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Perceived Barriers to Mental Health Services Among Detained Youth

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2015
12 pages
Publication Series

This bulletin examines detained youths' perceptions of barriers to mental health services, based on the findings of the Northwestern Juvenile Project, which consisted of a longitudinal study of youth detained at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago, IL.


The youth involved in the current analysis of the findings needed services to address their alcohol, drug, and mental health disorders. One perceived barrier to receiving these services was within the youth themselves. The services were not mandatory, and many (56.5 percent) of the youth believed they could handle their mental health disorders without outside help. For youth with an interest in receiving outside help for their disorders (31.7 percent), they did not know where to get help or whom to contact for this information. The 20 percent of the youth who sought such help had difficulty in obtaining it. African-American and Hispanic detainees had received significantly fewer services in the past compared with non-Hispanic white youth. Compared with female detainees, male detainees received significantly fewer services in the past. In drawing implications for clinical services from these findings, the authors recommend that mental health staff engage youth in the referral process. Of particular importance is knowledge of youths' past experiences with mental health services prior to deciding where to refer them for new services. Past experiences with such services may foster negative perceptions of future services and decrease their willingness to seek help in the future. Addressing these negative experiences in frank discussions may assist them in being more open to receiving new services. Study methodology, limitations, and topics for future research in this area are addressed. 2 tables and 59 references

Date Published: September 1, 2015