Facing mental illness

75 per of all mental health conditions show up in the teen and early adult years

Adding to the challenging journey teenagers face as they transition to adulthood is the fact that 75 per of all mental health conditions show up in the teen and early adult years.

Today we talk about bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which tend to first show their symptoms between the ages of 13 and 25. As noted last week: If you are worried that your child or teen may be showing signs of a mental illness, talk to your family doctor, or contact the Child and Youth Mental Health program provided by the Ministry of Children and Family Development in your region. Call Service BC at 1-800-661-8773 for the MCFD office nearest to you.

Bipolar: Originally called manic-depression, bipolar disorder is marked by extreme shifts in mood, energy and activity levels, ranging from severe depression on one side to mania on the other.

During a manic episode, the youth will be highly talkative, energetic, full of ideas and enthusiasms, may take risks or behave impulsively, and may even become jittery, sleepless and irritable. During a depressive episode, the youth is tired or feels slowed down, is very sad and hopeless, has a hard time concentrating or making decisions, and may also be restless or irritable.

Sometimes the extremes in moods can bring on psychosis — losing touch with reality and having hallucinations and delusions. Early psychosis intervention, called EPI, is very successful. See earlypsychosis.ca.

Many famous and highly successful individuals have bipolar disorder, in part because the manic phase can produce extreme creativity and productivity. Yet the disorder can cause havoc with relationships, jobs and finances. Substance use, particularly alcohol, is common, especially during a manic phase.

With long-term treatment, productive lives can be lived. For more information, see Mood Disorders Association of BC, mdabc.net; and heretohelp.bc.ca;

Schizophrenia: Perhaps no mental health diagnosis causes parents and youth more fear than schizophrenia, which is marked by losing touch with reality and experiencing hallucinations, delusions, disorganization and cognitive impairment, such as poor judgment and decision-making. But the outlook need not be bleak: treatment works, and a return to good functioning occurs regularly.

About one per cent of all British Columbians have this illness and it affects men and women equally, but first symptoms often appear for men between ages 16 and 20, and women between ages 20 and 30.

For more information about schizophrenia see earlypsychosis.ca; mindcheck.ca; the BC Schizophrenia Society, bcss.org; and the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. chapter, cmha.bc.ca.


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