By Nikhil “Sunny” Patel, MD, MPH, MS: For More Info, Go Here…
As a pediatric psychiatrist, I see how mental health issues are routinely criminalized in this pernicious cycle.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, the courts are finding increasingly novel and cruel ways to criminalize mental health issues. Earlier this month, ProPublica revealed the stunning case of a 15-year-old Black girl with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who was placed in juvenile detention for not doing her homework. The Michigan teen, who was identified in the story by her middle name, Grace, was on probation for separate assault and theft charges from late 2019. She did not have any further run-ins with the law for months, yet because she struggled to stay on track with school — during the height of the Covid-19 crisis no less — a judge ordered her to be held in detention for the last two months.
Children across the country are struggling to focus in this new Covid-19 socially distanced schooling environment, which only exacerbates existing issues of institutional racism in the schools. Grace is not a threat to her community for struggling to engage in school as the judge intimated. It makes her like so many kids who, like her, say they feel unmotivated and overwhelmed with online learning.
I work as a pediatric psychiatrist, and Grace is like so many patients I see. They’re struggling with managing the stress of Covid-19, behind on virtual schooling, and receiving mental health treatment for ADHD and learning difficulties. Online learning is a one-size-fits-all solution that does not serve the needs of so many children. In New York City, 36% of students for online summer school have not even logged on. The irony is that those who need remediation are now forced to use a largely self-guided online “instruction” to pass, which proved difficult in the first place. Despite protections from the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed 30 years ago, students in the pandemic are not able to receive many of the accommodations virtually that they would in person.