August 6, 2018

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Empowering Youth: Early Intervention’s Emphasis on Universal Goals

By Luana R. Turner

Wanting to live the life you wish and choose is a universal goal that transcends cultures and generations. Everyone should have the right to pursue this life and be given equal opportunity and choice to do so.

Worldwide 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by mid-20s. Identifying and reconciling challenges and concentrating on the achievement of goals early-on is key to managing the pathways and the symptoms of the disorders they are experiencing. For these youth experiencing mental health disorders, supported education and employment is an integral process of living the life they wish for.

Early intervention in mental health has made a needed paradigm shift from attention on diagnosis to the importance of identifying the individuals at risk for developing a mental health disorder; providing appropriate support in education, and employment, as well as highlighting the importance of peer involvement and their perspectives in treatment and service development. Our understanding of intervention costs and the significance of working with policy makers has also advanced, but there are broad distinctions across countries on how funding for services is achieved and used, as well as disseminated globally. Yet, costs associated with these interventions should not deter efforts. While initial expenses may be associated with short-term financial commitment the long-term benefits include alleviating loss of wages, costs to the system, and reductions in hospitalizations rates.

There is simply no substitute for someone achieving their goals and getting their life back on track, or, in many instances, starting the life they always wanted. When our youth experience difficulties often the first goals mentioned, even if challenging to accomplish, are to be with their friends and loved ones, and return to school and work. In fact, education and employment is such a staple of life that as aging occurs we often forget that many of our most important and satisfying relationships came from school and work experiences. Those living without these nourishing components of life will name them as losses that likely put them at risk for developing further mental health issues.

Employment is a powerful aspect of our lives and holds meaning beyond financial incentives; it provides a sense of purpose and gives us a sense of self. During the most difficult times, it is a healthy distracter that helps us through the day and often gives new perspective. Positive educational experiences prepare us for successful employment opportunities. So why separate education from employment?

We have evidence-based models and rich research highlighting the importance of supported education and employment. I put forward that the next early intervention paradigm shift should focus on the integration, not separation, of these components, to help our youth achieve their universal goals.

Luana R. Turner, Psy.D., is a psychologist at the UCLA Aftercare Research Program, a clinical research program for individuals experiencing a recent-onset of schizophrenia. Dr. Turner provides therapy, case management, conducts diagnostic evaluations, supervises interns, assists clients and loved ones in determining and accessing the best-fit treatment plan and is a clinical researcher at the UCLA Aftercare Research Program. Dr. Turner specializes in the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model, providing training, consultation and supervision to individuals and organizations utilizing this model.

Please join Luana, and other leading experts in the field including Wenche ten Velden Hegelstad, Daniëlle van Duin, Nanna Briem, Eóin Killackey, as she chairs the symposium on ‘Career Development: Can an Integrated IPS model work?’  at the upcoming IEPA 11 International Conference on Early Intervention in Mental Health in Boston.