UK National Schizophrenia Awareness Day 2022 – A mental illness in need of destigmatization

UK National Schizophrenia Awareness Day 2022 – A mental illness in need of destigmatization

July 25th is National Schizophrenia Awareness Day in the UK, aiming at shining light on “what it means to live with this much misunderstood and often stigmatized mental health condition”, fighting prejudice surrounding it, as well as seeking to raise awareness of and support for its treatment [1].

What is schizophrenia?
Individuals with schizophrenia experience disruptions in their thought processes and perceptions, as well as in social interactions and emotional responsiveness. The mental illness, usually including psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, can be highly disabling to people suffering from it [2].

Economic costs of schizophrenia
Worldwide, around 24 million people are currently diagnosed with schizophrenia [3] – in the UK it is over 685.000 people (approximately 1% of the population) [4].
Schizophrenia has a large economic cost. It accounts for approximately “30% of all spending on adult mental health in the NHS” [5], estimated at 11.8 million GBP in England alone in 2012 [6]. Generally, it costs around 6 times as much to treat an individual with schizophrenia over its lifetime than it costs to treat a heart disease patient [5].

Stigmatization of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia affects all genders and individuals from all social backgrounds, and onsets most often in the late teenage years or in the early twenties [5]. The mental illness severely impacts affected peoples’ quality of life. In the UK, only around 13% of individuals suffering from schizophrenia are working [5], and it has been found that affected people are “2 to 3 times more likely to die early than the general population” [3]. Schizophrenia is also a significant burden that impacts productivity of family caregivers, who on average spend 22 hours a week for 15 years of their life taking care of their relative with schizophrenia.
Additionally, stigma against people suffering from the condition is still “intense and widespread” today [3]. Individuals with schizophrenia oftentimes experience social exclusion, and/or discrimination due to the disease, and some even experience limited “access to general health care, education, housing, and employment” [3]. According to the World Health Organization (2022), these issues often only exacerbate the suffering peoples’ symptoms [3].

What needs to change?
Schizophrenia is not as rare as one might think, and prejudices surrounding the illness unfortunately only further increase the burden of the disease on people suffering from it. It is therefore important to raise awareness about schizophrenia, destigmatize the mental illness, and help to ensure that individuals with schizophrenia are not facing discrimination. Given the high economic costs of schizophrenia, it is also important to continuously work on improving the treatment support provided. This includes seeking for new ways to help individuals suffering from the mental health condition.

How digital solutions for mental health can help
The use of digital platforms for remote patient monitoring and health assessment, as well as real-time patient analytics, could enable personalised treatment and improved quality of care [7]. Digital solutions for mental health could therefore offer the potential to empower and engage individuals with schizophrenia to better manage their mental health, facilitating treatment for clinical professionals and empowering family caregivers to help drive down economic costs and increase productivity.
At Monsenso, we have worked with schizophrenia in both research and clinical settings. Our digital mental health solution has helped many individuals with schizophrenia to better understand their conditions and live a more independent life, as well as helped clinicians to better support their patients. We are proud to support the National Schizophrenia Awareness Day in the UK and will continue to spread knowledge about the mental health condition and offer our support to individuals affected and clinicians providing treatment for the mental illness.
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About Monsenso
Monsenso is a digital health company that enables better outcomes for patients and clinicians through data-driven decisions. We are focused on mental health and user-centred in designing our solutions for patients and clinicians. Our cloud-based platform is a CE-marked medical device (Class 1, pending Class 2a and MDR certification) that is HIPAA compliant, with certifications in ISO 13485, ISO 27001, Cyber Essentials and TGA. Our solution has been clinically and scientifically validated by over 70+ peer-reviewed studies and can be configured for applications across mental health conditions. We work with healthcare systems, life sciences and research organisations globally. Book a demo to learn more.

References:
[1] Awareness Days (n.d.). National Schizophrenia Awareness Day 2022.
https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/national-schizophrenia-awareness-day-2022/#:~:text=National%20Schizophrenia%20Awareness%20Day%2C%20marked,with%20a%20diagnosis%20of%20schizophrenia.

[2] National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.). Schizophrenia.
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/schizophrenia#:~:text=Schizophrenia-,Definition,be%20both%20severe%20and%20disabling.

[3] World Health Organization (2022). Schizophrenia.
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/schizophrenia#:~:text=Schizophrenia%20affects%20approximately%2024%20million,%25

[4] Royal College of Psychiatrists (2015). Schizophrenia.
https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/schizophrenia

[5] Living With Schizophrenia (2017). Facts and Figures.
https://livingwithschizophreniauk.org/facts-and-figures/

[6] Ride, J., Kasteridis, P., Gutacker, N., Aragon Aragon, MJ., Jacobs, R. (2020). Healthcare Costs for People with Serious Mental Illness in England: An Analysis of Costs Across Primary Care, Hospital Care, and Specialist Mental Healthcare. Appl Health Econ Health Policy 18(2):177-188.
doi: 10.1007/s40258-019-00530-2.

[7] Elsevier Health (2022). Clinician of the Future Report 2022.
https://www.elsevier.com/connect/clinician-of-the-future

Monsenso signs two contracts with the Psychiatric Research Unit, Region West Zealand.

Monsenso signs two contracts with the Psychiatric Research Unit, Region West Zealand.

Monsenso signs two contracts with Research Unit for Psychotherapy and Psychopathology, Psychiatry West, Slagelse, Region Zealand Mental Health Services, who will use Monsenso’s digital health solution to remotely monitor patients with depression and schizotypal mental illness, respectively.

The first project, Development of an Intervention for Persistent Not on Track: DIP NOT, led by Jasmin Rejaye Gryesten, aims to identify non-responders to depression treatment, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of remitted patients after CBT in the Danish MHS by developing a set of new person-centered add-on interventions to group CBT, to be used in case of observed lack of progress or deterioration.

