Mental health needs to be addressed earlier in life, advocates say
Mental health conditions are common among teens and young adults. One in 5 people under the age of 24 live with some type of mental illness. But 50 percent of those who do have a mental health disorder wait an average of 10 years to seek any kind of treatment.
Aruna Rao, associate director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey, said there is a concern that many kids and families are not seeking support or information.
She said many times the mental health system responds after the crisis or suicide. Rao said the gains of responding early are tremendous: Rather than a lifetime of a serious mental illness, responding when a person is young enough can lead to a more fulfilling life.
Rao said New Jersey is one of the more responsive states when it comes to the mental health system. But there is still a need for more testing, especially depression and anxiety screenings in schools.
At NAMI's annual conference on Saturday at the Imperia in the Somerset section of Franklin, the focus will be entirely on youth mental health.
The conference will target youth, families, parents and college staff with information about the primary issues that kids are confronting these days. There will be discussions with advocates, psychologists, student leaders and state mental health support people.
"We really want to focus on caregivers," Rao said. "Many times parents and grandparents and family members who are caring for children or youth diagnosed with mental health disorders, have high rates of depression and anxiety because of the problems they're confronting."
For more information on mental health disorders among youths or about the conference you can contact NAMI at www.naminj.org or at 732-940-0991.