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Are the Kids Alright?

Are the Kids Alright?

'In the 1960s, Texas kids were institutionalized. In the '70s they were released into community care that was well-intentioned, with better medicines. Now, they are out there with no care except in the criminal justice system, and that's the only way parents know how to get help to turn their kids in to the police. Is this progress?' Dr. James Boynton, Corsicana Stabilization Unit

This searing documentary examines the crisis in mental health care for children and adolescents at risk. With unprecedented access to families, to the courts, and to psychiatric and correctional institutions, the filmmakers followed several families to document the tragic results of a catastrophic decline in the availability of appropriate mental health services for young people. From everyday family and developmental stresses to severe, clinical mental illness, these families are struggling to get the supports they need, but there is very little help available to them.

Cesar, a young Hispanic boy is severely depressed and has threatened to kill himself. His mother is afraid to take him home, but there is no treatment bed available for him.
Raised by her grandmother, Antonia, tried to cut her wrists after her mother failed to appear for a mother's day visit. She has also attempted to overdose on Zoloft.
Jeremy, a teenager, may also be suicidal. He has threatened his stepmother and injured his younger brother. Unable to afford the cost of a psychiatric placement, his father seeks to relinquish his parental rights, so that the state will be responsible for his care. The judge refuses.

One in ten children and adolescents in the United States suffer severe mental illness. The rate of suicide for teens 15 to 19 in the USA has nearly tripled since 1960. This video documents the painful choices confronting families who have a loved one suffering from mental illness, but also the daily struggles of mental health advocates, service providers, and policymakers in trying to help these youths get appropriate treatment. We see and experience the crisis from a variety of angles, not only those of the children and families themselves, but also of probation officers, a family court judge, state workers and psychiatrists, politicians and lobbyists.

Dr. James Boynton, a psychiatric counselor for the Texas Youth Commission, deals with children and teens who have been sexually abused, who are psychotic, who have been assaulted or who have assaulted and killed others. His are often the only mental health services these kids will ever have. 'I've given up testifying before the legislature,' he says. 'I found out the legislature doesn't really listen to us. So what can you say?'