Mental health problems are much more common than people realize. On average, about one in five American adults experience mental health issues. Suicide accounts for the loss of more than 41,000 U.S. lives every year, double the number of deaths due to homicide. Mental health issues can affect everyone, from young children to the elderly.

Many people live with mental health problems all their lives without seeking help, letting it lead to unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, and even suicide. If you know someone with signs of a mental health problem, holding an intervention may be the only way to convince him or her to get professional help before it’s too late.

Prevention And Early Intervention

Mental health issues can quickly escalate into tragedies. Sufferers of mental illnesses mistakenly believe that they’re alone in their struggles and don’t reach out for help on their own. Mental issues disrupt sufferers’ entire life, including the way they think, feel, act, function, and relate to others. If left untreated, a mental illness can be debilitating. Luckily, prevention and early intervention are effective ways to manage a mental health issue before it does too much damage.

Your Role In The Prevention Process

Mental health issues often go on for too long or don’t ever receive treatment because they require loved ones to identify the problem and the need for help. It often takes outside help to address mental health issues as a real problem. Similar to how those with severe delusional issues often stop taking their medications because they feel happier or more comfortable in their own world, people with mental illnesses can’t be trusted to seek solutions to problems on their own.

Preventing mental health issues requires investing in early intervention programs and services at the earliest signs of a problem. Studies show that many people who develop mental health disorders show symptoms by the age of 14. Waiting too long to take action to help a mental issue in your child can lead to crisis situations such as trouble with the law, dropping out of school, involvement with drugs, or suicide.

Identify A Mental Health Problem Early

It’s up to you to identify a mental health problem as early as possible for your loved one’s best chances at leading a normal, happy life. There are four main categories that provide a framework for identifying mental health problems:

1. Physical Health –  If a person experiences a traumatic brain injury, chronic illness, or mental health disorder such as schizophrenia, personality disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, panic disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, his or her body and brain may not perform properly. Many health issues affect mental health, such as lack of sleep, poor nutrition, exposure to toxic substances, excessive stress, or grief.

2. Safety and Security –  Environmental factors can affect the brain’s ability to pay attention to the things a person needs. Experiencing traumas such as abuse, sexual or physical violence, and neglect can lead to the survivor living in a heightened state of fear. This can make it especially difficult for children to focus on activities such as school or sports and respond to daily demands.

3. Resource Availability – When children have adequate resources available, such as mental health services, school counseling, housing, a nutritious diet, and education, it can significantly reduce the chances of them developing a mental health issue. Physiological needs such as water, food, shelter, and air are necessary for an individual to thrive. When young people have access to therapy, peer services, community care, and even certain medications, they can receive the help needed before a mental illness worsens.

4. Relationships – A child needs certain relationships to feel stable, healthy, and in control. These include appropriate relationships with family, friends, and classmates. Bad relationships can contribute to feelings of insecurity and isolation. There are programs such as family and peer support that give children the extra attention that they need to feel like part of a community.

If someone you know suffers in any of these four areas, keep a careful eye out for signs of a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from social activities. Children without these four factors are high risk for developing a mental health problem down the road.

Know When To Seek A Mental Health Intervention

As soon as you suspect a mental illness or health problem in a loved one, seek help from a professional interventionist right away. The longer you wait to address a mental health problem, the more psychological damage it can cause. An interventionist will help you know what to say to your loved one during an intervention, treatments to recommend, and how to avoid becoming angry or overly emotional during the process.

If a mental health problem has already been affecting someone for a long period of time, it’s likely too late for early intervention. At this point, your loved one may have already lost the ability to care for his or herself, learn, work, communicate, and have successful personal relationships. When a mental health problem significantly interferes with a person’s daily life activities, known as “serious functional impairment”, he or she needs treatment.

Recognizing A Serious Mental Health Issue

The World Health Organization has an extensive list of mental illnesses classified as serious. Serious mental health problems have a negative impact on overall quality of life, and often lead to homelessness or incarceration. Severe mental illnesses are fairly rare. Mental healthcare professionals can treat the majority of issues before they get out of control. Here are some of the most common mental health issues affecting Americans:

  • Mood disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Emotional disorders
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Dual Diagnosis
  • Dementia

If you’re concerned that a loved or friend suffers from one or a combination of mental illnesses, help that person seek treatment. Sometimes a caring conversation that expresses your support and concern is enough to encourage the person to seek treatment. Other times, however, the person may require an intervention.

Breaking The Stigma With Professional Help

Too often, sufferers of mental illnesses don’t seek help because of a fear of being labeled as “crazy”. The perpetual negative stigma surrounding mental illness presents a significant barrier that prevents people from obtaining the proper treatment for mental illness. This social stigma leads to feelings of shame and denial, exacerbating the problem rather than fixing it. The World Health Organization strives to standardize mental illness treatment and facilitate further research in the field. These efforts have taken incredible strides toward reducing the stigma of mental illness and boosting awareness for a problem that affects many Americans today.

Once you decide to hold an intervention for someone concerning his or her mental health problem, seek professional assistance from Family First Intervention. Depending on the severity of your loved one’s mental illness, he or she could become violent and refuse to consider treatment. Intervention without a specialist’s help can be dangerous. The most effective mental health interventions use the help of a professional who knows when and how to hold one, what to say, and how to provide the appropriate care.

Rehearse The Intervention And Show Support

The more prepared you are for the big day, the more successful it will be. Emotions can run high during a mental health intervention. Keep yourself and your family from getting caught in the moment by preparing a script and sticking to it. Rehearse the intervention with a professional who can act the part of the loved one, and strategize what you’ll say if he or she responds a certain way. Write letters to your loved one in advance, addressing the person with love and concern.

One of the most important things you can do to help your loved one during an intervention is expressing your love and support for him or her. Friends and loved ones make a big difference in how a person responds to treatment. Reach out to let your friend or loved one know you’re there to help. Share facts about mental health and help reduce the stigmas against it. Treat the person with respect, and never define him or her by a mental illness diagnosis.

Follow Through

The road to recovery from a serious or minor mental health issue can be long and hard, but it’s certainly possible. When people seek professional help and treatment for mental illnesses, including special therapies and ongoing wellness plans, they can improve their social-emotional well-being, leading to increased productivity, improved quality of life, and better all-around quality of life.

Once you convince someone to seek help for a mental health problem, your job isn’t done. Follow up with your loved one, asking how he or she is doing with therapy. Ask what milestones, trials, and tribulations he or she is facing and what you can do to help. Sometimes knowing someone else cares about his or her well-being is enough to encourage sufferers of mental health issues to continue on the path to recovery—no matter how difficult it is.

As a family member of your loved one, you are a huge influence in the intervention process.