Perceived barriers to mental health services among youths in detention

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2008 Mar;47(3):301-308. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e318160b3bb.


Objective: To examine perceived barriers to mental health service use among male and female juvenile detainees.

Method: The sample included 1,829 juveniles newly detained in Chicago. The Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children and Children's Global Assessment Scale were used to determine the need for services. Service use and barriers to services were assessed with the Service Utilization and Risk Factors interview.

Results: Approximately 85% of youths with psychiatric disorders reported at least one perceived barrier to services. Most common was the belief that problems would go away without help. Generally, attitudes toward services were remarkably similar across sex and race. Among females, significantly more youths with past service use or referral to services reported this barrier than did youths who had never received or been referred to services. Among males, significantly more youths who had been referred, but never received, services were unsure about where to go for help than youths with past service use. Significantly more youths with no past service use or referrals were concerned about the cost of services than youths with past service use.

Conclusions: Despite the pervasive need for mental health services, the findings of this study suggest that detained youths do not perceive the mental health system as an important or accessible resource. Youths who believe their problems can be solved without assistance are unlikely to cooperate with referrals or to independently seek mental health services. Service providers must be sensitive to clients' perceived barriers to mental health services and work to reduce negative perceptions of services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chicago
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Mental Health Services* / statistics & numerical data
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Prisoners* / psychology
  • Referral and Consultation