Disproportionately high numbers of young people in the British criminal justice system also have mental health problems. Relevant services often struggle to meet such complex needs, particularly as children become adults. The purpose of this paper is to discover the qualities of services valued by such young offenders.
Semi-structured interviews with 15 young offenders with mental health problems.
The young people valued continuity and sufficient time to develop trust in staff. From staff who showed concern and respect, and whose approach was informal, young people could accept help, advice and, when necessary, confrontation. They gained insight into themselves and how to modify their behaviour; knowledge about opportunities for work and education; and help with life skills.
The sample was small and likely to have been skewed towards those who are readiest to engage with services. Young people's views were not compared with their histories or actual service use.
Other research indicates that helping relationships that demonstrate the qualities that client's value have more successful outcomes than those primarily reflecting professionals’ values. In a time of resource constraints, it seems unlikely that staff will be able to provide more contact and continuity than at present. This would be a precondition of working in accordance with the values of the young people reported here, especially when bridging the discontinuities between children's and adult services.
Young offenders with mental health problems are rarely given a voice, particularly their views of what helps them.
The authors are very grateful to the young people who agreed to be interviewed, and to the Transition to Adulthood Alliance project staff who encouraged and enabled them to do so. The study was funded by The Barrow Cadbury Trust and commissioned by YoungMinds.
Campbell, S., Abbott, S. and Simpson, A. (2014), "Young offenders with mental health problems in transition", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 232-243. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-02-2014-0004
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