NM Program Targets Teen Mental Health

Feb 25, 2013

Mental Health professionals at UNM hospital have introduced a new mental illness program. The Early Assessment and Resource Linkage for Youth, or EARLY is focused on early intervention. It's part of a national, ongoing study looking to curb psychosis, which they say is a threat to young adults and their communities.

Dr. Steven Adelsheim, is the Medical Director for the EARLY Program. He says that in half of all serious mental illness cases, symptoms are visible by the age of 14. However, he adds in our current system, most mental health services aren’t focused on kids, and often by the time we notice something’s amiss, it’s too late.

“Part of what makes this difficult is that times these are actually fairly subtle kinds of signs. And that’s why it’s been important for us to do a lot of training so that families might be able to recognize things earlier and link those people to help.”

Dr. Adelsheim believes the EARLY program offers parents and school teachers a place to raise questions about jumbled homework, sleeplessness and depression, without making kids feel ashamed like they sometimes do.

“Part of the issue becomes when these behaviors become uncomfortable for the individual themselves. So it’s not a clinician saying, what you’re doing is weird or inappropriate, or strange. It’s often the young person saying: I’m feeling different; I don’t know what’s going on. It’s confusing to me and a little bit scary.”

Although early intervention won’t prevent all tragedies, Adelsheim says the study already shows evidence to suggest that it helps.