Mental Illness Is Not Reserved For Adults

Severe mental illness often starts before age 21, and can take both the teenager and the parents by surprise. You can stop the progression of the illness, however, by learning how to recognize symptoms and getting early treatment.



Early warning signs include:

  • Feeling something “just isn’t right” or that the mind is playing tricks.
  • Inability to do school work, or perform on the job.
  • Uncharacteristic behavior.
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch.
  • Belief that they have special powers.

Providence Community Services, who operates the Kickstart Program, shares the story of a 12-year-old girl who was a good student, active in dance, and spent time with several friends.

“Almost out of nowhere she started failing math, repeatedly asked to stay home from school, stopped spending time with friends and started to let go of attention to her hygiene.

Through early assessment, it was discovered that she was having a difficult time because she felt like people were watching her and that she thought her mind was playing tricks on her.

She said that at times she saw strange shadows and heard knocking sounds. At school she also mentioned that math just became too difficult, and that she wasn’t able to process what the teacher was saying.

Through treatment and education, she and her family learned how to change her home life to help minimize her symptoms. Several months after treatment, she showed significant improvement.

Through the attention and efforts of families, teachers and community members, youth can get identified early.”Maria Morgan Program Director, Providence Community Services

The clinical team at Kickstart provides confidential assessment and early assistance for young people, ages 10 to 25, in San Diego County who are at risk for a serious mental illness. Their team is available for educational training and presentations. Details: