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Guest Commentary

Singh: Early action at first sign of psychosis is key


Early action saves lives

Is it just a bad day or is your teen acting particularly moody? Has their behavior changed in recent weeks? It could be typical teen/young adult behavior, or it could be the first sign that something more serious is going on.

It is easy to dismiss these episodes as normal young adult behavior but symptoms that seem out of the ordinary for teen should be taken seriously.

Understanding psychosis

First episode psychosis, or FEP, is a term used to describe a group of symptoms or behaviors that are happening for the first time, that are out of the norm.

FEP is not a clinical diagnosis but could be the start of a more serious mental health condition.

Psychosis happens when there is a break in reality, which causes an individual to have disrupted thoughts and perceptions. It temporarily interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive reality.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, first episode psychosis is more common than most might think; affecting about 3 in 100 people during their lifetime. Approximately 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year. This most commonly happens between the ages of 18-25. However, it is important to understand that anyone can have a psychotic episode; there is no discrimination by gender, culture, race or socioeconomic standing.

Although the mental health industry is still learning what causes psychotic episodes, it is thought to be triggered by a combination of genetics and life stressors during critical stages of brain development. Young adults are at particularly increased risk because of hormonal changes happening during vulnerable periods of development.

Recognizing warning signs

Research indicates that early treatment can help to slow down or stop the symptoms of psychosis and improve recovery.

Early warning signs of psychosis include:

  •  Having thoughts or beliefs that are unusual or bizarre
  •  Hearing or seeing things that others around you don’t
  •  Suspiciousness or extreme uneasiness with others
  •  Strong and inappropriate emotions, or no emotions at all
  •  A change in personality
  •  Difficulty sleeping
  •  Isolating from others
  •  Sudden decline in self-care
  •  Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating

If a young adult you know is experiencing any of these warning signs, don’t delay. Contact a healthcare professional or reach out to the first episode psychosis program resources listed below.

Treatment services include counseling, employment and education support, medication treatment and family support. The most effective treatment for early psychosis is Coordinated Specialty Care, which uses a team-based approach with shared decision-making that focuses on working with individuals to reach their recovery goals. The earlier a person experiencing psychosis receives CSC, the better his or her quality of life.

Mercy Care and its partners below offer first episode psychosis programs and utilize the CSC model to support those in need.

Where to get help:

Call Mercy Care RBHA Member Services at 602-586-1841 or 1-800-564-5465 (TTY/TDD: 711) to get connected to care. Representatives are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or visit mercycareaz.org.

Additional resources in the Valley:

Valleywise First Episode Clinic
480-341-7073 (after hours)

Resilient Health
1415 N. 1st St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Remember, the most important time to intervene is at the first sign that a young adult is in emotional or mental distress. Doing so can drastically improve their chances for recovery and can help reduce the isolation that is so common to these experiences, as well as harm to self and others.