With mental illness, early intervention makes all the difference

As with any illness, including psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, diagnosis and intervention are better done earlier than later.

Montreal psychiatric researcher Ashok Malla has focused his studies on the early phases of psychotic disorders, on prevention, and pathways of treatment. He’ll discuss the extent of our knowledge about early intervention in psychoses June 2 at the Sarto-Desnoyers Centre in Dorval.

Dr. Malla is an expert in this field. He directs the prevention and early intervention program for psychoses at the Douglas Institute and is professor of psychiatry at McGill University, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Early Psychosis. He is recognized as an international leader in the development of comprehensive programs for and research into early psychosis intervention.

There is every reason to study and develop expertise in this area. Schizophrenia is a frightening condition, and for persons afflicted, including families and loved ones, life becomes a nightmare. There is a growing body of evidence that delay in identifying and treating psychosis may be a major contributor to poor outcomes in managing it.

As many with friends and family who have developed psychosis have learned, the illness begins to manifest itself among mostly younger people, between the ages of 14 and 30. 

In his research, Dr. Mallas has investigated delays in treatment, identifying sources of the delay in order to improve early case identification, and studied the impact of assertive early case identification on outcomes. Long delays in identifying the disease and starting treatment can affect outcomes.

His research has demonstrated that “at least 50 per cent of outcome is potentially amenable to impact of better and early treatment.” It also shows that mental functions, such as working memory, adherence to treatment, and partial response to treatment are major predictors of outcome.

According to his website, apart from continuing his research into treatment delays and their impact, he plans to start examining the period just before the onset of psychosis in high-risk individuals, with the goal of developing treatment for that phase and possibly prevent its onset.

The June 2 talk at 7 p.m. at the Sarto-Desnoyers Community Centre, 1335 Lakeshore Blvd. is free, but you must register at 514-636-6885 or asmfmh@qc.aira.com. It will be live streamed at asmfmh.org/services/conferences/

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