What most people don’t know about early psychosis and schizophrenia:
While there is no absolute cause or cure, there is great hope for recovery as treatments and programs are improving. The earlier psychosis is diagnosed and the earlier interventions and treatment are introduced, the less likely the individual will develop full-blown schizophrenia. The result is better outcomes because future psychotic breaks are prevented, there will be less damage to the brain and its functions.

Schizophrenia is a complex illness in which people have difficulties in their thought processes leading to hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking and unusual speech or behavior – known as “psychotic symptoms.”

Schizophrenia and early psychosis are thought to be caused by a number of different factors; from multiple genetic or environmental factors or from a combination of both. When someone is experiencing hearing voices or seeing things, they are feeling the full force of the experience and can be frightened, confused and withdrawn.

Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations disordered thought and speech, reduced motivation, reduced emotional expression, loss of interest, reduced verbal communication, social withdrawal and isolating behaviour. Early warning signs of onset: drop in grades, trouble thinking clearly or concentrating, suspiciousness or uneasiness with others, decline in self-care or personal hygiene, spending more time alone than usual, strong inappropriate emotions or having no feelings at all.

Significant advances in our understanding of mental illness and treatment modalities, along with early intervention and access to person-centred and recovery-focused mental health services, have demonstrated that there is life after a diagnosis of early psychosis and schizophrenia. For individuals with schizophrenia, most early episodes of psychosis occur when they are between the ages of 17 and 24.

Tailored mental health services and supports for individuals can help them to live beyond the limitations of their mental illness with purpose, hope, meaning, and significance.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy is very effective.

On-line Guide for young people diagnosed with schizophrenia and their loved ones: Hope and Recovery: Your Guide to Living with and Beyond Schizophrenia (www.schizophrenia.ca)

Peer, Family, Friend support

Educate yourself about early psychosis/schizophrenia.

Be aware of your own attitudes and behaviors.

Choose your words carefully; be kind and hopeful.

Educate others – share how your loved one is doing.

Focus on the positive.

Don’t judge, be curious.

Don’t forget self-care.

Understand that your loved is feeling the full force of their condition – including seeing things and hearing things you can’t hear or see. Tell them you believe them but you don’t see or hear what they do, if they ask.

If your loved one believes they are not ill – anosognosia is a condition where one is not aware they have psychotic symptoms. They are not in denial and will not understand the need for a doctor, medicine or psychiatric hospital.

Be patient, provide support and loving care. Inspire hope and remind them that 2/3 of people living with schizophrenia live satisfying and rewarding lives.

People living with Early Psychosis and Schizophrenia can achieve their full potential and live the life they wish with proper supports.

LEAP approach is very successful for families coping: Listening, Empathising Agreeing, Partnering.

Schizophrenia is still the most stigmatized, misunderstood and least researched of serious mental illnesses due to prevailing myths and stigma.