Mental Illness in Childhood: The Power of Early Detection and Treatment

A new video from our partner MedStar Georgetown University Hospital underscores why we have made mental wellness a core component of our wrap-around supports for young children in the District of Columbia. The video (“Child Psychiatry: Ask Dr. Matthew Biel”), an interview with the hospital’s Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, allows us to more thoroughly understand mental illness in childhood and the importance of early interventions in health and development.

“50% of all mental illness begins before the age of 14…and 75% of all mental illness begins before the age of 24. So mental health problems like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, addiction…these problems usually start in childhood and adolescence. If we as a culture and as a health system can identify these problems earlier, work on them and bring our effective treatments earlier to the folks that need them earlier in life, the long-term impacts are going to be really, really positive.”

— Matthew Biel, MD, MSc

The Bainum Family Foundation’s holistic approach goes beyond addressing emotional or educational gaps in a piecemeal fashion. Instead, we work to engage families, connect all systems and enhance early environments — as Dr. Biel suggests — to ensure that no child slips through the cracks.

“We know that mental health problems, when present in childhood, are real and are treatable and yet they often go unrecognized. When they go unrecognized, they don’t tend to get better on their own. The best experts on kids [are] their families, and families oftentimes know when something is not going right.”

MedStar Georgetown partners with Children’s National Medical Center in the Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN) to educate child health care providers and policy makers about the impacts of poverty, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences in early childhood on long-term health and development. As part of the Foundation’s Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance, ECIN advocates for policy and practice solutions to eliminate or ameliorate these harmful effects. By bringing this kind of expertise to the same table, our collaborative efforts will move the needle for children and families in the District of Columbia and beyond.

Watch the full video here.