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The Importance of Early Intervention for People Facing Mental Health Challenges

Experiencing a mental health challenge can be stressful. Each day is different, and some of them may include overwhelming emotions and thoughts. But it’s important to remember that recovery from a mental health challenge is possible with the right tools and support systems in place. When you’re trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), you can help someone get the support they need.

Not seeking treatment can be harmful.

Lack of treatment may stem from stigma associated with mental health, lack of access to care, or simply not knowing where to go for help. But the longer it takes for someone to receive help, the more difficult their recovery can be. Delays in treatment time can cause other serious consequences too, such as limiting social and occupational opportunities, and increasing the risk of depression and substance use challenges.

Many people go a long time between developing a mental health challenge and receiving appropriate treatment and support. For example, anxiety often develops early in childhood and adolescence, and is easily recognized and treated. Left untreated, anxiety can lead to the onset of other mental illnesses or reduced educational or career achievement. Unfortunately, according to the MHFA curriculum, many people who experience anxiety do not receive treatment — and for those who do, it can be as long as 10 years or more from the onset of the disorder.

Early intervention is an important tool for recovery.

Early intervention refers to recognizing the warning signs of a mental health or substance use challenge and acting before it gets worse. When you realize the signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge early, it may be easier to get appropriate help from a counselor or medical professional before it becomes worse. Studies have shown that proper care and treatment make complete recovery from a mental health or substance use challenge attainable.

Early intervention can also save a person and their loved ones from stress, prevent more serious symptoms from developing, and reduce the likelihood of problems with work, family, school and substance use. Plus, it could help reduce medical costs and the overall burden on friends and family members.

MHFA can play an important role in early intervention.

According to the MHFA curriculum, research suggests that people are more likely to seek help if someone close to them suggests it. As a Mental Health First Aider, this can be you. First Aiders are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges. You know how to use the MHFA Action Plan (ALGEE) to approach someone about what they’re facing and how to provide resources and encourage them to seek professional help for additional support.

Early intervention can reduce a person’s stress and make their recovery easier. Long delays from the onset of symptoms to appropriate help can make mild symptoms worse and recovery more difficult. Mental Health First Aid helps you #BeTheDifference by teaching how to recognize and intervene when early signs of mental health and substance use challenges emerge.



Jorm, A. F. (2011, October 31). Mental health literacy: Empowering the community to take action for better mental health. American Psychologist, 67(3), 231-243. doi:10.1037/a0025957

Mental Health First Aid USA. (2020). Mental Health First Aid. Washington, DC: National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Smith, J. P., & Book, S. W. (2008). Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders: A Review. The Psychiatric times,25(10), 19–23.

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