Three to five years. This is considered to be the critical period following the first symptoms of psychosis, when recognition, intervention and timely treatments may have the most impact on a patient’s future.
“Evidence shows that early treatment of psychosis, from the first symptoms or episode, is very important in improving long-term outcomes,” explained Kelly Anderson, PhD, assistant professor with the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Psychiatry at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.
As an epidemiologist, Anderson is looking at mental health services from a population health perspective. Working with research collaborators at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), she found that specialized programs for early psychosis can substantially reduce patient mortality.
She led a recent study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, which examined health administrative data for patients treated between 1997 and 2013 at the Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses (PEPP) at London Health Sciences Centre.
PEPP was one of North America’s first early psychosis intervention (EPI) programs, which use specialized care models that focus on early detection of psychosis to provide intensive treatment during the first two or three years of illness.
The study compared early psychosis patients at PEPP to those who were not treated through an early intervention program, focusing on patient outcomes within the first two years of diagnosis.
The research team found that patients being treated at PEPP experienced a four-fold reduction in risk of mortality. In addition, patients had rapid access to their first appointment with a psychiatrist, and experienced fewer emergency department visits and involuntary hospitalizations.
The findings demonstrate the importance of early intervention programs for patients.
“The aim of our study was to examine ‘real-world’ effectiveness of EPI programs in the context of the Ontario health care system,” said Anderson.
Anderson now hopes to expand her research beyond London, Ontario, and confirm the study’s findings across the province. “Our findings suggest clues on how we can make EPI programs even more effective in the future,” she said.
With continued focus on improving mental health services, Anderson and her research team are committed to translating knowledge for patient and community impact.
...Evidence shows that early treatment of psychosis, from the first symptoms or episode, is very important in improving long-term outcomes.