Mental Illness in Young Adults

Last week we highlighted June’s Capitol Hill briefing on the links between poverty and brain development, and this week, we’d like to direct you to the AAAS article about the July briefing on mental illness in young adults. The briefings are part of a series organized by AAAS and funded by the Dana Foundation.

On July 19, more than 50 congressional staffers and federal scientists listened to experts discuss the diagnosis and the possible triggers of mental illness in this young population, as well as available treatment options. Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member Alan Leshner, Ph.D., moderated the session, and experts included Dana Alliance member and teen brain specialist Abigail Baird, Ph.D.

AAAS reports:

Early detection and treatment is the eventual goal, and researchers hope to one day be able to identify early symptoms or other factors that put an individual at risk of mental illness and then provide support or guidance that helps them to temper or even prevent the emergence of the disease.

“If we knew you were at high risk, given your family profile, given your birth history, given your early years, [then] going far away to college at a really competitive, socially intense place might not be the best choice for you,” Baird said. Avoiding such a stressful situation may help someone who is inclined to develop a mental illness minimize or avoid the onset of that disorder.

For most people, everything goes right in terms of brain development, and mental illness won’t ever be a personal concern. But inevitably, some people will have an episode of mental illness on their way to adulthood. “If we could better understand what causes those people to stumble and help them get back up more quickly,” Baird said, “I think we will have done a great service.”

–Ann L. Whitman

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