Intervening as early as possible with a mental illness is extremely important. Symptoms of mental illness usually start early.

Fifty percent of all people with mental illness had their symptoms start by age 14, 75% by age 24. For various reasons (lack of symptom knowledge, stigma of mental illness, denial and financial), most people unnecessarily experience another 10-12 years of treatment delay.

Early Intervention Strategies

What Families Should Know

When a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, it can be frightening for all the parties involved. The main concept to remember is SAFETY FIRST; if a person becomes a threat to themselves or someone else, an intervention needs to be made immediately. The safest place to take a person is the emergency room, as necessary medication can be administered to assist with the problem. If a person does not want to go voluntarily to treatment, the police can escort that person to the ER and assist with safety concerns.


Different illnesses exhibit a variety of behaviors and symptoms. However, a family member usually has a good idea of how this person reacts to things. Some symptoms that should always be taken seriously are:

  • Suicidal or homicidal threats
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • An increase/start of using substances
  • Bizarre behavior, such as becoming violent for no reason
  • Vocalizing means or a plan in which to commit suicide/homicide
  • Confusion, acting as if the person does not know where/who they are

Symptom Duration

Most people go through “phases” of being in bad mood, having an anger outburst, or even feeling hopeless. If a person says something like, “I just can’t snap out of this” or you notice that they are putting themselves in a high risk situation(s) for more than 2 weeks, it is wise to see a professional for a thorough evaluation to determine if they may need some short-term treatment or an inpatient hospitalization.

Symptom Severity

Depending on the illness, different symptoms will present themselves on a scale. As stated above, anytime that a person makes a threat to harm themselves or another person, seek help immediately. If you notice that your family member has had a “personality change”, in which they are exhibiting entirely different behavior than they normally do, it never hurts to ask as a concerned person. If symptoms are rapidly getting worse, involve more friends or family to assist you with getting the person to a safe place.

When to Act

If a loved one is putting themselves in danger, such as walking into traffic, wandering off without telling anyone where they are going, or using an excessive amount of a substance, contact neighbors or other friends to help. If the person disappears, call the police and report what has happened. They can escort the person to the appropriate facility for evaluation/treatment.

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Why I support the MHAET...
Did you know...
One out of every two people will need mental health care in their lifetime.
Did you know...
50% of adults know someone in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs.