Urgent campaign launches to increase awareness of psychosis

21 March 2022

Urgent campaign launches to increase awareness of psychosis, as research shows a quarter of young people at greatest risk have never heard of it.

  • A quarter of 18–34-year-olds (24%) say they have not heard of psychosis*
  • One third (34%) of GB adults said they don’t know how confident they would be that they could spot symptoms of psychosis, compared to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
  • Less than half of those polled (48%) say they believe psychosis is something you can recover from, even though accessing early treatment can be life changing
  • New campaign ‘From psychosis to…’, developed alongside experts by experience, seeks to improve awareness of symptoms and emphasise the importance of accessing treatment as quickly as possible

National charity Rethink Mental Illness has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of psychosis and encourage people to seek urgent support if they’re concerned about themselves or a loved one.

The campaign launch coincides with new research from YouGov, which suggests young people aged 18-34 have the lowest levels of awareness of psychosis (76% compared to 84% for those aged 35+), even though first episodes of psychosis occur most commonly in this age group.

Awareness was also noticeably lower among full-time students, with one in three (31%) saying they hadn’t heard of psychosis, compared to 18% for people of working status.

The timing of the campaign is critical, with the pandemic proving hugely damaging to many young people’s mental health. The drive to raise awareness also comes after services experienced an increase in referrals of suspected first episodes of psychosis during the pandemic.

The campaign, ‘From psychosis to…’ profiles three young people who have all received a diagnosis of psychosis and received treatment which has helped them to recover and follow their passions in life, whether that be a fulfilling career in the NHS, studying English literature at university, or producing and performing their own music.

Danni (26), Imogen (27) and Alika (31) will be featured in a social media campaign and on billboards in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London over the coming weeks. The eye-catching posters, developed in collaboration with Acne London and experts by experience, highlight the most common symptoms of psychosis, which are hallucinations, delusions, and confused or disturbed thoughts.

Rethink Mental Illness wants to increase awareness of psychosis and highlight that Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) services can be life changing, with strong evidence showing that treatment is most effective when started early.

Former Love Island contestant Niall Aslam, 27, talks about his difficult experience with psychosis on social media and is also lending his support to the campaign:

“I’ve found people find it hard to talk about psychosis as I believe there are so many misconceptions and often a lack of understanding around it. Psychosis was the most challenging experience I’ve ever been through. It drove me to a very a lonely and scary place, but it’s something that your brother, sister or best friend could go through so it’s important that we have more awareness of what some of the signs and symptoms can be.

“We’re generally better at talking about mental health, but when it comes to psychosis, I believe there’s still a lot of stigma and that can be a barrier to people getting the help they need. Hopefully this campaign can help to change that.”

Danni, 26, lives in Bridport. She was diagnosed with psychosis when she was 16, and opening up to a therapist led to a swift referral to the early intervention team:

“It’s no exaggeration to say that the early intervention service saved my life. I won’t gloss over it – it was a horrible time – but when I was discharged from the service I was fully independent, and living my life the way I wanted to. I learned that psychosis is manageable and you can learn to cope with the help of medication and therapy. I still struggle with my mental health, but I’ve achieved far more than I ever expected I could.

“Psychosis is often portrayed as severe, dramatic or dangerous. But you can get help, and actually I think there are a lot of people out there, like me, who’ve got the treatment they need and are now living really good lives. That’s why I wanted to be part of this campaign, to help get that message out there.”

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness:

“The isolation, fear and anxiety induced by the pandemic may be one of the causes behind an increase in the number of people experiencing psychosis. Our figures show that if so few people know how to spot it and seek help, the danger is that becomes a yawning chasm into which many young lives could fall. 

“We need to redouble our efforts to ensure that everyone is aware of the signs and symptoms of psychosis and the treatment that is available. In tandem, and while acknowledging the NHS is under increased pressure, in the long-term we also need to ensure that everyone who experiences severe mental illness can access the right treatment at the right time.”

Additional Quotes:

Alika, 31, lives in London where he is busy raising a young family, completing an apprenticeship and writing and performing his own music:

“When the doctors told me I was experiencing psychosis, I had no idea what it was. I was 21, and a combination of stressful events in my life had taken their toll on my mental health. I ended up in crisis, and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“I truly believe it would have changed my entire trajectory if I’d received treatment for psychosis earlier. It would have helped me to understand what I was going through so I felt less alone. I know now that getting support early means a better chance of recovery, and I’m proof that you can get back to good health. It’s not necessarily easy or going to happen overnight, but that message of hope is so important to anyone going through it.”

Imogen, 27, lives in London and started experiencing psychosis in her teens, before she was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder and autism:

“When I first started experiencing psychosis I was really frightened because I didn’t know what was happening. I was lucky to have my family in my corner - they knew something was wrong and 100% supported me to get a diagnosis. This helped me to get the support I needed, and I was put on anti-psychotic medication, offered therapy and given the support of a social worker.

“I spent a lot of time reading up about my diagnosis, to help me understand it and learn the triggers. Psychosis is something a lot of people have had experiences with and awareness matters. It can help to make it less scary to talk about and make it easier for people to seek the support they need. Psychosis can make you feel isolated, but my experience taught me that people want to help.”

Rethink Mental Illness is the charity for people severely affected by mental illness. Visit www.rethink.org for more information and advice about psychosis.

* Survey findings: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2172 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 15th March 2022.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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