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Sharp Health News

A tough transition: young adults and mental health

Dec. 18, 2015

Mental health care for transitional age youth

Young adulthood can be a difficult time of life. Worries about school, changing relationships and the unknowns of moving away from home and starting a career can add to an already challenging transition.

It’s normal for these pressures to cause some degree of stress and anxiety, which is usually temporary and resolves on its own. But for some young adults, symptoms are chronic and ongoing.

In fact, many serious mental health issues can emerge during the life stage known as transitional age youth, or TAY, generally defined as ages 18 to 25. The typical onset of schizophrenia, for example, is between the ages of 16 and 25. Symptoms of bipolar disorder, major depression and generalized anxiety disorder can also first appear during this time.

Increased isolation, change in appetite and sleep patterns, and significant changes in personality and behaviors can be cause for concern.

“If your loved one is usually outgoing and suddenly becomes withdrawn, avoiding friends and activities they used to enjoy, that’s something to pay attention to,” says Elizabeth Callahan, EdD, psychological assistant and behavioral health therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. Self-injury and substance abuse are other indicators that help is needed.

Seeking appropriate treatment as soon as possible is critical to successfully managing mental health issues.

“It’s important to get treatment that is specifically targeted to meet the unique needs of young adults,” advises Dr. Callahan. “We believe that individuals can achieve their personal goals in a supportive group setting.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy programs, like the one at Sharp Mesa Vista, help teach skills to increase patients’ awareness of their symptoms and how to best manage them. “We help our patients develop healthy and effective coping skills, and successfully manage their medications,” says Dr. Callahan. “We also ensure they know what to do if they experience a crisis, with a focus on safety.”

Family involvement is important to help ensure successful treatment, so it’s important to look for a program that provides support for loved ones and engages family members as partners in care.

The ultimate goal of the program at Sharp Mesa Vista is to return patients to more meaningful lives within the community. “We connect our patients with ongoing mental health care, and resources for returning to school, job training and healthy socialization,” says Dr. Callahan. “It’s gratifying to know my patients have a bright future.”

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