Serious Mental Illness (SMI) typically starts when individuals are young adults. The problem is, SMI is not usually diagnosed until its advanced. The good news is, when caught early, treatment and therapy can deter or reverse the condition. A well-known psychiatrist, Dr. William McFarlane, explains, “20 percent of all hospital admissions and disability payments are for patients with severe mental illness, mostly schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders. These ailments also shorten life by an average of 25 years.” 1 Early detection of SMI can greatly improve the lives of those affected.
What is Psychosis? Here’s What You Need to Know
Psychosis is characterized as disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t. These disruptions are often experienced as seeing, hearing, and believing things that aren’t real or having strange, persistent thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. While everyone’s experience is different, most people say psychosis is distressing and confusing.
Psychosis is a symptom, not an illness, and it is more common than you may think. In the United States, approximately 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year. As many as three in 100 people will have an episode at some point in their lives.
Early or first-episode psychosis refers to when a person first shows signs of beginning to lose contact with reality. Acting quickly to connect a person with the right treatment during early psychosis can be life-changing and radically alter that person’s future.
It's important to get help quickly since early treatment provides the best hope of recovery by slowing, stopping and possibly reversing the effects of psychosis. Early warning signs of psychosis include the following:
• Hearing, seeing, tasting or believing things that others don’t
• Persistent, unusual thoughts or beliefs that can’t be set aside regardless of what others believe
• A worrisome drop in grades or job performance
• Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
• Suspiciousness or uneasiness with others
• A decline in self-care or personal hygiene
• Spending a lot more time alone than usual
• Strong, inappropriate emotions or having no feelings at all
• Withdrawing from family or friends
Such warning signs often point to a person’s deteriorating health and a physical and neurological evaluation can help find the problem. A mental health professional performing a psychological evaluation can determine if a mental health condition is involved and discuss the next steps. If the psychosis is a symptom of a mental health condition, early action helps to keep lives on track.2
Treatment & Support
Psychotherapy and medication are the optimal modes to treat and manage severe mental illness. These two categories of treatment are made up of multiple tiers of methods. These include case management, family and peer support, employment or educational support and therapeutic rehabilitation to name a few. New Vista offers multiple comprehensive programs for the individual and their families, including the iHOPE program.
New Vista iHOPE Program
iHOPE identifies and supports young people, ages 15 - 30, who are at risk of or experiencing their first episode of psychosis. iHOPE works with the entire family to help clarify the diagnosis and assure access to appropriate services.
“Family sessions can be a very beneficial part of the iHOPE program. They help everyone in the family understand what is happening,” explains Shannon Smith, iHOPE team leader, “After one family session, a parent expressed gratitude for the iHOPE program because it had provided the parent with the ability to recognize the child again, that the child was back to being the person they had always known.”
New Vista partners with local and state entities and uses evidence-based practices and emerging research for the best outcomes. iHOPE services are available regardless of a client’s ability to pay.
Anyone can refer themselves to iHOPE by calling New Vista’s 24-Hour Helpline 1.800.928.8000.
1. The New York Times, “Interventions to Prevent Psychosis, An impending psychotic break can be identified and prevented if it is recognized early and appropriate steps are taken to head it off.” 2019, New York, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/02/well/mind/interventions-to-prevent-p….
2. National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, “Early Psychosis And Psychosis” 2019, Arlington, VA, https://www.nami.org/earlypsychosis