What Does Early Identification and Intervention Really Mean?

Just this week I spoke to a grandfather who was looking for help for his seventeen-year old grandson who had recently experienced a psychotic episode. That led me to think about early identification and intervention and what that means practically to families and to individuals, including kids and young adults in distress.

We encourage early identification and intervention in all kinds of situations where our health is at stake. If we suddenly get out of breath walking up a flight of stairs or doing an activity that previously hadn’t caused us any problems we will often think, I should get checked out, just to be sure. Or, for women, if someone feels a lump in her breast, the best course of action is to get it checked out as soon as possible to see if its breast cancer. It’s a serious illness and it deserves a serious response from her health care providers. We act quickly because the earlier we get the situation evaluated and if necessary get treatment, the better the prognosis is for recovery.

It’s no different for your mental health. The earlier we intervene, the better the prognosis. This is especially true for young people who may experience a first-time psychotic episode in their life. This kind of distress can be scary for the individual and family members. Oftentimes it’s not clear what’s going on with the person or how to help and work with the individual to identify a course of action.

Research has shown that First Episode Psychosis programs can make a real difference in the recovery of the young adult. Many of the FEP programs implement what is called Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC). CSC-FEP programs are tailored to the individual through: case management, medication management, psychotherapy, family education and support, supported education, supported employment and peer support. The research shows us that young adults want to have the same opportunities as their peers and they will continue in treatment if it helps them meet their life goals.

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has put together on what are called First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs in states across the country. With SAMHSA's Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator, finding high quality treatment will be faster and easier. Now more than ever, we can help connect people with early serious mental illness to treatment they need to recover. Just click the link above and enter Connecticut to find programs here in our state.

This is early intervention at its best.

To read about some of the initiatives that NAMI is leading, click HERE.

If you or someone you know needs support on this issue or others related to mental health, please check out NAMI Connecticut support groups at www.namict.org.

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