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The Brant Community Healthcare System has introduced an early psychosis intervention program.

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“This program is for parents, siblings, partners and friends of individuals who have been diagnosed with or are displaying symptoms of psychosis,” said social worker Rebecca McAuley, a member of the program’s team at Brantford General Hospital,

People suffering from psychosis experience delusions and hallucinations and have difficulties discerning what is real. A diagnosis can be challenging.

“When a loved one experiences psychosis, it impacts everyone who cares for them and can create significant distress and confusion,” McAuley said.

“The aim of our program is to equip people with the knowledge and tools to support both the patients and the caregivers in the recovery journey. We provide education, coping and safety planning strategies, and links to community resources.”

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Often a person’s first episode of psychosis occurs during their late teens and into their early 20s. However, it also can surface later in life.

“Some of the early indicators we see are people becoming confused and withdrawn,” McAuley said.

“Sometimes it begins when you go off to college or some other stressful or traumatic event. The person may have difficulty concentrating or experience a change in their personality.”

Also on the team are psychologists Dr. Shreekant Sharma and Dr. Ram Prayaga, and nurses Andrew Perrins and Jacob Wickson.

Perrins, who has been at BGH for 12 years, said the program has about 120 to 150 clients, aged from 14 to 35.

“When a patient is diagnosed with psychosis we develop a treatment plan and administer and monitor medications and provide support,” said Perrins. “We work with them for perhaps up to three years.”

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The peer support program meets weekly and provides opportunities for people to share their experiences and establish connections with others in similar situations.

Each group includes about 10 people. Everyone signs a consent form.

Currently, the program is provided online using the Zoom app. However, soon in-person sessions will begin.

McAuley, who has a bachelor and master’s degree in social work, does one-on-one counselling on an outpatient basis.

The team also works throughout the community in schools and with other community partners.

“We serve Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk and are looking to increase our services to these areas,” McAuley said.

“We are not tied to our desks.”

COVID-19 created many challenges, including staffing issues, However, the early psychosis intervention team allows staff to begin to reduce the wait times and see more patients and their family members.

“We are looking to the future when we will begin in-person sessions,” McAuley said.

“Research shows that when families and friends are actively engaged in early intervention, their loved one’s long-term outcomes improve significantly.”

If you are helping someone with their psychosis and could benefit from coping assistance, email McAuley at [email protected].

Hospital Insider is written by Gary Chalk who assists with communications for the Brant Community Healthcare System.


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