Early Intervention Can Reduce Later Psychiatric Problems for At-Risk Children

FROM PSYCHIATRIC NEWS ALERT: Early and sustained intervention of children with conduct problems can lower the chances that those problems will extend into adulthood, reports a new study published in AJP in Advance titled “Impact of Early Intervention on Psychopathology, Crime, and Well-Being at Age 25.”

Known as Fast Track, this project enrolled kindergarteners who displayed aggressive or disruptive behaviors into a multi-component, 10-year, manualized program aimed at instilling social competencies that would extend throughout their lifetimes

“through social skills training, parent behavior-management training with home visiting, peer coaching, reading tutoring, and classroom social-emotional curricula,”

the researchers noted. The program took place in four communities: Durham, N.C., Nashville, Seattle, and rural Pennsylvania. A similar set of at-risk children receiving only the standard interventions in their community were followed as a control group.

There has not been much evidence showing that behavioral improvements in children translate into adulthood, but so far, the Fast Track study seems to suggests that such an intervention can have an impact, finding that while 69% of the adults in the control group displaying at least one psychiatric problem at age 25, only 59% of Fast Track participants displayed a psychiatric problem at the same age. Fast Track participants also displayed decreased rates of substance abuse crimes, violent crimes, and risky sexual behavior compared with controls, as well as higher levels of happiness and well-being.

“This shows that we can go a full eight years after last seeing these children and still see reductions in the rates of problem outcomes for this group as young adults,”

said study author Kenneth Dodge, Ph.D., director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

The improvements in behavior were consistent among each of the 13 subgroups assessed (including those defined by gender, ethnicity, study site, etc.), demonstrating that this approach has potential for a wide range of children and risk levels.

To read about a promising early-intervention effort with children in Australia, known as Headspace, see the Psychiatric News article “Australian Youth Get a ‘Soft Entry’ Into Mental Health System.”

NAMI California: Empowering Californians to Attain Mental Wellness

By Jessica Cruz, NAMI California Executive Director

As families and individuals whose lives have been affected by mental illness, NAMI California has long been dedicated to breaking down the stigma and discrimination that can stand in the way of people with mental health challenges accessing support and living full and rewarding lives.

For three years, we have been proud to partner with the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) to empower people with lived experience of mental health challenges to break down barriers.  Together we are using our voices to shatter misconceptions about mental illness, create supportive environments where people with mental health challenges feel comfortable seeking and receiving help, and create resources to reach California’s diverse communities with stories of recovery and resilience.

Table 1: CalMHSA Presentation and Audience Numbers since 2011

IOOV ETS P&TasA Provider Ed
Presentations 1,004     477     86 15
Audience # 17,700 14,097 2,195 253

Table 2:  NAMI California Trained Presenter Numbers

IOOV ETS P&TasA Provider Ed
Trained Presenters 339 146      205           151

Now, through “Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement” we are standing together with thousands of individuals and organizations in a unified call for inclusion and acceptance for people living with mental health challenges.

Prevention and Early Intervention in Action Across California

Individuals and families living with mental illness know prevention and early intervention strategies are a critical way to embrace people in need of help with support that can prevent the onset of mental illness or lessen the severity of the symptoms.

NAMI members across the state were critical organizers and took action to  get out the vote to support the passage of  the  Mental Health Services Act of 2004 (Prop. 63). The voters agreed, including casting their votes to support for   Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) investments on a statewide basis.

Through CalMHSA, an organization of county governments working together to implement statewide PEI strategies, California has:

  • Reached more than 820,000 Californians with crisis and early intervention services.
  • Trained nearly 125,000 individuals in prevention strategies.
  • Launched innovative social marketing campaigns that improve mental health awareness, inclusion, and equity from childhood through adulthood.
  • Created lasting systems change, including new standards for K-12 educators to have training to improve identification of at-risk students.
  • Enhanced local crisis hotline support by expanding language capacity, outreach and marketing, training and developing new crisis chat and text lines.
  • Pioneered culturally relevant best practices to serve the needs of California’s diverse communities.

New Resources

California’s Mental Health Movement will grow stronger as we build community partnerships and share resources and strategies.  CalMHSA’s partners have developed a host of new tools and resources that can be useful in our work to champion change.

  • Research shows one of the most effective ways to raise awareness and reduce stigma is through the face-to-face sharing of personal stories.  CalMHSA’s partnership has enabled NAMI to greatly expand our network of speakers trained to share our stories of story of mental health challenges, stigma, and recovery for work, school or community organization audiences. Find a speaker through one of the many NAMI California programs including In Our Own VoiceEnding the SilenceParents and Teachers as Allies and Provider Education.
  • Share Each Mind Matters key messages with your partners and colleagues through your coalitions or organizational communications.
  • SuicideisPreventable.org helps us find the words to say and the resources to reach out to for help in crisis.
  • Know a young person struggling with difficult thoughts and feelings? ReachOutHere.com is a way young people can connect with others understand what they’re going through and offer support.
  • Share these tips about rights for individuals and families struggling with mental health challenges from Disability Rights California with your partners and colleagues through your coalitions or organizational communications.
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