Early Mental Health Intervention Can Lead to Lifelong Success
Like physical illnesses, the sooner mental illness is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcomes
April 19, 2021
Did you know that 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14?
Statistics like this make McLean Hospital clinicians, like Dana B. Sarvey, MD, want to spend every possible minute educating parents, pediatricians, and other adults who care for children about the importance of mental health and early intervention.
“Identifying mental health conditions early changes treatment outcomes,” said Sarvey. “The earlier you treat, the greater the impact can be.”
Sarvey, who serves as the associate medical director of McLean’s Belmont Adolescent Partial Hospital Program, pointed to studies showing that early diagnoses and interventions improve immediate outcomes. They also improve lifelong prospects for individuals with a range of mental health conditions.
“We know that more than half of all adults with a psychiatric disorder began to show signs of the condition while they are teenagers,” she stated. “We also know that how severe an illness becomes is often related to how early we see these signs.”
Sean: Quietly Struggling at 8 Years Old
As an 8-year-old, Sean was bright, gregarious, and athletically gifted. But he was also quietly struggling with anxiety.
He couldn’t understand why he was feeling this way. Instead of asking for help, he hid his symptoms from the adults in his life. By the time he was 13, he had his first intrusive thought—something he would later learn was obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
“The first time I had an intrusive thought—something that is common for people with OCD—I thought that my brain broke,” said Sean. “I was afraid to tell anyone.”
“Even though I knew my family loved me, I was worried they wouldn’t understand,” Sean said. “So I chose to live in silence.”