Young people with psychotic-like symptoms should receive immediate network-centered treatment at home and school rather than at a hospital, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Helsinki, Helsinki University Hospital (HUH) Department of Psychiatry and the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland.
This network-centered approach was found to be more effective than hospital-based treatment for alleviating feelings of depression and hopelessness and improving the young person’s ability to function. It also helped reduce psychotic-like symptoms just as well as hospital treatment.
“The improved ability to function observed in the network-centered early intervention group is crucial, since this is usually a major challenge for people with psychotic-like symptoms,” says Docent Niklas Granö, Ph.D. at the HUH Department of Psychiatry.
“A poor ability to function makes it difficult to cope with everyday tasks and keep up with one’s peers. This is particularly true of those with psychotic-like symptoms or full-blown psychosis.”
The study involved 56 young people with psychotic-like symptoms and an elevated risk for psychosis later in life. Twenty-eight of the participants received conventional youth psychiatric treatment offered by the Helsinki University Hospital. The other 28 received an experimental, network-centered treatment at home and school.
The home environment model was tested in the JERI (Jorvi Early Psychosis Recognition and Intervention) project, which is focused on the practice of starting treatment without delay and reducing the concrete, pressing stress factors in the young person’s life.
At the study’s onset, the participants were assessed for symptoms of depression and anxiety, psychotic-like symptoms, feelings of hopelessness, and the ability to function. The assessments were repeated after twelve months of treatment.
In the group receiving early network-centered treatment at home and school, depression symptoms and feelings of hopelessness decreased and the ability to function improved more than in the group receiving conventional youth psychiatric treatment. The decrease in psychotic-like symptoms was similar in both groups.
Successfully reducing feelings of hopelessness is vital as they are often associated with self-destructive thoughts, according to the researchers.
The findings of the study support the notion that young people with mental issues, particularly those with psychotic-like symptoms, benefit from early-stage treatment provided in their own environment and in cooperation with the adults in it.
“When young people receive real support with things that weigh on them and cause them stress, their mood lightens, their ability to function improves, feelings of hopelessness wane, and their recovery speeds up,” says Granö.
“The advantage of the early intervention method tested in this study is that its implementation does not require new resources, only reforms to old practices.”
Source: University of Helsinki