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First contact: Early intervention key in diagnosis and treatment of serious mental illness
Date:4/16/2012

p>First Contact focuses on identifying the first stages of mental illness, even before a definite diagnosis is made. This is possible because mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have very similar biological profiles, so the symptoms can be the same. When warning signs appear, diagnosis is not necessary to begin early treatment that is very low risk, such as teaching people about psychiatric wellness and how to monitor themselves for signs of illness.

Cronenwett explains that those who suffer from mental illness experience deterioration in or difficulty maintaining vitally important connections. They either lose or can't form important relationships, their productivity and performance drops and they often struggle to start a career or maintain stability such that their lives spiral out of their control.

"We don't want to wait until someone gets hospitalized before we begin treatment," said Cronenwett. "We want to intervene early to see if we can prevent that loss of milestones. This program gives people a place to go when they are concerned about a friend or loved one."

If someone is concerned about mental illness in a family member, they can call Northwestern's Stone Institute for more information. Stone offers inpatient and outpatient care for adults, as well as outpatient care for adolescents ages 12󈝾 through its Warren Wright Adolescent Center. If the patient is over the age of 18, they will receive an evaluation at First Contact. Patients under the age of 18 are evaluated at Warren Wright. The evaluation might include psychological testing in addition to a standard psychiatric interview. Treatment services are available for all mental health conditions, including substance abuse, depression and ADHD.

"Whatever age in life the illness begins to strike, we can treat adolescents or adults to prevent disability and keep them on track with the rest of their lives," said Cronenwett.


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Contact: Colleen Sheehan
csheehan@nmh.org
312-926-7769
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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