Industry Insider: Brain Check-Up
How can we be proactive regarding mental health? Know what mentally healthy looks like, identify warning signs, seek evaluation by a professional and follow up with appropriate intervention or remediation when indicated. Let’s look at what the stages of healthy mental development typically look like throughout the life cycle.
Pre-schoolers should be developing language skills as well as healthy sleeping and eating habits. They will demonstrate the ability to hear rhymes, recognize word sounds, letters, numbers, and comprehend simple several step directions. Consult a pediatrician if developmental milestones are not being met. Aggressive behavior should not be causing problems at home or school. Observe how your child is progressing both academically
Teenagers will be striving for independence; encourage this but also keep an eye on them. Hormones are raging and affect teens’ moods and behaviors. Escape and avoidance of stressful social and academic situations occur but can lead to excessive time in the virtual world, alcohol or substance abuse and sexual promiscuity. The risk for depression doubles for girls, as compared with boys, after puberty. Previously undiagnosed learning disorders, like ADHD, may cause problems for the first time in the teen years.
Adults are on track to maintain good mental health if they are content with regard to relationships, their work or family situation and are leading physically healthy lifestyles. If certain patterns of thinking, feeling and behavior are causing problems, it is probably time to consider changing dysfunctional patterns to lower stress. Certain mood disorders and psychotic disorders have their onset in early adulthood. Treatment should be initiated immediately for the best outcome.
With older adults, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cause irreversible decline in mental health. No medication can stop the progression of these disorders. However, modifying the following factors associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease will reduce the risk of developing it:
• Mid Life Hypertension
• Physical Inactivity
• Mid Life Obesity
• Mid Life Diabetes
• Low Educational Attainment
Modifying these factors builds up “cognitive reserve” in the brain, which functions as a neuro-protective buffer that prevents plaque formation – the cause of dementia related cognitive deficits.
Why is good mental health important? We benefit as a society, both socially and economically. By recognizing typical signs and symptoms of mental distress, we can become more proactive regarding mental health. Now, with research advances in the neurosciences, we can look forward to future treatments involving molecular and gene therapy, as well as psychotherapy, for relief from mental health disorders.