Mental health issues affect millions of young people worldwide each year, with many experiencing significant difficulties in their daily lives as a result. These problems can escalate without appropriate support and treatment, leading to more serious long-term mental health issues.
However, research has shown that early intervention can make a significant difference in preventing the onset and escalation of mental health problems among youth. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of early intervention for youth mental health and the future impact of untreated trauma and mental health conditions.
What Is Early Intervention?
Children, adolescents, and young adults can experience stress, trauma, and mental health conditions like adults. Research indicates that many mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders, begin to develop during adolescence. However, they may be unable to articulate their feelings or the symptoms they are experiencing due to their age.
Early intervention refers to identifying and addressing conditions and concerns as early as possible to prevent them from escalating into severe problems later in life. With approximately one in eight 5 to 19-year-olds struggling with a mental health condition, early intervention is more important than ever.
The Impact of Untreated Trauma
It is estimated that around 46% of children will experience a traumatic event in their childhood. This event can have long-term repercussions, affecting their mental, physical, and emotional health as they grow.
Traumatic events can be ongoing, such as physical abuse or neglect, or a one-time event, such as experiencing a natural disaster or the loss of a loved one. Additionally, ongoing stress that many children experience, such as continuous bullying or witnessing parental divorce, can be traumatising. Events that happen to others, including watching a close family member endure a major health issue, can contribute to childhood trauma.
These events can lead to the development of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may re-enact the traumatic events in their play or struggle with nightmares regarding the event. Others can become hypervigilant, constantly looking for signs that something terrible will happen to them again.
Other signs of PTSD in children include:
- Trouble focusing
- Increased anger or aggression
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
- A lack of affection for others
- Acting younger than they are
- Changes in appetite
- The development of new fears
If left untreated, childhood trauma can have severe repercussions long into the future. It affects brain and physical development, making it harder for children to reach their full potential and lead healthy, happy lives.
Exposure to repeated trauma significantly increases a child’s risk of developing asthma, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. They may also struggle with dissociation, which involves separating themselves from their experience, which can lead to emotional numbness and memory problems.
Children’s relationships can also be affected, especially if they experience trauma from a trusted adult. It can teach them that they can no longer rely on adults for help or support, leading them to believe the world is inherently scary and dangerous. This can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships as they grow.
Although treatment is still effective in adulthood, the earlier it is started, the better treatment outcomes will be.
Implementing Early Intervention
The key to early intervention is exactly what it says: addressing mental health conditions and trauma in young adults as they arise. Here are some key strategies that parents and caregivers can use to help young people with a mental health condition:
- Maintain a routine – Routines are great for helping children’s mental health. Not only can they reduce stress and make mornings before school run more smoothly for parents, but they help children gain confidence, independence, and a sense of normality and safety. A traumatic event can make the world more intimidating, but a routine can help mitigate the stress children might feel around the unknown and help them foster healthy habits, such as eating a healthy breakfast.
- Communicate honestly and openly – Regularly ask children how they are doing and create a healthy, open line of communication around mental health. Parents and caregivers can set a positive example by discussing their mental health in accessible ways for their children and taking care of themselves. Research has shown when parents seek help for their mental health when needed, children’s mental health symptoms also improve.
- Keep track of their well-being – Young adults can hide their mental health difficulties from their parents, preferring to try and manage them alone. Keeping track of their behaviours can be a key indicator of their mental health. For example, they may begin to withdraw from their friends, underperform in school, or lose interest in activities they used to love.
- Find healthy ways to cope with stress – Stress is a part of everyday life, and young people need to learn how to manage it in a healthy, productive way. A bad mark on an exam or a falling out with a friend can be upsetting, but learning to manage with healthy coping skills such as journalling, calling a friend, or going for a walk can build resilience in young people.
- Seek professional help – It is never too early for children to see a mental health provider. Professional treatment can catch mental health problems early and provide lifelong skills for young adults that will help them in the future.
Identifying and addressing mental health concerns early can help prevent long-term adverse effects and provide children with the support they need to thrive. By keeping track of young people’s well-being and setting a positive example, people can ensure that children have access to the resources they need to overcome mental health challenges and build resilience. By prioritising early intervention for youth mental health, we can create a brighter future for our children and communities.
If you have a client or know of someone struggling with anything you have read in this blog, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential programme and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).
 Gilbert LK, Breiding MJ, Merrick MT, et al. Childhood adversity and adult chronic disease: An update from ten states and the District of Columbia, 2010. Am J Prev Med. 2015;48(3):345-349. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.09.006
 Siegenthaler E, Munder T, Egger M. Effect of preventive interventions in mentally ill parents on the mental health of the offspring: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012;51(1):8-17.e8. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2011.10.018