Letter to the Editor: National budget crisis contributes to mental health problems

By Nicole E. Anderson

During my graduate studies this year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my research efforts were focused on how we serve and intervene with adolescents in schools and the juvenile justice system.

To date, I have found that disproportionate minority contact is nationally prevalent; the school-to-prison pipeline is not imaginary; what works for adults does not work for adolescents, but somehow is still the chosen remedy; and that the use of tunnel vision punitive-based approaches is highly ineffective with our young people.

Perhaps, the most important theme in my research is that the mental health of our young people is greatly impacted by their experiences with our criminal justice system and their life events leading up to their intersection with it. There are indeed organizations across the nation and U.S. Supreme Court decisions in line with improving interventions with juvenile offenders.

Still, there is much work to be done and seemingly so little attention to spare at both the state and national levels, due to our state budget crisis and our president’s chosen foci. Regardless, people must ask themselves, if the mental health of our young people, our future adult citizens, is at stake, isn’t it extraordinarily clear that a paucity of efforts in these areas is not afforded to us?

Moreover, our legislator’s failure to act on behalf of “the people” is leaving our poorer communities at risk. Our young people’s growth is fostered as much in schools as it is in their homes, meaning their risk for intersecting with the criminal justice system can either be abated or exacerbated depending on the quality of home and school life.

There is a myriad of literature that shows how poverty can negatively impact the home environment, and subsequently child development; can the same not be said for the school environment? If administration is burdened by a financial lack, what is the outlook for the learning development for our students, especially those already living in poverty?

Nicole is a graduate student studying social work. 

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