More Youth at Risk of Psychosis Are Accessing Mental Health Services Than Previously Thought

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Early signs of psychosis may be used to predict the risk of developing a full psychosis spectrum disorder.

In a recent study conducted by investigators with the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing in Toronto, ON, researchers found that 50% of youths who accessed mental health services actually presented psychosis spectrum symptoms (PSS).

These findings surprised investigators and suggest that youths are seeking out care for early psychosis before they have developed a psychosis spectrum disorder; however, methods for identifying youths at risk of developing the disorder are still not effective.1

Image credit: Satjawat | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Satjawat | stock.adobe.com

“Traditionally, early psychosis care starts when there is a serious presentation of psychotic symptoms, which usually occurs in the late teen years,” said Kristin Cleverley, an associate professor with the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and a chair in Mental Health Nursing Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. “The current approach to identifying children at risk of developing a psychotic disorder is only about 5% effective.”

PSS can significantly impact the lives of youth and increase the risk of a child developing apsychosis spectrum disorder. Schizophrenia is the most familiar type of psychotic disorder, but other conditions (such as bipolar) can cause also cause patients to become psychotic.2

Symptoms of psychosis can be positive and negative (not representative of bad versus good). Positive symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and unusual behavioral or mood manifestations, and negative symptoms can include lack of motivation ordirection, flatness, or a withdrawn or isolated social disposition.2

Psychosis spectrum disorders can also be linked to cognitive impairment and long-term disability. In addition, more patients with a psychosis spectrum disorder commit death by suicide compared with any other mental illnesses.1

Investigators enrolled 417 youth aged 11 to 24 in a longitudinal study to understand which populations of youth are seeking mental health services. They also evaluated how mental health symptoms and functioning change over time, and possible early indications of the risk of developing psychosis spectrum disorder.

This study is 1 of 3 projects that are part of the larger Toronto Adolescent and Youth (TAY) Cohort Study, which has enrolled more than 1500 youth in 5 years to understand PSS in youth and access to mental health services.

Investigators will follow up with patients every 6 months to continue to identify if PSS become chronic or episodic. They will also evaluate whether the changes in symptoms are linked to developmental milestones, environmental stressors, or changes in mental health services, according to information in the article. Understanding changes in patterns and functions may help to understand whether earlier interventions are beneficial, Cleverly explained.

“Our goal with this research is really to characterize this population better so that we can identify new strategies that will complement existing strategies for early identification of youth at risk of psychosis,” said Cleverley in the article.

REFERENCES

1. Researchers find early symptoms of psychosis spectrum disorder in youth higher than expected. University of Toronto. News Release. January 30, 2024. Accessed on February 5, 2024. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1032864

2. Tillman JG. What are Psychotic Spectrum Disorders? Austen Riggs Center. Article. May 22, 2015. Accessed on February 5, 2024. https://austenriggs.org/news/what-are-psychotic-spectrum-disorders

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