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Psychol Med. 2004 Feb;34(2):255-66.

Understanding delay in treatment for first-episode psychosis.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.



A lengthy delay often occurs between the onset of symptoms of psychotic disorders and initiation of adequate treatment. In this paper we examine the extent to which this represents a delay in individuals contacting health professionals or a delay in receiving treatment once such contact is made.


Pathways to care were examined in 110 patients of the Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychosis in London, Canada. Data were collected using structured interviews with patients, family members, consultation with clinicians and review of case records.


Family physicians and hospital emergency rooms were prominent components of pathways to care. Both delay to contact with a helping professional and delay from such contact to initiation of adequate treatment appear to be about equally important for the sample as a whole, but some individuals appear to be at risk for particularly lengthy delay in the second component. Individuals with younger age of onset, or who had initial contact with professional helpers before the onset of psychosis and were being seen on an ongoing basis at the time of onset of psychosis, had longer delays from first service contact after onset to initiation of adequate treatment. The greater delay to treatment for those being seen at the onset of psychosis does not appear to reflect differences in age, gender, symptoms, drug use or willingness to take medication.


Interventions to reduce treatment delay should increase the public's awareness of the symptoms of psychotic illness and the need to seek treatment, but of equal importance is the education of service providers to recognize such illness and the potential benefits of earlier intervention.

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