Mental Health Disorders: Early Diagnosis is Vital

mental health

One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 50% of youth ages 8-15 didn’t receive mental health services in the previous year.

Early diagnosis of psychological health disorders can spare individuals from experiencing significant problems in the future. Those who struggle with mood disorders at a young age must be screened and treated to prevent them from developing unhealthy coping mechanisms.

It is a fact that many people who struggle with substance use in adulthood have an underlying mental illness stemming back to their youth. Men and women who use drugs and alcohol to manage their symptoms risk developing behavioral health problems. More than half of adults living with addiction have a co-occurring mental illness like:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

While the conditions listed above can result from heavy alcohol and substance use, it is often the other way around in plenty of cases. Many teenagers begin and continue to use drugs and alcohol because they are dealing with undiagnosed psychiatric issues. Mind-altering substances can provide temporary relief from pain and suffering, but the practice only serves to worsen symptoms in the long run.

Mental illness screenings of young people are of the utmost importance. Evidence-based treatments exist, and pairing teens and young adults with mental health services saves lives. During Mental Health Month, it is imperative that parents consider prioritizing both their overall well-being and their children’s.

Diagnosing Childhood Depression

NAMI reports that one in five young people (13 to 18) suffers from a severe mental health disorder at some point in their lives. In previous posts, we have pointed out that depression is the leading cause of disability around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that some 300 million people of all ages suffer from the disorder. A significant number of youths are affected by this serious health condition.

Researchers associate undiagnosed depression with both substance use disorder and suicide later in life. The WHO reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death in those between the ages of 15 and 29. With that in mind, it’s not challenging to see the need for developing effective screening techniques.

Researchers at the University of Vermont may have found a new method for identifying anxiety and depression in young people. These types of conditions are sometimes referred to as “internalizing disorders.” The research team tested a machine learning algorithm that might help doctors diagnose mental illness in youths, according to a press release. The findings of the study appear in the Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics.

We need quick, objective tests to catch kids when they are suffering,” says Ellen McGinnis, a clinical psychologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center’s Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families and lead author of the study. “The majority of kids under eight are undiagnosed.”

The study shows that artificial intelligence can evaluate child speech patterns to detect signs of anxiety and depression. The AI singled out three speech patterns that point to the presence of internalizing disorders: low-pitched voices, repeatable speech inflections and content, and a higher-pitched response to unexpected noise.

Fast and Reliable Mental Health Diagnoses

The press release points out that typical youth mental health screenings involve a trained clinician and the child’s primary caregiver. The patient receives a 60 to 90 minute semi-structured interview. Since children do not excel at articulating their emotional suffering, screenings are time-consuming and not always accurate.

The algorithm was able to identify children with a diagnosis of an internalizing disorder with 80 percent accuracy, and in most cases that compared really well to the accuracy of the parent checklist,” says senior study author, Ryan McGinnis.

The researchers plan to embed their algorithm into a universal screening tool.

Gender Specific Mental Health Treatment

At PACE Recovery Center, we assist young men who suffer from mental health disorders. Our center offers both residential and outpatient services that can help you or a loved one facing a mood or behavioral health disorder. Please contact us today to learn more about the services we provide and our highly credentialed clinical staff.

We utilize a multidimensional treatment approach that integrates evidence-based practices from the psychological, medical, social, familial and self-help communities.

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