February 22, 2000

Contact:
Nancy Lawrence
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 77642

A $310,000 Grant from the Medical Research Council will help LHSC help patients in early stages of psychosis

(LONDON, Ontario) - London Health Sciences Centre psychiatrist, Dr. Ashok Malla and LHSC psychologist, Dr. Ron Norman, were recently awarded a $310,000 Medical Research Council (MRC) grant to evaluate the benefits of early intervention in psychosis through the hospital's PEPP Program. PEPP stands for Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses. The PEPP Program is unique to London, and is in fact, one of only a handful of similar programs in Canada, and the only one to embark on a systematic evaluation of early intervention in the community.

The PEPP Program is dedicated to the assessment and treatment of individuals who are experiencing their first episode of psychosis. The program provides optimum treatment to suit the particular needs of youth. Treatment consists of safe and effective second-generation anti-psychotic medications and a number of psychological interventions. The Program is committed to working in partnership with clients' families and whenever possible, assessment and treatment is provided without admission to hospital.

Psychosis is a syndrome which is part of a group of very serious mental disorders in which some loss of contact with reality has occurred. This is reflected in the following symptoms:

 

  • disturbances in perception (hallucinations eg: hearing or seeing things that aren't there)
  • bizarre or clearly unjustified beliefs and judgements (eg: delusions of being persecuted)
  • disorganized thinking (speaking in ways that are confusing) or bizarre behaviour

"Psychosis results from abnormalities in the brain. Many specific diseases are included in the term psychosis, such as schizophrenia, schizophreniform, schizo-affective and less commonly, manic depression," explains Dr. Malla.

"One of the most important ways to improve outcome in psychosis is to initiate treatment early. This means that individuals presenting with signs of psychosis need to identified early and referred for assessment and treatment. Research has shown that most individuals who eventually receive treatment for psychosis have consulted a health practitioner several times before correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. We know that individuals receiving optimum treatment within six months following the onset of psychosis have better recovery than those receiving treatment after a delay of greater than six months," adds Dr. Malla.

To that end, the PEPP Program is launching "Putting the Pieces Together", a public education campaign including posters, flyers, brochures in health care organizations and in schools, billboards on city buses, and public service announcements to assist Londoners in recognizing the early signs of the onset of psychosis.

"More than one per cent of the Canadian population will develop a psychotic illness sometime in their lifetime. Young people - men age 16-25 and women age 16-35 - are at particularly high risk. Our goal is to intervene early and assist these people in being able to function at work and at school. Our goal is to decrease the rates of depression, suicide and violence often associated with individuals who do not receive treatment in a timely way. We know the PEPP Program works and are pleased that the MRC felt it was deserving of this funding," says Dr. Malla.

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