SCHIZOPHRENIA: Early intervention key to thwarting disease

Schizophrenia Update, December 2002

Windsor Star
October 11, 2002 Friday Final Edition

By: Veronique Mandal Star Health-Science Reporter

Scientists here are screening the home movies of schizophrenics to track the early onset of mental illness in children.

The research is aimed at providing parents with a checklist of warning signs so they can intervene before children experience their first psychotic episodes. Reviews of home movies and tapes seem to suggest that children who go on to develop schizophrenia exhibit subtle movement disorders -- a tic or an odd gait -- before they are 10.

In their prevention and early intervention program for psychoses (PEPP), researchers at the London Health Sciences Centre and in Toronto, are also screening people age 16 to 50 who are showing signs of psychosis -- hallucinations, delusions or disorganization of thinking, possibly accompanied by social withdrawal and bizarre behaviour -- but who have not been treated with anti-psychotic drugs.

"Unfortunately, treatment often gets delayed for one to two years for people who are showing early signs and symptoms of psychosis and this leads to a slow and incomplete recovery where they do get treatment," said Terry McLean, the program's clinical and education leader.

"A delay can interfere with the person's psychological and social development, cause family relationships to be strained and lead to prolonged unemployment and interruption in their education."

McLean said her findings mirror those in Australia where patients treated within six months of the onset of psychosis have a better rate of recovery. Early intervention has emerged as a driving force in patient care, researchers say.



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