This article in the Times captures a theme that appears in a lot of stories about about adolescents and society: teenagers’ uncomfortable status as not-quite children and not-quite adults. This state results in all sorts of compromises when it comes to social services, juvenile detention being one of the most troubling. “Juvie” is a common device in lots of teen fiction, but the reality is pretty striking stuff, especially in a time where state budgets are shrinking:
“We’re seeing more and more mentally ill kids who couldn’t find community programs that were intensive enough to treat them,” said Joseph Penn, a child psychiatrist at the Texas Youth Commission. “Jails and juvenile justice facilities are the new asylums.”
Perhaps no less troubling is the prevalence of pharmaceutical treatments for mental illness.
Juvenile prisons have been the caretaker of last resort for troubled children since the 1980s, but mental health experts say the system is in crisis, facing a soaring number of inmates reliant on multiple — and powerful — psychotropic drugs and a shortage of therapists.
I’m no expert, but my understanding is that adolescents are generally not well represented in studies of these drugs, so to have poorly tested drugs administered under less than ideal conditions is truly terrifying stuff—and sadly not fictional.