Homelessness, incarceration, violence, suicide. These terms bring dark and upsetting images to mind for most everyone. You may be asking, what do these phenomena have in common? The answer is that the chances of experiencing one or more of these adversities is increased when individuals with mental illness do not receive proper treatment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as “a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood may affect and his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.”
With so much variability, it seems nearly impossible to provide a truly comprehensive answer to the question: What happens when mental illness goes untreated? However, in recent years there has been a growing amount of research studies analyzing the impact of mental health on both individuals as well as society as a whole. The impact that mental illness can have on individuals changes throughout the lifespan. Young children with separation anxiety, for example, likely experience significant challenges related to the transition from spending their days at home with Mom to spending their days at school. This can take a toll on both the upset child as well as her or her parents. An older child with depression, however, may struggle to stay focused in class, have difficulties forming and maintaining friendships, and even fall behind academically.
Although we, as mental health professionals, still have a great deal more to learn about mental illness and treatment, one fact we know to be true is that earlier detection and treatment leads to improved outcomes. When untreated, mental health conditions can worsen and the impact on daily life (work, relationships, physical health) can grow significantly. Often people with mental illness develop methods of coping that can have negative consequences. The sooner individuals can gain understanding and learn to manage their mental health effectively, the smaller the impact that the mental illness will have on their lives. After all, borrowing another quote from the NAMI website, “without mental health, we cannot be fully healthy.”
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!