10 October 2014

'Get help early', urge Bristol mental health professionals

As mental health organisations across the West mark World Mental Health Day, celebrated annually on 10 October, professionals from Bristol Mental Health - the city's new mental health services - are encouraging young people across Bristol to get earlier help with psychosis.

Rachel Esposito manages Bristol Mental Health's Early Intervention in Psychosis Service, which is provided by AWP in partnership with Off the Record. She explained, "A psychotic experience or episode can be distressing and often includes things like seeing and hearing things other people cannot see or hear.  People experiencing psychosis can start to feel worried and anxious that something bad my happen to themselves or someone they care about.  Friends and family often notice changes in the person's mood and behaviour.  Stress can be a trigger for an episode.  A first episode of psychosis often develops between later teenage years and early 30s.   Getting support early on and working together is important to achieve the best outcomes for an individual's recovery.

"Experiencing a first episode psychosis can happen to anyone and most people recover fully.  With the right support the impact of psychosis on people's lives can be vastly reduced by learning techniques for managing their experiences, practical and support and medication.   The Bristol Mental Health early intervention in psychosis service is here to help with that."

The aim of the early intervention service is not only to help people who are experiencing an episode but also to advise and support people who are at risk of developing an episode.  Rachel said, "We want many more people in Bristol to be aware of the signs so that they recognise when someone they know may be at risk of developing psychosis.

"A common sign is a young person who has previously coped well with school or work who has had an active social life, becomes increasingly withdrawn and begins to struggles with work or their studies.  They may stop contacting or responding to contact from friends and have changes to their sleep pattern. Gradually they might develop uncharacteristic irritability and suspicions about friends and family.  They may also use drugs more often such as heavy cannabis use or play computer games for increasing periods."

GPs often refer people to the service. But families, friends, employers and young people themselves can also contact early intervention teams directly.

The early intervention service works with people on a long-term basis - up to three years - to assess young people and work with them to get them the right support and treatment. The team - which includes a range of mental health professionals - gets to know the whole family, and the understanding and support of siblings in particular can be beneficial. Treatment might include low doses of medication as well therapeutic work. Young people are often supported to get back on track with education, training or employment, and with issues such as housing.

Simon Newitt, Chief Executive at Off the Record (Bristol), which supports young people aged 11-25 with mental health needs across Bristol and South Gloucestershire, said, "The mental health of young people is incredibly important, and the support they do or don't get at an early age can have a big impact on their lives, not just now but throughout their adult life. Getting help with psychosis, anxiety, or any other mental health issue as early as possible is crucial, and young people should never be afraid to seek help. If you are worried, either for yourself or someone else, you can talk in confidence to our team at OTR or with our colleagues in the early intervention service."

Off the Record (Bristol) can be contacted by free phone on 0808 808 9120, by text on 07896 880011, or by email at confidential@otrbristol.co.uk For more information visit www.otrbristol.org.uk

For more information on the Bristol early intervention in psychosis team click here

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