Mental Disorders Can Be Prevented in Young People

About one in five young people in the US currently suffer from a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder. About half of all adults with mental disorders recalled that their problems started in their mid-teens, and three-quarters said they started by their mid-twenties. Early onset of mental health problems have been associated with poor outcomes such as failure to complete high school, increased risk for psychiatric problems and substance abuse, and teen pregnancy.

Science Daily reports that a new article by Mary E. Evans, RN, PhD, FAAN, assesses the recently released government report on preventing these disorders in young people. The paper concludes that using certain interventional programs in schools, communities, and health care settings can allow mental illness to be better identified and treated.

The article notes that specific risk and protective factors have been identified for many disorders such as depression. Nonspecific factors that increase the risk of developing disorders include poverty, marital conflict, poor peer relations, and community violence. In addition, certain neurobiological factors contribute to the development of disorders in youth, but this is also influenced by environmental factors.

One important risk factor for externalizing disorders is aggressive social behavior that begins in early childhood. Several interventions have been developed to provide training in parenting skills to prevent the development of aggressive and antisocial behavior. In addition, some preventative interventions have targeted specific disorders like depression and schizophrenia.

Cognitive behavioral treatment for high-risk adolescents has lowered the rate of major depressive symptoms. Also, many community-based programs have been shown to be effective in promoting healthy behaviors.

“For all nurses, this report will increase our understanding of risk and protective factors related to the healthy development of children and youth,” Evans concludes.

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