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We face a significant problem in the world, and it’s time to make a change. I was recently watching the video, ‘Before Stage Four,’ and it opened my eyes to a growing issue that we need to address.
Society is missing an opportunity to help those suffering from mental health issues. Half of the people that struggle with psychosis start having symptoms by the age of 14 years old. However, most people don’t receive any form of treatment until they reach their twenties.
Consider other health problems for a moment. When my child has symptoms like ear pain, stomach discomfort that lingers, a sore throat or similar symptoms, I head straight to the pediatrician. Our doctor helps diagnose the problem and then discusses treatment options with me. When I learn there is an available treatment that can help one of my daughters, I do what I can to ensure they receive it.
Just today I had a new patient appointment with a doctor in a new city. The nurse and doctor both went over my past health history as well as that of my parents, grandparents, and others in my family. They were looking for any health issues in my family that could be an indicator that I might get them as well. They keep this information on record, and if symptoms start to appear that match up with a particular disease or illness, they have a starting point.
During my appointment, they also talked to me about preventative measures to take for my health. We discussed how much exercise I should try to do each week and since I’m experiencing problems with allergies we went over things to watch out for and how I should keep track of my symptoms each day.
Why don’t we take these preventative measures with mental health?
Mental illness is not going to just go away on its own. When people experience symptoms such as hearing voices or seeing hallucinations, treatments exist to help them. However, when the signs are left untreated, the problems begin to grow. People who have a mental illness can start to get worse when they feel alone and think nobody understands them. This process that can spiral out of control and if untreated it goes down the road towards suicide. No person needs to go down that path.
When problems are left undiagnosed, the individual does not usually receive help until they are already far along. Sadly, once they hit Stage 4, receiving treatment becomes very difficult.
But, what if we started to take steps to prevent this from happening? What if we took steps to begin improving early detection of mental health disorders? What if we started treating people before reaching the point that their symptoms impacted daily lives?
The earlier in the process that you catch mental health issues, the easier they are to treat in general. If we begin to diagnose and treat children before they reach the point of getting in trouble or even hospitalized, we can help them continue to function in everyday life without forming their identity around their mental illness.
The stark reality is that many people suffering from disorders such as psychosis either end up homeless or in jail. They don’t receive the help they need so they can’t function in society. Historically there were government funded hospitals where patients with mental health issues received treatment. However, as the video below explains, these treatment centers closed down in many areas to move the funding to other sources.
While government officials thought they were eliminating an expense they just moved it somewhere else. Instead of funding treatment centers they now support prisons because that’s where many of the patients the ended up instead of a hospital.
The video follows the story of several individuals including Paul Gionfriddo. He’s currently the President and CEO of Mental Health America (MHA). But, he has personal experience with mental health as well. His son began to struggle with psychosis from a very early age. As his son grew up, his problems began to worsen. He was in and out of trouble, and thus in and out of jail. He eventually ended up homeless. Gionfriddo believes that his son’s story could have been different if diagnosed at an early age. He now works to make that possible for others.
It is hard for people of any age to function in daily life when dealing with symptoms of psychosis and other mental health disorders. If we begin to help them get the treatment they need, and early, we can help them stay in school, continue to work and help them function. They can still succeed in life if we help.
MHA developed a series of free online assessments that anyone can take to help determine if they may be struggling with symptoms of a mental health disorder. It only takes a minute or so to complete. And, you are not required to input any personal information about yourself. Through a short series of questions, it helps determine if it could be helpful for you to seek help from a professional. It also allows you print off your responses so you can take them to a doctor or psychologist with you.
Early detection of mental health issues can reduce the number of people we have living on the streets, in jails, and in mental health hospitals. Additionally, awareness of the problem and how to help can also transform the stigma that surrounds mental health, something we desperately need.
If you believe that you or someone you love suffers from mental health issues, do not delay in seeking help from a professional. You do not need to struggle alone. There are treatment options that can help you. Sometimes it takes finding the right combination of treatments to notice a difference in your symptoms so keep trying until you discover the combination that works for you.
If you had a broken arm, you would never choose to ignore it or avoid help. Please don’t do that with your mental health. Support is here; you just need to reach and grab it.