teens are on the road to violent criminality, substance abuse, living on the “edge,” and ending up in jail or prison.

The reality is that most normal teenagers do act up from time-to-time, sometimes in very disturbing and destructive ways. Adolescence is a time of testing limits. In young people who are still developing it remains self-evident that abnormal behaviors are often part of normal developmental progression, and they are temporary. In other instances it can be part of a disruptive behavior disorder, and if that’s the case the most important thing to do is to get the teen the proper treatment.

Young people with disruptive behavior disorders such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Conduct Disorder (CD), do occasionally break laws, especially those young people with Conduct Disorder. If your teen’s behavioral problems have proven to be intransigent, they may suffer from a behavioral disorder that requires greater attention and more specific help. The upside is that these disorders in young people can more easily be treated than the adult syndrome of “Antisocial Personality” (the Psychopath), which is notoriously resistant to psychiatric intervention. Youth carries with it more hope of intervention and possible change. Thus schools, police and mental health professionals working together offer the most fruitful hope.

Click here to read about the partnership between police and school administrators in Fort Wayne.

Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.

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