In an already jam-packed election season, NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania is dedicated to helping General Assembly candidates cut through the noise and stay up-to-date on all issues related to mental illness in our Commonwealth.
In our last email, we took a look at some of the facts (and FAQs) about some common mental illnesses. Today, we want to tell you about some of the amazing work Pennsylvania is already doing to help young people experiencing a particularly serious symptom of certain mental illnesses: First Episode Psychosis, or FEP.
First, you should know that a first psychotic episode most typically occurs between the ages of 15 and 30. Some typical warning signs include:
- Hearing, seeing, tasting or believing things that others don’t
- Suspiciousness or extreme uneasiness with others
- Persistent, unusual thoughts or beliefs
- Strong and inappropriate emotions – or no emotions at all
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- A sudden decline in self-care
- Trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
Second, you should also know that over the past several years, Pennsylvania has launched eight First Episode Psychosis programs around the state tailored to these young people’s needs – offering earlier identification of symptoms, effective treatment, and school/career placement assistance to get these young people’s lives back on track.
Consider the remarkable early results of just one of these programs (PEACE in Philadelphia):
- Hospitalizations: There were 69 hospitalizations in the year prior to enrollment in PEACE, compared to 17 annual hospitalizations since.
- Hospital Days: Participants saw a decrease in the number of hospital days, dropping from 1,485 days one year prior to the program to 268 days since.
- Engagement: Participants dramatically increased engagement in outpatient treatment – 30% of individuals were engaged prior to the program, compared to 96% engaged at PEACE.
- Return to Daily Life: Participants – both over and under age 18 – saw a marked increase in school enrollment, school attendance, and employment during and after treatment.
And perhaps most importantly, with early treatment, some people never have another psychotic episode.
Many of you already have a First Episode Psychosis program near you (and we encourage you to learn more about your local program here) – but many more of you will not. We are asking all General Assembly candidates to join NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania in supporting our existing FEP programs while working to ensure that all Pennsylvanians experiencing early psychosis soon have access to treatment that works.
Christine Michaels, MSHSA
CEO, NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania