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Lancet. 2002 Jun 8;359(9322):1975-9.

Mental health needs of boys in secure care for serious or persistent offending: a prospective, longitudinal study.

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Manchester Children's Trust, Manchester, UK.



The mental health needs of children and adolescents in secure care are a matter of concern, but little systematic research has been done. Our aim was to assess the mental health, social, and educational needs of these young people in a prospective, longitudinal study.


We enrolled 97 boys aged 12-17 years who had been admitted to secure care. We assessed their needs (n=97) at the time of admission and 3 months later (n=90) with standardised interviews and psychometric tests.


26 (27%) boys had an intelligence quotient (IQ) of less than 70. The need for psychiatric help was high on admission to a secure unit, with the most frequent disorders being depression and anxiety. There were high rates of aggression, substance misuse, self harm, and social, family, and educational problems, and associated needs. The mean number of needs was 8.5 (SD 2.9) on admission and 2.9 (SD 2.4) after 3 months (mean difference 5.6, 95% CI 5.0-6.3). Areas in which needs were mostly met included education, substance misuse, self care, and diet. Areas where the frequency of need fell substantially, but remained high, were social and family problems, and aggressive behaviours. Psychological needs persisted, with new onsets of depression, anxiety problems, and post-traumatic-stress symptoms shortly after admission. The most frequently required interventions were psychological assessment and cognitive behavioural work.


Boys in secure care have many needs and a high rate of psychiatric morbidity. During the admission period, secure care units address some domains of need, but others remain unchanged or get worse. Psychological and psychiatric provision in secure units need to be improved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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