Screening for mental health needs of New Zealand youth in secure care facilities using the MAYSI-2

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Abstract

Background

Young people admitted to secure facilities generally have particularly high rates of mental, emotional and behavioural problems, but little is known about the mental health needs of this group in New Zealand.

Aims

To describe prevalence of probable mental health disorder and related needs among young people in secure facilities in New Zealand.

Methods

Massachusetts youth screening instrument – second version (MAYSI-2) data were obtained from the records of young people admitted to one secure care facility (n = 204) within a 12 month period. We used descriptive statistics to determine prevalence of problems overall and multivariate analysis of variance to compare MAYSI-2 scores between gender and ethnic groups.

Results

Nearly 80% of these young people scored above the ‘caution’ or ‘warning’ cut-off on the MAYSI-2, a substantially higher proportion than reported in studies in other countries. There was a tendency for girls and for Maori and Pacific Islander subgroups to have a higher rate of probable psychopathology.

Conclusions

Young people in secure facilities in New Zealand have substantial service needs. Early intervention that engages them in services upon first contact with the youth justice system might help reduce this burden. Further validation of the MAYSI-2 in New Zealand may be warranted because of the unique ethnic make-up of these young offenders.

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