Bettina van Wylich-Muxoll

The importance of early intervention in the recovery process

Early intervention is critical to treating mental illness before it can cause tragic results such as serious impairment, unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and suicide [1].

The identification of mental illness and its treatment, as early as possible, represents a high priority. The early detection and treatment of mental illness promote recovery, independence, and self-sufficiency, as well as facilitating social activities and employment opportunities [2].

It is estimated that 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the United States alone experience a first episode of psychosis every year. The early phase of psychotic illness is widely viewed as a critical opportunity for indicated prevention, and a chance to alter the downward trajectory and poor outcomes associated with serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia. The timing of treatment is critical; short and long-term outcomes are better when individuals begin treatment close to the onset of psychosis. Numerous studies find a substantial delay between the onset of psychotic symptoms and the initiation of treatment. In the U.S., treatment is typically delayed between one and three years, suggesting that many people experiencing first episodes of psychosis are missing a critical opportunity to benefit from early intervention [3].

Early identification and rapid referral are essential to shortening the duration of untreated psychosis and pre-empting functional deterioration. The World Health Organization advocates reducing the duration of untreated psychosis to three months or less by addressing “bottlenecks” in the pathway from early psychosis identification to initiation of specialty care [3].

To support early intervention, in 2009, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), implemented a research project to change the prognosis of schizophrenia through aggressive treatment in the earliest stages of illness.Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) is designed to reduce the likelihood of long-term disability that people with schizophrenia often experience. It aims to help people with the disorder lead productive, independent lives. At the same time, it aims to reduce the financial impact on the public systems often tapped to pay for the care of people with schizophrenia [4].

In 2011, RAISE began conducting a full-scale, randomized controlled trial comparing two different ways of providing treatment to people experiencing the early stages of schizophrenia and related disorders. Both types of treatment emphasize early intervention but feature different approaches for initiating and coordinating care. Treatment may include personalized medication treatment, individual resiliency training, and supportive services, such as family psychoeducation and education or employment assistance [5]. The RAISE study, expected to be completed by August 2016, aims to emphasize the importance of early intervention.

The Monsenso mHealth solution can help healthcare providers to closely monitor patients who have experienced a first episode of mental illness.

After experiencing a first episode, the healthcare provider can encourage the patient to use the Monsenso mHealth solution. This will enable the clinician to monitor the individual on a continuous basis, and react if symptoms arise.

With the Monsenso user app, patients can fill in self-assessments on a daily basis. These self-assessments include information on the patient’s behaviour and symptoms related to his mental health. Furthermore, the solution collects sensor data through sensors in the patient’s smartphone, and this combined with the self-assessment will help the healthcare provider to continuously monitor the patient, and support intervention at a very early stage. Early warning signs and automatic triggers can be set to indicate to the health care provider that proactive intervention is needed, if for example a patient sleeps too little or feels too distressed.

Early intervention and continuous monitoring can maximize a person’s chances of a fast recovery, self-sufficiency, and living a high-quality life including the possibility to pursue and education and maintain a stable job.

References:

[1] Directors Blog: SAMHSA and NIMH partner to support early intervention for serious mental illness. P. Hyde and T. Insel. National Institute of Mental Health Blog (2014, June 17) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/2014/samhsa-and-nimh-partner-to-support-early-intervention-for-serious-mental-illness.shtml

[2] Early intervention and recovery for young people with early psychosis: consensus statement. J. Bertolote and P. McGorry. British Journal of Psychiatry (2005). http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/bjprcpsych/187/48/s116.full.pdf

[3] Evidence based treatment for first episode of psychosis: Components of coordinated specialty care. PHD R. K. Heinssen. RAISE NIMH (2014, April 14). http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/nimh-white-paper-csc-for-fep_147096.pdf

[4] Raise Project Overview. National Institute of Mental Health. (2009)http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/index.shtml

[5] NIMH RAISE Project makes progress as team refines research approach. National Institute of Mental Health. (2011, August 9) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2011/nimh-raise-project-makes-progress-as-teams-refine-research-approaches.shtml