Early signs and intervention of Mental Illness
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
How many people suffer from mental illness? Statistics state that mental illnesses affects around 1 in 4 people each year in the UK. However, this could be higher if we take into consideration how many do not seek help or support.
How can we support people with mental illness?
One of the ways that we can offer our support is Early Interventions. Early interventions and home treatments for Mental Health can reduce hospital admissions, shorten hospital stays and require fewer high-costing interventions. Potentially resulting in saving £38 million per year. [Source: Mentalhealth.org]
This blog will further expand on what is meant by early mental health interventions and what the early signs or poor mental health is. Helping you to understand what to look out for so you are able to offer support to someone who may be struggling. As well as why early interventions are important and looking into, can early interventions help prevent further mental health problems? Then finally highlighting the importance of early interventions in the workplace, to help company employees.
What Are Early Interventions in Mental Health?
Early interventions means identifying that there may be mental health problems early on and trying to provide the correct support for them. Often focusing on children and young adults who are at risk of poor outcomes.
Some poor outcomes could be:
Struggling at school
Getting involved with gangs
Early interventions can be provided in many different forms, such as:
Home visits to provide support to parents who may be struggling.
To school visits to the children themselves
School based programs to help with social skills and confidence.
Mentoring young adults.
Some feel that early interventions are only effective right at the early stages of struggle and childhood, feeling as if there is no impact on young adults. However, it has been proven and shown that even in young adults early interventions can be very effective. When a problem is identified early on, it then becomes more ‘easier’ to address.
Early interventions work by putting smaller programs and support in place early on to prevent the need for larger support programs in consequence later on.
Early signs to look out for with poor Mental Health
Mental health can display itself differently in everyone so there is no right or wrong thing to look out for. Often people try to cover up that they are struggling too by hiding their emotions and the signs, as they feel ashamed.
A few signs to look out for in children or young adults would be:
Presenting sadness for more than two weeks - It is important to remember, children do also feel sad sometimes. Therefore, if they are displaying that they feel low this could just be down to how they are feeling. So to watch if it happened over a period of time.
Withdrawing and avoiding social situations
Outburst or extreme irritability - Children and young adults can often become frustrated but what is meant by this is, becoming frustrated with things quicker than normal or that they would not have before.
Loss of weight
Avoiding or missing school
Frequent headaches or stomach aches - Mental health can often have physical symptoms too
Drastic changes in mood, behaviour or personality
Hurting oneself of talking about hurting themselves
If you have concerns of a child or a young adult who may be struggling, it is important to talk to them with the correct knowledge of how to do so. Therefore, it is very important to understand how to approach these situations.
Why are early interventions in Mental Health important?
Early interventions in Mental Health are important as they help to identify and recognize the warning signs before they get worse.
For example, if someone recognizes that someone is beginning to struggle from a young age and early interventions are put in place, this will help to prevent or reduce the progress of a mental illness. Unfortunately there have been scenarios where young adults are left with lifelong consequences where early interventions may have offered different opportunities.
Studies show that 8% of GPs agreed that there was good community support for children and young people with mental health problems in their area (e.g. through youth clubs, local charities, drop-in centres etc.). 77% disagreed. As well as recent studies showing only 10% of GPs agreed that they usually felt confident that a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) would result in treatment. More than three-quarters (76%) disagreed. [Source: youngminds.org]
Therefore, these recent studies show that GPS do not feel confident with Mental Health support that is provided for children and young adults.
Can early intervention prevent Mental Health problems?
Early interventions are put in place to help to try to prevent or reduce mental ill health problems escalating. To help those who need it to understand the measures of their actions.
Unfortunately it is not known if there is any possible way to prevent mental illness. As well as it being unrealistic to say one soul factor alone may prevent mental illness as there are multiple factors that can lead to mental illness.
However, what we do know is that there are several tools to use to help prevent the severity of mental illnesses. As well as having ways to support those struggling to prevent things progressing.
Early interventions may not prevent mental illnesses themselves but it can lead to:
Early diagnosis - meaning sooner care or therapies if required
More timely targeted referrals to specialist services
Improved confidence and engagement for primary caregivers
Why Early Interventions matter in the workplace?
Within the workplace it can be proven difficult to spot when an employee is struggling with their mental health. Often employees feel work is not a place where they are able to express their emotions if they are struggling.
Studies show that 70 million work days are lost per year due to mental health costing employers £2.4 million per year. [Source: Mentalhealth.org]. By recognising poor mental health early and providing early mental health interventions it will prevent the number of employees lost due to mental health.
If workplaces offer early interventions it will also encourage employees to be honest about their mental health and seek further help if needed.
MHFA can play a very important role in early interventions.
According to the MHFA curriculum, their research suggests that people are more likely to seek help if someone close to them suggests it. As a Mental Health First Aider, this can be you. Mental Health First Aiders are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance misuse challenges. By learning the MHFA Action Plan (known as ALGEE) you will learn how to approach someone and how to provide resources and encourage them to seek professional help for additional support.