Fraser South

Early Psychosis Intervention Program

Karen Tee, PhD, RPsych

Reprinted from "First Responders" issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 3, (2), pp. 34-35

The Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) Program in the Fraser South region (White Rock, Delta, Surrey, Langley) serves young people ages 13 to 35 with early psychosis, and their families. The program bridges youth and adult mental health services, and links community with hospital. We are a community-based program with clinical services that include single-entry intake (one phone number to call); assessment, treatment and case management; group intervention; family intervention; and vocational rehabilitation services. We provide community education through workshops. We raise public awareness through the media, public transit, schools and other places frequented by young people. Research and evaluation are also important elements of our program.

Most people in the EPI Program are between 15 and 25. Many aspects of our programming are geared toward youth. Our clinical services include specific groups for adolescents and young adults. A strong peer support advisory is made up of young people in the program, and they sponsor most of our peer recreational activities. These range from soccer, hockey and hiking to musical jam sessions. Last year at EPI’s annual conference, several youth presented an art project that was received with great acclaim.

Families are also an integral part of our program. In addition to family support and crisis intervention, counselling and therapy provided by clinicians, we offer educational groups for families and monthly support groups.

Educating young people about psychosis is key to EPI’s work. Early 2003 saw the launch of the Psychosis Sucks public awareness campaign, which promoted our program and website. The website was designed to be accessible to youth and their families. If you click on www.psychosissucks.ca, you will see information about psychosis, what causes it, treatment for psychosis, street drugs and psychosis, and more. There are downloadable information handouts, which are also available in Punjabi, Hindi and Chinese. The website also has stories from young people in our program, and links to websites developed by youth and family members.

The Psychosis Sucks campaign was extended across BC through commercial media and poster distribution. Even other provinces took an interest in the campaign and requested posters. While the campaign had four images, the one featuring the red-haired girl was most widely seen: on transit shelters, the backs of buses, on commercial vans and trucks, and in local community and youth newspapers. The result was a broad product recognition that came to be associated with early psychosis intervention.

Building on the momentum of the Psychosis Sucks campaign, a second message was designed to reach young people whose lives are affected by psychosis. The new campaign title is How Are You Coping? The goals are to improve understanding of psychosis and awareness of the EPI Program. To achieve these goals, the message informs people about risk factors, presents symptoms in a way that makes an emotional connection, and provides clear information about finding help. This campaign is being delivered through commercial advertising in restaurants, bars, educational institutions and Chilliwack Bruins hockey promotions, as well as poster distribution to schools, physicians and various health and community service agencies.

The team at Fraser South EPI hopes that this campaign will help shorten the time that psychosis is left untreated, increase the likelihood of early intervention, and directly battle stigma.

It was one very unique story from a recovering client that became the basis for the How Are You Coping? message. He described psychosis as his brain’s way of coping with overload. This simple concept spoke volumes. He was absolutely right—his brain took a break from reality when the right combination of genetics and environmental stressors triggered the onset of psychosis. “Coping” is a great way to describe such a complicated process, and is much easier to accept than a word like “psychosis.” It somehow makes this disorder seem less like a disability and more like something that could happen to anyone asking too much of their brain. “Coping” is something we can all relate to. “Coping” is completely normal, and if asked the question—how are you coping?—most people will be able to come up with an answer.

There is no doubt that for most people whose lives are affected by it, psychosis ‘sucks.’ What levels the playing field between mental illness and mental health is simply how well you cope with it.

 
About the author
Karen is the Program Coordinator for the Fraser South Early Psychosis Intervention Program.

 

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