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Early Intervention Is Critical to Managing Mental Illness

By May 5, 2020May 15th, 20202 Comments

Whether you’re a parent who has suddenly noticed some worrisome signs of anxiety or depression in your child or a teacher watching a teen struggle in school, it’s important not to ignore it.

Did you know that 20% of teens are affected by some type of mental illness? And, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States among young people ages 15-24. Plus, research shows that kids who dropout of high school are more likely to struggle with a mental illness.

As parents and adults, it can be difficult to discern between “typical” teen behavior versus when it might be time to seek a psychological evaluation. Here are some quick questions to consider for a youth and whether intervention might be warranted:

  • Is there a family history of mental health issues?
  • Is the behavior or symptoms significantly disrupting the child’s life or yours?
  • Is he/she or the family miserable?
  • Has the youth told you they have harmed themselves, have thoughts of suicide or don’t believe things will ever get better?
  • Have they expressed wanting to seek help?
  • Has your child sought help elsewhere (school counselor, online, friend, etc.)?
  • Is your child partaking in risky behaviors you don’t condone?

If you answer “YES” to any of these questions, schedule an appointment with a mental health professional immediately. It is so important to validate the youth’s feelings and symptoms and provide support regardless of your own internal banter. If a kid is asking you for help or seeking help elsewhere, they need it! The worst thing a parent or adult can do is to minimize the situation or the child’s feelings.

Because of the shame and stigma associated with mental illness, most kids don’t willingly want to admit they need help. They don’t want to be different from their peers. If your child asks for help or you see worrisome symptoms, have them evaluated. Plus, early intervention can help mitigate problems that can be larger in scope and liability down the road.

One of the biggest takeaways I’ve learned from our family’s journey with mental illness is that we need to let go of both social and cultural expectations of achievement and what’s “normal” and do what’s best for kids, ourselves and family. It’s amazing how liberating it feels to accept yourself and loved ones for who they are.

Below are some resources and steps you can take if you suspect a youth needs help:

  • is a great place to start. This organization provides information about local resources, information and tips, a hotline and a variety of other supports.
  • Take care of yourself as best you can. This can include nutrition, exercise, healthy sleep, meditation, therapy, friends or whatever makes you feel refreshed, strong and positive. If you feel good and can think clearly, you’ll be able to take better care of your family member.
  • Ask for help. Taking care of a mentally ill family member is consuming and will suck the life out of anybody. If you don’t have the time or energy to to do household chores, errands or other day-to-day tasks, hire someone, ask another family member, friend or neighbor.
  • Trust your intuition and gut. If something doesn’t feel right about what a doctor or professional says, don’t settle, push for answers or get another opinion.
  • Contact an advocate for support. provides several advocacy options.

Andrea Berryman Childreth

Author Andrea Berryman Childreth

Andrea Berryman Childreth is an award-winning author of the book, ON THE EDGE: Help and hope for parenting children with mental illness, founder of The Lemonade Project, advocate and parent coach. She has first-hand experience with parenting a mentally ill daughter and has struggled with mental illness, herself. Her goal is to help empower people to openly share their stories and improve access to equitable mental health services.

More posts by Andrea Berryman Childreth

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Avatar April says:

    Wow, a place where there might be other overwhelmed parents?
    I have a daughter, 18 now, who has FAS, BPD, HPD, DPD, Depression, anxiety, PTSD. I am often just exhausted, but cannot say so without seeing disapproval for saying that it is exhausting, dealing with mentally ill teen. I often wish I had just 1 or maybe 2 or 3, friends who actually understood how hard it is living with this daughter. I often feel like I am being battered emotionally, as her emotions drag her up and down and all around. I need to learn how not to get sucked along…I have other children too, and have a hard time making time for them. Guess who usually comes first? I do see a good therapist, and he at least, knows this is a hard way to live.
    It feels REALLY risky, just admitting that this is hard. Hard for daughter, hard on the whole family.

    • Andrea Berryman Childreth Andrea Berryman Childreth says:

      I’m so sorry April to hear about your struggles with your daughter and I TOTALLY get it. That’s why I started this blog and website. Unless you’re living it, people can’t truly understand the continual crisis and trauma our families face. I’m happy to jump on a call with you or meet up, if you’re local. Sometimes it just helps to talk with someone who understands. xo Andrea