Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Project Abstract For Juvenile Justice Rehabilitation Center for Girls with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

By Phil Mevert
            Mental health disorders are an ongoing concern in the juvenile justice system and pose a significant problem to it’s youth.  These disorders are particularly high among female juvenile offenders with nearly 80 percent of this population showing symptoms of a mental health disorder or substance abuse problems.                     Frequently, youths have a combination of several issues. [1] The most common mental health disorder among female juvenile offenders is post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).  About 65 percent of juvenile females in the juvenile justice system have experienced symptoms of PTSD.   A primary reason that females in this population suffer from PTSD is because they are victims of a traumatic experience such as abuse, molestation or neglect..[2]  Although it is ideal to recognize and treat PTSD prior to entering the juvenile justice system, that is not the current setup of the system.  By recognizing the symptoms of PTSD and providing services to help treat PTSD, there is the potential to prevent further worsening of the conditions effect on their mental health.  As a result of their traumatic experience, many of the juvenile females develop a feeling of being unsafe.  The mood of the juveniles can have an effect on how willing they are to share information that can help them in overcoming their PTSD.   How can a safe environment be created that also uses the building and it’s surroundings to help in the process of overcoming PTSD?

           As researched and stated by John Davis, a window view of nature leads to less use of health care services among prison inmates[3]. This can be true as well for juvenile offenders and if they are using less health care services it could mean they are less reliant on drugs to fix their problems and can fix their mental health issue naturally.  With trust or lack there of, being an issue associated with post-traumatic stress disorder it is important to look at ways of rebuilding trust in the juveniles.  Providing outdoor spaces for recreation is a way of doing so with the use of gardens and nature trails. Wilderness experiences lead to more trust and less need for control[4].  The development of trust in the juvenile females can allow them to open up and tell of their traumatic experience or experiences that has caused their post-traumatic stress disorder.  Maintaining good mental and physical health is equally important as developing trust.  The presence of natural daylight can positively have an impact on one’s mood, health, behavior, satisfaction and productivity[5].  By providing natural daylight into large gathering areas, education spaces, living quarters and therapy spaces, the positive effects of natural daylight will be able to take affect on the juveniles and better their mood, health and behavior. Mood can also be effected by color selections, material selections and sizes of various spaces. Building materials, in particular more natural materials can also contribute to the mental health of the building’s occupants.  The use of color to enhance mental stability will differ between spaces as will materials used to allow for the illusion of the space to appear larger or smaller depending on the desired outcome of the space.  When combining all the various task, spaces and elements of the building together the desired facility should be the result. This facility will be able to maintain a good standing mental health as well as physical health and provide the residents with a safe and secure feeling.    

1 Bonita Veysey, “Adolescent Girls with Mental Health Disorders Involved with the Juvenile Justice
   System.” National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (2003): 8p.
[2] E. Cauffman, “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Female Juvenile Offenders.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 37(11) 1209-1216 (1998)
[3] John Davis, “Psychological Benefits of Nature Experiences.” Naropa University and School of Lost Borders. 12 pages. (2004)
[4] John Davis, “Psychological Benefits of Nature Experiences.” Naropa University and School of Lost Borders. page 3. (2004)
[5] Susan Bloom, “Let the Sun Shine In: The Value of Daylight.” ieslightlogic.org. (2012)

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