When we think about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait years to treat them. We start way before Stage 4. We begin with prevention. And when people are in the first stage of those diseases, and have a persistent cough, high blood pressure, or high blood sugar, we try immediately to reverse these symptoms.
This is what we should be doing when people have serious mental illnesses, too. When they first begin to experience symptoms such as loss of sleep, feeling tired for no reason, feeling low, feeling anxious, or hearing voices, we should act.
These early symptoms might not ever become serious. Like a cough, they often go away on their own, and are nothing to fear. But when they do not go away, it typically takes ten years from the time they first appear until someone gets a correct diagnosis and proper treatment.
This means that by ignoring them, we lose ten years in which we could intervene in order to change people’s lives for the better. During most of these years most people still have supports that allow them to succeed - home, family, friends, school, and work. So people can often recover quickly, and live full and productive lives.
Even when we don’t intervene right away, and serious mental illnesses get worse and disrupt people’s lives, we can act effectively. We can offer people choices and supports to help them recover. These include clinical services, drugs, peer supports, counseling, family supports, and other therapies that also help them manage their thoughts and emotions. These all help keep people connected to their families and their community. Intervening as early as possible preserves education, employment, social supports, housing – and brain power! It also costs less than the all-too-common revolving door of incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness.
Focusing B4Stage4 is the answer. Here are five ways you can help:
- Take a confidential mental health screening, and encourage family and friends to do so, too.
- Keep up to date on our mental health awareness campaigns, like May is Mental Health Month
- Join our Advocacy Network and add your voice to those who want policy and programmatic investments in earlier identification and intervention “Before Stage 4."
- Ask organizations, political leaders, and advocates to endorse our B4Stage4 campaign.
- Help us to engage the online community in #B4Stage4 thinking. Support MHA’s #B4Stage4 campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
- Join @mentalhealtham in spreading the word. Prevention & early intervention work #B4Stage4! #mentalhealth [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
- Share your story! Educate others. Support @mentalhealtham spread the word #B4Stage4 #mentalhealth [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
- Time to move #B4Stage4 in supporting mental health. Support @mentalhealtham and learn more about #B4Stage4: [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
- #mentalillnesses are only chronic conditions we wait until Stage 4 to treat! Help @mentalhealtham spread the word #B4Stage4 [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
Sample Facebook Posts
- Did you know that it typically takes ten years from the first time someone has mental health concerns until they get a correct diagnosis and proper treatment? We can’t wait for that. Embrace #B4Stage4 thinking and support our efforts. Learn more: [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
- Prevention, early identification, and intervention, and integrated services work #B4Stage4! Help support MHA’s #B4Stage4 Campaign. More here: [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
- Intervening effectively during early stages of mental illness can save lives and change the trajectories of people living with mental illnesses. Support MHA and embrace #B4Stage4 thinking. Read more: [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
- Break the chain! Support early identification, prevention, and intervention. People do recover #B4Stage4 Learn more: [mhanational.org/b4stage4-philosophy]
Together, we can change the way we think about mental health.