Jonathan was changing dramatically. He had been an outgoing and friendly 14-year-old, who tried hard at school despite the pressure of a very difficult family situation. But over time, he started leaving schoolwork undone; had become exceedingly irritated and irritable; and had developed very poor personal hygiene habits. He wasn’t sleeping and, seemed to be losing touch with the world around him. Moreover, Jonathan also seemed to believe that he was a famous martial artist with a flair for developing new fighting styles, rather than a young person falling further and further from his potential.
Within one year, Jonathan was expelled from four different schools and learned that he could not progress from 8th Grade to high school without attending summer school. Jonathan’s transformation was radical and swift; he quickly changed from an adolescent trying to overcome the obstacles in his life, to a deeply troubled and disconnected youth headed for failure.
This situation was compounded by the fact that Jonathan had moved 13 times in two years: he became homeless for a time, then moved into a shelter with his mother and two siblings, before finally finding permanent housing.
Luckily, a perceptive school counselor was concerned about Jonathan’s behavior and referred him to the Michigan Prevents Prodromal Progression (M3P) Program. It is another PIER Model program, providing confidential assessment and early assistance for adolescents and young adults at risk for severe mental illnesses.
The school counselor thought that M3P was the best chance Jonathan had to reclaim his potential. Following the referral, a M3P clinical coordinator reached out to Jonathan and his mother to engage the family and start the assessment process. This process determines if the problems that referred adolescents experience are caused by early symptoms of severe mental illness. If a young person is found to be at risk, they are offered services and immediate medical attention. During the screening, Jonathan’s mother reported that he didn’t sleep for days at a time, that she was at the point of giving up on him, and that she did not know how to support him and take care of his two siblings. It was clear that Jonathan needed the kind of support and intervention that M3P was designed to provide. In fact, according to the M3P coordinator, Jonathan was clearly experiencing psychotic symptoms when he came to the program. The M3P team designed a program of psychosocial intervention, supported by the careful use of medications, to stabilize Jonathan.
Jonathan told his clinical coordinator that he would do whatever was necessary to be eligible for high school admission and that “failure was not an option.” It was early in the intervention program, but Jonathan had already started to regain his sense of self, his determination, and his drive to do well. He became more organized and was able to talk through his concerns about not being able to start high school.
The cost of attending summer school was the next challenge for Jonathan and his family to face. Jonathan and his brother were sleeping on the floor because the family couldn’t afford beds and they also lacked money for food. Affording summer school seemed impossible.
The M3P team worked with a local thrift shop to find beds and utilized a community waiver program to cover the cost of classes. M3P’s connections in the community got him bus tokens for Jonathan’s transportation to school. In addition, M3P checked in with Jonathan’s teacher twice a week and assigned an occupational therapy student to help him stay organized, complete his homework, and plan for starting high school.
By the end of the summer, Jonathan was symptom free. He had new friends and got along better with his family. He was thinking clearly and was ready to start high school. Jonathan and his mother still participate in regular family psychoeducational problem-solving groups. He takes his medications and attends a homework group with peers. He is once again friendly and gets along well with others.
Through the commitment and alliance of M3P, the school, and local community organizations, Jonathan is now reclaiming his potential and is managing to control his mental illness – a chronic disease that steals the lives of far too many of our adolescents and young adults.