Our three recommendations for the government to improve support for people experiencing psychosis

23/03/2022

To mark our 50th Birthday, Rethink Mental Illness has launched a national campaign to raise awareness of psychosis and the importance of early intervention. In this blog, Eva Bell, our Policy and Research Officer, explains the three recommendations we have for the government to improve support for people experiencing psychosis.

Psychosis is a term used to describe when a person interprets or perceives reality in a different way to those around them. It can be a one-off experience, described as a single psychotic episode or it can be experienced as part of a mental health condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar.  As the charity for people severely affected by mental illness, part of our role is to provide advice and information for people who may be experiencing symptoms or worried about a loved one. 

Rethink Mental Illness has launched a campaign aimed at young people to raise awareness of the symptoms of psychosis and encourage them to seek support but there is more to be done.

1. Improve public awareness on psychosis

There is a need for better public awareness of mental health conditions. Our research in May 2021 revealed that while 67% of people with lived experience of mental illness agreed that levels of stigma towards more common health problems had improved in the last ten years, the overwhelming majority (88%) agreed that discrimination towards people severely affected by mental illness is widespread in England.

Our campaign “From psychosis to…” seeks to improve awareness and understanding of psychosis by sharing the stories of people who have experienced psychosis themselves. This is just the first step in improving awareness around psychosis, we need to reach more people, offering information nationwide to all ages to equip both people who experience symptoms as well as their loved ones. Stigma around mental illness and lack of understanding of psychosis can contribute to fear around psychosis, which in turn can mean people do not reach out for support when they start experiencing symptoms.

We are calling on the Department for Health and Social Care, the Office for Health Inequalities and Disparities and the NHS to work with us to address stigma and discrimination experienced by people severely affected by mental illness through specific public health messaging, to ensure that more people come forward and can access the right treatment at the right time.  

2. More people experiencing a first episode of psychosis should be able to access specialised Early Intervention in Psychosis services within two weeks

NHS England introduced access and quality standards for Early Intervention in Psychosis Services in 2016. This was much needed and very welcome. Since then, the NHS has delivered and maintained an access standard of 60% or over. This is a great achievement and shows how important these targets are for ensuring and tracking access to specialised mental health services.

Due to the nature of psychosis and psychotic disorders having the potential to be extremely debilitating, people who do not access effective treatment quickly are far more likely to experience poor physical health, lower levels of social functioning and poorer occupational and educational outcomes.

  • After 6 years of meeting the access standard target, we think it is time to be more ambitious and support more people. We think more people who experience a first episode of psychosis should be referred to and in contact with specialised Early Intervention in Psychosis services within 2 weeks.

    Eva Bell Eva Bell

    Policy and research officer Policy and research officer

We also ask that the NHS also strives to deliver on its accompanying targets for psychosis services, such as ensuring 70% of services are provided at NICE level 3 standard.

3. Appropriate continuation of care within communities for people who experience psychosis

We know that psychosis can be an enduring symptom of mental illness and that ongoing treatment and support in the community is vital to ensuring that people severely affected by mental illness live fulfilling lives. Access to high-quality treatment in a timely manner upon experiencing a first episode of psychosis is a vital part of the picture, but we also need to think about the continuity of care for those people who experience recurring symptoms of psychosis beyond the three years that Early Intervention in Psychosis services are provided.

The current transformation of community mental health services offers an invaluable opportunity to build on the learning of Early Intervention in Psychosis services and fill the current gaps in secondary mental health services.

It is also important alongside high-quality treatment that the government works to provide complete community support including access to good quality housing, financial security through work and a fair benefits system and social connections.

For more information about our "From Psychosis to..." campaign, and to find out how you can get involved, please visit our dedicated campaign hub.

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