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David Baxter

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Barriers Facing Young People Seeking Help for First Episode Psychosis
September 08, 2006

A recently published academic journal review of young people's experiences of a first episode of psychosis shows that their decision about whether or not to seek help was influenced by their understanding of and response to early symptoms and the role played by family, police or other adults in connecting them with help.

The personal narratives of eight young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who were receiving treatment from two early intervention clinics in Southern Ontario formed the basis of this study, published in Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal.

The authors’ goal was to better understand the factors that were involved in youths’ seeking or not seeking help from the mental health system. They found that young people often used a strategy of ignoring or denying symptoms or keeping the earliest symptoms to themselves.

The youths described several reasons why they didn’t ask for help. At the beginning, they didn’t know what was happening to them or thought the paranoid feelings of being watched or hearing voices would go away. Their first concern was the stigma of mental illness or their concern about worrying their parents.

When they did eventually access treatment, it only happened once the symptoms became so severe that they told someone what was happening to them. The authors found many people, including parents, other family members, police or other adults, were involved in facilitating access to treatment. Most of the youths did not seek help on their own. Half of the young people had to be persuaded, cajoled or even forced to accept treatment.

The authors say that their findings highlight the need for education on many levels. Youths, family members and service providers need education on the early signs of psychosis. The authors also stress the key role played by the school system as both the first place young people’s problems are identified and as a service provider.

The authors conclude by noting the limitations of their study, including the small number of young people who were interviewed. They say that research using the narratives of young people remains an important way to understand the experience of seeking help.

Source: Understanding Help Seeking Delay in the Prodrome to First Episode Psychosis: A Secondary Analysis of the Perspectives of Young People, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal (Summer 2006; 30: 54-60).
 

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