I was reading an article recently that stated that most mental illness, although diagnosed at the age of 20 or so, usually started around the age of 12. This article then went on to say that the prognosis was much better for the person when the disease was caught earlier rather than late.
I have always had a few reservations about this kind of approach to the ‘problem.’ Full blown psychosis in a 20 year old may stem from an odd kid of 12, but that 12 year old is unlikely to have been having any psychotic episodes. On the other hand, if you start a kid out on the wrong path at 12, that wrong path may lead to psychosis at 20.
We groom some people for success at a fairly young age, other people, by contrast, suffer our neglect. Whether we call this neglect happenstance, or the human condition, doesn’t mitigate the fact that it happens. If you are not directing the child in successful career choices or life choices, you are directing them on a course that leads inevitably to failure and unhappiness.
Pathologize failure, and voila, you have what you might call mental illness. The person saddled with such a wrong turn will end up facing some kind of dilemma in the future in any event. If you don’t wind up with a ‘mentally ill’ case, then you might wind up with someone who would be trying to circumvent such bad circumstances through criminal behavior.
Back a person into a corner, and you have a person looking for a way out of the tight squeeze that person is stuck in. This individual, not given a way out, could be lashing out at everyone and anyone. Without a resolution to this kind of dilemma, you can expect an overall worsening condition.
Obviously, it might be easier to change an individual’s career path at 12 years old than it would be to do so at 20 years old. What we don’t need to do is consider a person a ‘lost cause’ for reaching adulthood. That some people are going to reach adulthood without having all the proper tools to cope should go without saying.
The issue then becomes, when the road hasn’t been found at 12 years, how do we find an alternate route at 30, 40, and beyond leading from and out of this person’s ‘lost cause’ status. This can’t be done alone, but it can be done with recognition of the dilemma, and help in achieving a solution.
If you can script a tragedy for a person, you can also script a comedy or a romance. The comedy, just like the tragedy, requires players. Recovering an individual from the ravages of mental illness then involves changing his or her basic life drama from a tragedy to a success.
‘Too late’ may be a convenient excuse when the individual is no longer 12 years of age, but it is neither a good excuse nor a necessary excuse. This is no less true when the individual has reached a later stage of maturity. If the people surrounding this individual are part of the problem, then maybe what you need to do is to bring in another troupe.