Image Bearing Souls

Posted on by Heidi Brunsting

By Natalie Baddour, Director of Mentoring and Therapeutic Services

Most of the young people within the Juvenile Justice System are battling extreme mental health disorders. We recently did a study of our youths’ data and among 250 of the youth we have served, 97% are diagnosed with a mental health disorder and 48% have clinically been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their mental health is a generational and environmental affect caused by the extensive trauma our young people and their families have endured. This, therefore, leads to criminogenic behavior and victimization. This behavior is the “what” not the “why”. Our young people’s pain, trauma, mental health, lack of hope, lack of resources / support, racial disparities, and unjust systems are the “why”. We will continue to stand against the demonization of our young people’s behavior and recognize we cannot produce healing until we emphasize the “why”.   

The words below are written by one of my young people who was recently published in a news article. While in the system, she was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. “My mental health got worse when I was put in jail. It just made it hard to be in there.” When she was released, after nearly four years in the system, these were her words: “The day I was being picked up and they told me to pack up my stuff, it just felt so weird stepping into the real world and actually not being inside of a gate. The air kind of hit different that day and then just spending time with my family, it was just like, it was like I actually belonged somewhere. I just want people to view me as someone who made it out of the juvenile system, I just want people to see me as someone different from who I used to be.” 

I hope we all allow ourselves to view the image bearing souls within our justice system differently.
 Please continue to pray with us that our young people feel like they belong. That their “what”, their behavior, is a cry of their trauma. Continue to pray for healing and transformation among ourselves and our young people.  

Thank you for being a part of the ongoing conversation with youth in our city and helping us share God’s story.  It's our honor to be the storytellers on your behalf who meet kids right where they are and give life to their story. 

Providing young people in our community with the opportunity to make an informed decision to be a follower of Jesus Christ and become part of a local church. 

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