The importance of early intervention in youth psychosis

Amanda Lyons

30/11/2017 12:03:23 PM

The headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program is designed to help practitioners provide intervention and specialist support services to young people who are experiencing, or at risk, of psychosis.

One of the aims of the headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program is to provide GPs with a safe referral avenue for young people.
One of the aims of the headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program is to provide GPs with a safe referral avenue for young people.

Psychosis is an area of mental health in which the earlier intervention is made, the more effective it can be.
The evidence shows that if you intervene early in the course of these sorts of illnesses, you can improve their ultimate outcome; improve patients’ likelihood for recovery, likelihood to regain their developmental tasks and trajectory, and avoid chronicity and ongoing illness,’ Dr Gordon Shymko, psychiatrist and Clinical Director of the headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program (hYEPP), told newsGP.
While GPs play a vital role in diagnosing these patients and referring them for treatment, many may be unaware of hYEPP, a nationwide program that has been in operation since 2015. It provides comprehensive services, through headspace centres across Australia, for young people aged 12–25 at high risk of, or actively experiencing, their first episode of psychosis.
‘The program consists of three components,’ Dr Shymko said. ‘[Patients] have a period of assessment with the mobile assessment and treatment team [MAT], and then transfer to our continuing care team [CCT]. They can stay within the service from anywhere from six months to five years, depending on their need.
‘Wrapped around the CCT is our functional recovery program, which provides additional psychosocial support, psychotherapy, youth employment services – services that can enhance the person’s recovery and enhance their reintegration into the life they were leading prior to becoming unwell.’
hYEPP also makes sure to include the young person’s carers and families within its services.
‘hYEPP focuses a lot on supporting the support system that exists around the client,’ Dr Shymko said. ‘The better understanding the young person’s family or carers have, and the better support they have themselves, the more support they can provide to the client, which we think enhances their recovery.’
Young people experiencing psychosis are often concurrently living a range of other problems, which is acknowledged by the hYEPP model of care.
‘The headspace concept which HYEPP works out of is a one-stop-shop,’ Dr Shymko said. ‘The person that presents may have multiple issues, but they can have all of those issues addressed in one place; physical health issues, as well as drug and alcohol issues, can be addressed within that setting. So it’s not excluding people or trying to compartmentalise issues.’
The hYEPP program has received positive feedback from patients and their families, and Dr Shymko believes its model provides effective intervention at a vital time in patients’ lives.
‘The younger a person [is when diagnosed with psychosis], the more likely they are to have long-term good outcomes, or a negative impact for a long period of time,’ he said.
‘So it’s an absolutely critical period to get these treatments and interventions right.’

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