The second project Phenomenologically informed PsychoTherapy for patients with Schizotypal Personality Disorder (PPT -SPD), is led by Kåre Donskov Nielsen and aims to develop and test new forms of phenomenological therapy that can help people with schizotypal mental illness.

About Monsenso digital health solution:
The Monsenso solution is a clinically validated, CE Class I Marked mHealth solution classified as a Medical Device, consisting of a smartphone app for patients and a clinical web portal for healthcare providers that are widely used in the prevention and treatment of common behavioural disorders such as depression and anxiety. It can also be configured to prevent and treat severe mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia. It is currently being used by over 1,000 patients across the globe and is highly valued by patients and healthcare providers.

For additional information contact:

Bettina van Wylich-Muxoll
Chief Marketing Officer
marketing@monsenso.com
Monsenso

A holistic approach to treating schizophrenia

A holistic approach to treating schizophrenia

Over the last few decades, there has been a shift in the way we think about mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. Until quite recently, schizophrenia was considered as an illness with a poor prognosis, offering little hope of living a fulfilling life. However, over the last two decades, research has shown that early and appropriate intervention can change the course of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia was previously considered a shattering illness because it usually appears during the late teens or early twenties. At this point in life, young people are finishing their education or entering the workforce, exploring romantic relationships, and becoming independent. Disrupting this normal developmental trajectory, rather than the symptoms of the illness alone, is what has such a severe impact on young people suffering from schizophrenia.

However, studies have revealed that schizophrenia doesn’t appear suddenly; it usually has an onset after a long period of severe symptoms. Certainly, much of the disability associated with psychotic illnesses develops before the first episode of illness.

In the early 1990s, researchers conducted the first studies of early intervention in psychosis, and the results revealed that early and appropriate treatment led to better long-term outcomes for young people. This work resulted in the discovery that early and adequate treatment allows young people to make a complete recovery, with less ongoing disability, and for the first time clinicians considered that schizophrenia was not as hopeless as they once thought.

This discovery generated interest worldwide, and the ‘early intervention’ movement was born. Early intervention for severe mental illnesses aims to prevent the onset of illness, minimise the symptoms associated with the illness, and to maximise the chances of recovery.

Practically speaking, preventing the onset of a mental illness consists of determining who is at risk and then deciding how to intervene in order to prevent the illness. Unfortunately, we currently do not understand the biology of mental illnesses well enough, and much more research needs to be done to enable clinicians to develop diagnostic tests that are sufficiently accurate and concrete. What we do know at present is that most mental illnesses appear when individuals are between 14 and 29 years old, and seeking help for distressing symptoms is crucial to recovery.

Recognising that this group of young people is at high risk of developing a severe mental illness has allowed clinicians and researchers to develop some treatment approaches aimed at relieving their symptoms and preventing the onset of a more serious illness. This type of treatment is tailored to an early stage of the illness, and it likely includes counselling, education and supportive monitoring. If symptoms deteriorate, cognitive behavioural therapy may be offered, combined with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. Low-dose antipsychotics have also been tested in this patient group but are not recommended as a first line of treatment due to the adverse side-effects.

The early intervention and careful monitoring are crucial for these young people, because although many of them will not develop schizophrenia, their symptoms have the potential to evolve into a more severe mental illness if they are not treated effectively at an early stage.

For those young people who do experience a first episode of psychosis, the illness needs to be promptly recognised and treatment should be given as early as possible. Initial treatment involves low-dose antipsychotic medication to manage their symptoms. Yet, recovery involves more than just eliminating symptoms; it also means maintaining or regaining their normal developmental pathway—getting back to work or school, enjoying social activities, and moving on into becoming independent.

Subsequently, these young people and their families need to be able to rely on a comprehensive, integrated care system involving a continued case management team providing medication and psychological treatment to help them manage their symptoms and illness. This type of care should be provided for the first 2–5 years after the onset of the illness when there is a greater risk of becoming permanently disabled.

The care system should offer a youth-friendly, and inclusive environment where young people can be supported in their recovery by a multidisciplinary team with specialist medical, psychosocial, vocational and educational expertise in mental health.

This treatment approach, besides being much more cost-effective, has been very effective for young people in the early stages of illness and is highly valued by the young people and their family caregivers.

The importance of mental health issues, together with the demand for mental health services that recognise young people’s unique mental health care needs, have led to new service development in countries like Australia, Denmark, England, Ireland, Canada, and the United States.

For example, in 2006, the Australian Government established a national primary care youth mental health system which is now operating in 70 sites across the nation, with 30 centres to be added in 2016.

This approach offers holistic care from the beginning, and young Australians are gaining access to early intervention and evidence-informed, stigma-free care for mental health. Young people and their families deserve to be actively engaged and receive evidence-informed care in accordance to their needs. This type of care facility has shifted our thinking in mental health care offering better outcomes for young people, their families, and our society as a whole.

Another example is Denmark. The different healthcare regions in Denmark are taking advantage of new technologies such as mobile health (mHealth) solutions to support the treatment and remotely monitor young patients suffering from mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder amongst others.

For instance, the Southern Denmark Region is using the Monsenso mHealth solution to support the treatment of individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder undergoing Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT), and other affective disorders – such as schizophrenia.

The Monsenso solution has incorporated the Diary Cards traditionally used in DBT into an electronic format that can be accessed by patients through their smartphones. The solution enables patients to fill in Clinical Questionnaires relevant to their disorder through their smartphone, capturing data electronically.

Reference:

Living with Schizophrenia. World Federation for Mental Health. 2014. http://wfmh.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/WMHD_English.pdf