Incarceration of young people should be avoided according to Norwegian policy. Even so, young people reside in our prisons at all times. Our aim was to investigate their mental health.
Among 42 teenage boys (below 20 years of age) remanded to prison, 40 consented to participate in the study. Socio-demographic data were collected and a structured diagnostic instrument (K-SADS) was used to assess their mental health.
Only four participants had no mental disorder. The 36 who had mental disorders had a mean of 2.5 diagnoses. The most common diagnosis was substance abuse/dependence (n = 31). 30 of the adolescents had serious conduct disorders and nine of them fulfilled the ICD-10 criteria for a dissocial personality disorder. Anxiety and/or depressive disorders (n = 14) and hyperkinetic disorders (n = 12) were also frequent. Many of the adolescents had unmet treatment needs in addition to large social problems, such as disrupted education and unemployment. Three of four adolescents had an immigrant background.
Teenage boys remanded to prison have a variety of complex problems. They have an extensive need for psychiatric treatment, drug treatment, education and employment. This calls for multidisciplinary coordinated interventions to avoid further negative development of chronic maladjustment with substance abuse, mental problems and crime.