Reuters reported on June 6, 2005 on a study in the June, 2005 issue of the journal, Pediatrics, which found that death rates among troubled youth are 4 time higher than kids in the general population.
"Young people in serious trouble with the law are four times more likely to die violent deaths before reaching adulthood than their peers -- and eight times more likely if they are girls, the results of a study published on Monday suggest.
"We need to get away from the stereotype that delinquent youth are just bad kids. They are a group of young people who are especially vulnerable to early and violent deaths," said Dr. Linda Teplin, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University who led the study.
Published in the June issue of Pediatrics, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the study was described as the most comprehensive look at the subject in 60 years.
For more than eight years the researchers tracked 1,829 youngsters between 10 and 18 who were held at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago. More than half were black, nearly one third Hispanic and the rest mostly white.
As of March 2004, sixty-five had died between the age of 15 and 24, nearly all of them violently. Murders usually involving guns accounted for 90 percent of the deaths, while encounters with police claimed another 5 percent. Other causes of death included suicide and automobile accidents.
The overall death rate was four times higher than that for youngsters of the same age range in the general population and eight times higher among the 657 girls in the study."
I don't know what can be done about this. These kids are out of control of their parents and are caught up in "the system" which, short of incarceration, doesn't do a good job of controling them either. It certainly is not a mental health issue in the sense that these kids are uncooperative and highly unlikely to engage in traditional outpatient mental health care.
I think the answer lies more in the direction of youth courts where youth hold youths accountable within a restorative justice framework wherein youth must take responsibility for the harm they have caused because of their crime, make restitution, do community service, write letters of apology, and face the victims of their crimes. I also think programs like job corps, the old CETA work programs, and perhaps instituting a National Service corps would be helpful.
"It is ironic, she(Dr. Linda Teplin) said, that the 52 children who died in school shootings in America between 1990 and 2000 got far more attention than the far greater number of homicides involving inner city youth.
"In New York City alone there were 840 homicides of kids 14 to 17 during the same (1990-2000) time period," she said."
Once again, the media, "if it bleeds it leads", has skewed public perception in the wrong direction. The bigger tragedy is not the school shootings in the middle class suburban schools like Columbine and Paducah although they are terrible in and of themselves, but the number of faceless, minority, poor urban kids who are killing each other and themselves day in an day out on the streets of our large cities.