01.05.2011 The starting point for early identification and early intervention in young people is society

Publications. A new booklet produced in the French-speaking part of Switzerland presents a model for addressing early identification and early intervention in young people at risk. It contains recommendations and examples of good practice derived from a range of settings.

Pictures The starting point for early identification and early intervention in young people is society


Youth is a highly challenging time of life, shaped by the search for personal individuality and the need to recognize boundaries and grasp opportunities. Social conditions can make it hard for young people to develop into independent, responsible adults. The scarcity of apprenticeships and jobs, an excess of temptations in all shape and form and the growing pressure to succeed are only some of the hurdles they have to take on their road to adulthood. The large majority of young people come through the turbulences of adolescence with no harmful consequences. Some of them, however, are left with lasting scars. Problematic situations can become so acute that they cause serious suffering in those affected and their families. If these young people are to be integrated into society and the work environment, specialists agree that, wherever possible, such developments need to be nipped in the bud the moment the first signs appear. This is what early identification and early intervention services are primarily about: recognising problems at the earliest possible stage and knowing what needs to be done. A booklet entitled «Intervention Précoce – Accompagner les jeunes en situation de vulnerabilité» [Early intervention – helping young people in vulnerable situations] presents the early intervention model in detail. It has been produced by the Groupement romand d’études des addictions (GREA) on behalf of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Dynamic, four-phase process
In this model, early identification and early intervention are presented as a four-phase process that involves both the collective and the individual.
– Phase 1: Creation of conducive general conditions that support young people in their development. The goal is to strengthen collective and individual resources in professionals and members of society so as to promote healthy development in the young. Problems experienced and overcome at a youthful age make it easier for people to find their place in society and working life and help prevent exclusion and marginalisation of individuals or groups.
– Phase 2: Early identification of vulnerability. Attentive, adult persons of reference (in the family, at school, etc.) identify vulnerability in young people and try to talk to them about it. If a vulnerability situation seems to be developing, it is often advisable to have it analysed by an external specialist together with the young person involved.
– Phase 3: Diagnosis of vulnerability by a professional assessment unit. There must first be a professional structure in place that can conduct a full assessment of the situations. The vulnerability elements previously observed are then examined closely with a view to determining possible remedies together with the young person affected.
– Phase 4: Early intervention. This requires support structures to be in place that can carry out any indicated intervention on a professional basis. A minority of young people at risk need an intervention of a psychosocial nature. This must be appropriate for the needs that the vulnerability analysis brings to light and not just for the obvious symptoms.

Phases 1 and 2 concern both society as a whole and families, municipalities and those professionals who work with young people. Phases 3 and 4 concern the young people at risk, their environment and the specialists who initiate an intervention. This approach to early intervention is a dynamic process that promotes continuous learning. For instance, the experience gained from the early identification, vulnerability diagnosis and intervention should subsequently be used in the development and implementation of programmes designed to promote an environment conducive to young people’s development.

Examples of projects from French-speaking Switzerland
The second part of the booklet shows how early interventions can be implemented. It presents a range of «good practice» projects drawn from different settings and thematic fields (schools, municipalities, social work, youth centres, drugs, etc.) and provides addresses of useful points of contact.
Orders for the booklet «Intervention Précoce – Accompagner les jeunes en situation de vulnerabilité» should be placed at www.intervention-precoce.ch.

German-language booklet on the subject

A similar booklet aimed at the German-speaking part of Switzerland has been available since 2008: «Jugendliche richtig anpacken – Früherkennung und Frühintervention bei gefährdeten Jugendlichen» [Effectively tackling young people’s problems – early identification and early intervention
in young people at risk]. Produced by Fachverband Sucht. The booklet can be ordered at http://www.bag.admin.ch/shop/00010/index.html?lang=en.


Pia Oetiker, Drugs Section, pia.oetiker@bag.admin.ch

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