Emerging Signs

Since mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States, it is vitally important that people of all ages be aware of the signs, symptoms, and proper treatment options for mental disease.  As explained by the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and three quarters have begun by age 24. In Minnesota alone, approximately 56,000 children suffer from some mental disorder.  These statistics support the proposition that mental illness is, unfortunately, a major problem for the youth of our country and for the state of Minnesota.

Mental illness is uncovered in many young people at the point in their lives when they are searching for independence from others.  Because of this pursuit for independence it makes it hard for adolescents and young adults to seek help, and it makes it difficult for their friends and family to know if their irregular behavior is something serious, or perhaps just a passing phase.

It is particularly unfortunate that many lifelong afflictions go undiagnosed because they first manifest themselves during adolescence when so many changes in personality can mask underlying pathology.  For example, the onset of bipolar disorder usually occurs during the late teen years or early adult years. Schizophrenia, although rare in children under 12, begins to increase dramatically in frequency in adolescence, with an average age of onset between 20 and 25.

Though there are effective treatments for youth suffering from a mental disorder, all to often there are long delays between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment.

As outlined by the National Institute of Health, there are several signs seen in teenagers and adolescents that may suggest referral to a medical or mental health professional.  Some of these signs are listed below:

  • Feelings of anger or worry
  • Feeling grief for a long time after a loss or death
  • Thinking your mind is controlled or out of control
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Exercising, dieting and/or binge eating obsessively
  • Hurting others or destroying property
  • Participating in reckless activity that may harm you or others

Part of the goal of the Mental Health Association of Minnesota as well as public health systems and services is to provide people with the adequate resources and information needed to maintain a positive mental health throughout their lifespan.  Several mental health promotion projects promote help-seeking behavior and also help to reduce the current stigma associated with mental illness.

Most importantly, learning strategies for self-care can help people suffering from mental illness overcome their disease on a day-to-day basis.  Setting short term goals, staying in touch with friends, and seeking out resources in schools, faith communities, support groups and health centers can help provide people with the tools they need to work towards wellness.

This post comes from volunteer blogger Margo Tell.

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