An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Why Early Intervention Can Drastically Change Teen Mental Health Outlooks for the Better

Colorado youth ages 11 to 18 have seen rates of poor mental health more than double from 2017 to 2021. In a world where school stress, the COVID-19 pandemic, gun violence and more impact youth on a daily basis, WellPower is working hard to provide mental health interventions that improve adolescents’ well-being.

Early intervention is key

Imagine a person has broken their ankle. If they choose to get treatment for it right away, there’s a strong likelihood the bone will set and heal properly and that they’ll be back to their normal activities within a few months. The longer they delay treatment, though, the higher the chance that the bone won’t heal properly, if at all. They may also require more severe methods to fix it later, like surgery and physical therapy.

The same idea applies to mental health challenges, especially in adolescents.

“Early mental health interventions play a major role in helping youth achieve positive well-being, especially on the heels of a mental health challenge,” said Samuel Williams, MSW, project coordinator for WellPower’s Phoenix Program. “When we help young people see their strengths, surround them with supports like therapy, groups and classes, and give them the tools they need to find success and meaning in their lives, they’re much more likely to have positive well-being as they grow. They’re also much more likely to have better social connections, actively participate in society and be able to carry out their daily tasks.”

The Phoenix Program at Emerson St. for Teens and Young Adults is dedicated to serving youth in the Denver area ages 15 to 26 who are experiencing first- or early-episode psychosis, a condition in which a person loses touch with reality, such as having hallucinations or delusions. The Phoenix Program was established at Emerson St. for Teens and Young Adults because typical onset of psychosis symptoms is in the late teens/early 20s. 

“Part of what we’re trying to do with the Phoenix program is educate our community about what psychosis is and how we can help,” said Williams. “Even outside of the realm of psychosis, helping youth to understand the mental health spectrum and know what to look for if their mental health is poor means they can find treatment before their symptoms get more severe.

“Not everyone at risk of psychosis will develop a diagnosis like schizophrenia, but getting people who are at risk involved in programs like ours can make a huge difference. We help them identify their strengths and maintain and achieve goals they’ve set for themselves, while working to mitigate severe effects of mental health challenges or mental illness.”

A spectrum of support

Youth in Denver have access to an array of services with WellPower. From bilingual Spanish services at El Centro de las Familias to group therapy and classes at Emerson St. for Teens & Young Adults to clinicians embedded in 24 Denver Public Schools and specialized K-8 education at Skyline Academy, WellPower’s clinical teams support adolescents through a multitude of mental health needs.

Teaching the community about mental health plays a big role in providing early intervention for youth, too. More recently, WellPower has also started working with Denver Public Schools to help teens support each other through teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA), a program that teaches youth in grades 10 – 12 how to spot signs of mental health challenges in one another, where to go for support, how to find professionals who can help and what to do in crisis situations. Bolstered by staff who are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and mental health clinicians on site, this program prepares young people to notice when their friends are struggling and gives them the tools to reach out to each other and adults they trust for help.

Resources for teens and young adults

Knowing where to go and who to talk to when faced with a mental health challenge or crisis can be difficult. Check out the list of resources below for support when you or someone you love needs it:

  • Emerson St. for Teens & Young Adults – Emerson St. provides a supportive community for teens and young adults, ages 15 – 26, seeking connection and belonging. This inclusive, welcoming place offers a variety of activities and services that support young people in enhancing their mental health and overall well-being.
  • Phoenix Program – a sub-program of Emerson St., the Phoenix Program specializes in treatment for first-episode psychosis and uses Emerson St.’s therapists, groups and resources to support youth in the program.
  • Voz y Corazón – Voz y Corazón focuses on empowering youth voices and hearts through art and connectedness. It is a free community-based support group for youth, focused on self-acceptance, group connection and mentorship – all supported through artistic expression.
  • I Matter – a program in Colorado that provides free therapy to youth ages 18 and younger, or 21 and younger if they are receiving special education services.
  • Crisis Services – WellPower’s crisis services range from 24/7/365 help to on-demand counseling on weekdays, and assistance for individuals in distress in the community.

To access services at WellPower, please call (303) 504-7900 or visit to learn more.