Why Early Intervention?

Early recognition and treatment of psychotic disorders is important to preventing or minimizing disability and reducing the considerable personal, social, and economic strains that these disorders produce. Adolscents and young adults experiencing the early warning signs of psychosis and those who love them often suffer greatly, but sufficient knowledge and skill are available to provide excellent care across all phases of illness. First Hope uses the Pier treatment model, which builds on the resiliency, courage, and talents of people whose uniqueness might otherwise be overshadowed by mental illness. Treatment is intended to preserve the personality and strengths of each person affected, while reducing the burden of stress on families.

  • The earlier treatment is obtained the better the outcome will be for the individual with the illness.
  • If psychotic symptoms are left untreated, sufferers can start to feel very bad about themselves, and very worried about their future. This can result in lowered self-esteem and a loss of confidence.
  • The experience of psychotic symptoms greatly increases the likelihood of becoming depressed and anxious - sometimes severely so. Strange and distressing symptoms can lead a feeling of terror or great agitation, with added hopelessness, sadness, worry and pessimism. Signs of depression always need to be taken seriously because of the great suffering they induce in the patient and the ever-present danger of self-harm. People are at particular risk if they hear voices that command them to hurt themselves.
  • Experiencing psychotic symptoms puts one at greater risk of abusing alcohol and/or other drugs. Sometimes people use these substances to try to feel better, or in an attempt to block distressing symptoms.
  • Psychotic episodes can put great strain on family relationships and friendships. The earlier help is sought and the psychotic symptoms brought under control, the less disruption that will occur to important relationships.
  • Psychotic symptoms have a negative impact on the ability to function well at work or study. This puts people at risk of losing a job or of performing badly in studies.
  • Often the first episode of a psychosis occurs during young adulthood when the victim is just discovering where they belong in the world, with important social relationships in the process of being formed. An untreated psychosis will interfere greatly with these important tasks of young adulthood.
  • Similarly, if left untreated, symptoms of a psychosis will interfere with the process of developing parenting skills.
  • People are easier to manage in their usual environments. Failure to seek intervention at an early stage can lead to unnecessary hospitalization because symptoms become more severe and difficult as time progresses and this can happen quite quickly over a period of a day or so
  • For all these reasons, community members, educators, family members, and professionals working with youth and young adults have a crucial role to play in early identification and intervention for every young person at risk.

Early Identification & Intervention

Advances in early detection and intervention in cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer have led to substantial reductions in morbidity and mortality and improved quality of life among individuals with these conditions. Like these other illnesses, research has shown by getting help early, a person with mental illness chances greatly improve for staying in school, working, maintaining friendships and planning for the future.

Early Warning Signs

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety and/or suspiciousness
  • Mood swings (extreme happiness to anger)
  • Reduced ability to focus and feelings of disorientation
  • A dislike to being touched by anyone
  • An extreme sensitivity to noise, light, colors, textures


Achieving Early Intervention

In practice, a number of strategies are required. One important strategy is community education aimed at increasing the public’s awareness of these disorders and improving their knowledge of early signs. In addition to increasing knowledge, we also need to lessen the fear and stigma associated with mental illness, which can cause some people to delay seeking help. In conjunction with this, we also have to promote awareness of these disorders amongst service providers working with young people.