The MHS Journals

Our blog archive of insights and intel


What is GRIT? – “Identification” – “Treatment”

Nov 11, 2020

In our first article, we spoke about GRIT, which The National Council for Behavioral Health uses to describe the traits necessary to help children and youth with mental health challenges. GRIT stands for guts, resilience, identification, and treatment.

This article will continue by focusing on Identification and Treatment for youth dealing with mental health challenges.


When a child or adolescent displays signs of a mental illness or a learning disability, the earlier the problem is diagnosed and treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery. Parents, teachers, medical professionals, and others around the child can modify interactions and treatment plans to accommodate the diagnosis. Identifying problems as early as possible lets the youth, family, teachers, healthcare providers, and others around the child adjust their treatment plans and interactions to provide a more supportive framework.

The identification process is sometimes a long and winding road with several stops and starts. Unfortunately, the later that a child is diagnosed, the more difficult it can be to find a treatment that works. Delays in diagnosis allow conditions to become more complex and harder to treat. However, it is essential to remember that there is always hope, no matter when the problem is identified.

Therapists, doctors, and parents should be aware of the early warning signs that a child might be dealing with an emerging mental illness. While every child is different, here are a few things to look for that may indicate a need for professional intervention:

  • Changes in sleep patterns, either sleeping more or less than usual
  • Nervousness or irritability that may seem out of proportion for the situation or developmental stage
  • Loss of concentration or an inability to complete tasks
  • Decreasing or increasing appetite
  • Lack of motivation to do things the person enjoys typically
  • Suicidal thoughts or self harm behaviors
  • Drastic increases or decreases in energy level

It’s important to remember that all of these may be a regular part of adolescence, but if you see several of them or if any one symptom becomes an interruption to daily life, talk to your child’s doctor. Don’t wait to see if the situation will resolve itself. When identification is delayed, so is treatment and recovery. It’s better to get your child medical attention and find nothing than wait and delay identifying mental illness.


Mental health difficulties in teenagers are not out of the ordinary. The developing brain is complicated, and though we learn more every day, we don’t know everything there is to know about the organ. When the billions of cells don’t function as they should, a clinical intervention can help, just as they can help with an irregular heartbeat or trouble breathing. Some of the diagnoses commonly found in teenagers relate to mood disorders including: anxiety, social anxiety disorder (or phobias), and depression.

The good news is that we have very effective treatments for all of these, especially when discovered and treated early. Identifying trigger points, counseling, and sometimes medications are part of a comprehensive treatment plan. A qualified professional can help the client and family identify and then see results.

While most people would not hesitate to take a child to the doctor for heart palpitations or trouble breathing, research suggests that most children diagnosed with mental health conditions wait more than a year for identification and mental health treatment. Here are a few of the barriers that keep youth from getting appropriate care:

  • Parents and other adults may see mental health challenges as a regular part of childhood and adolescent development.
  • Children and teens may not describe what they are feeling or why they are carrying out a particular behavior. They likely lack the skills sets to articulate their experiences.
  • Despite significant improvements in educating the public, mental health conditions still carry a stigma that keeps families from seeking diagnosis and treatment.
  • Many insurance plans provide limited coverage for behavioral health, and treatment can be expensive.
  • Rural communities especially may lack access to appropriate professional mental health services.

Where Can I Find Help?

If your teen shows signs of deteriorating mental health, MHS offers Dialectical Behavior Therapy for adolescents ages 12 to 18. These programs meet twice each week. Early adolescents (age 12 to 14) require parent participation at least twice weekly and the older adolescent program (for ages 14 to 18) offer an optional monthly parent education session. DBT is a comprehensive therapy to help clients decrease symptoms, increase safety, and enjoy a better life quality. Mindfulness, distress tolerance, and life balance are a few of the skills clients learn to practice in sessions and in their daily lives. All major insurance carriers cover this service. Contact us today online or call (952) 835-2002 to schedule an appointment for an assessment.


Featured Image: Thomas Andre Fure / Shutterstock