Published: Feb 19, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 19, 2013 09:03 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - The transition from high school to young adulthood often is rocky, but for teens with mental health issues, the path can be treacherous.
Parents can learn about planning with their children for a successful transition at a Saturday workshop sponsored by Family Hope, a parent training program at Josh’s Hope Foundation Inc.
The nonprofit, named for a young Chapel Hill man who was murdered in 2008, focuses on bridging the gaps between treatment and the community for young adults with mental illness. The foundation has two main programs: Family Hope, which offers free workshops, and Tools for Hope, a job-training program that teaches young adults woodworking, job preparedness and independent living skills.
Steve Bailey, who started Josh’s Hope with his wife Julie, said they found through experience that young adults with mental health issues face unique challenges. Despite their efforts to help Josh, their adopted son, he developed substance abuse problems on top of his mental health issues, before he was shot and killed at age 20.
“We naively believed that because he had graduated from high school and was able to work part time and then go to community college that he was equipped to be successful despite his mental health issues,” Bailey said.
At Josh’s Hope, the Baileys and others seek ways to keep young adults engaged in their own treatment and recovery, while teaching them important life skills.
“Futures Mapping” is one of those skills, said Damie Jackson-Diop, youth transition program director with the advocacy agency N.C. Families United. The comprehensive, youth-centered planning exercise establishes family partnerships with teens and local and state services. It also builds a more effective system for delivering mental health support, she said.
Futures mapping is voluntary and more flexible than traditional therapy, she said. It’s also helpful for young people facing serious life crises or acting out in negative ways.
The interesting thing is young people set goals for their future about 90 percent of the time that aren’t what the adults think they need, she said.
Jackson-Diop will lead the workshop, designed to give parents strategies and tools they can immediately use to help their children – even if their children resist the process, she said.
Many young adults with mental illness don’t expect to be taken seriously when they ask for help, sometimes because their illness is not readily apparent, Jackson-Diop said. Others don’t ask for help because they feel overwhelmed by the stigma of mental illness.
The problems can escalate when a young adult’s support network, employers and mental health caregivers don’t understand those behaviors, she said.
Young adults risk losing their health coverage – and support from the mental health system – when they lose a job or drop out of college. Others become homeless or run into trouble with drug abuse or the legal system. Sometimes, their mental illness prevents them from recognizing the cause and effect of their extreme actions, Bailey said.
Although many therapists are trying to be more youth-friendly, “a lot of cultural changes need to happen (with how local and state) systems deal with young adults,” Jackson-Diop said.