Lecture to explore, ‘What is Prodrome?’
Expert says identifying symptoms may lead to early diagnoses of mental illness
On May 24, Emily Owens, a clinical assessor and supervisor at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Behavior, will try to answer two questions when she delivers a lecture in Park City: What is prodrome in adolescents, and what does it mean for parents?
According to Owens, prodrome is the period of time during which subtle symptoms may indicate the onset of mental illness in an individual. Usually, a person with prodrome experiences a change in their beliefs and perceptions, accompanied by impairment in social functioning or performance at work and school.
“When you combine all of these things, the person starts to experience some level of stress,” she said, adding that only 20 to 40 percent of people who experience a prodromal stage develop mental illness within two years. “It’s combination of all those factors.”
Owens will discuss prodrome and its role in early detection for adolescent psychosis Wednesday as part of a month-long effort to highlight mental health issues organized by Connect Summit County, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing mental health awareness locally. Owens’ lecture is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Park City Hospital’s Blair Conference Center.
Given the relationship between prodrome and mental illness, it is a good idea for parents to be aware of the common signs of prodrome, Owens said. They should take note if their children talk about things that don’t make sense or seem far-fetched, hear or see things no one else can hear or see, or become invested in topics they didn’t previously care about. Despite that, however, it’s often difficult for parents to single out the behaviors as prodrome.
“A lot of parents have trouble differentiating between what’s ‘normal’ teenage behavior and what’s something they need to be worried about,” she said.
Owens added that she’s impressed by the effort in Summit County to bring attention things like prodrome and to mental health in general. She said it’s common for people with mental illnesses to not have access to treatment, and there’s still a large stigma attached to mental illness — so it’s critical for communities across the nation to raise awareness for mental health issues.
“It’s hugely important for people to have an understanding of what’s going on and what they can do,” she said. “Just getting that empowerment, and reducing a little bit of uncertainty, can have a big effect. We’ve seen that a lot in the families we work with.”
Owens’ lecture is just one of a handful of events slated for this week. A suicide prevention training presented in Spanish is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. at the Park City Library. A discussion about trauma therapy is slated for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Park City Community Church. More information is available at connectsummitcounty.org.
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