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Psychiatr Serv. 1995 Nov;46(11):1166-71.

Who cares? Pathways to psychiatric care for young people experiencing a first episode of psychosis.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Melbourne University, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.



The authors reviewed the literature to better understand pathways to psychiatric care among young persons experiencing a first episode of psychosis. Because no discrete body of literature exists about how young people with psychotic illness gain access to psychiatric services, the authors examined three related areas: illness recognition, help-seeking, and referral pathways.


Automated and manual searches of primarily medical and psychological sources from 1977 to 1995 were conducted.


The review found evidence of delay in obtaining early treatment among young people with an emerging psychosis, although comparisons between studies are difficult. Early psychiatric intervention is believed to significantly aid recovery and is an increasingly important clinical issue. Recognizing psychiatric illness is problematic for professionals and nonprofessionals.


Understanding of help seeking by patients experiencing a first psychotic episode and of their referral pathways is limited. Taken together, studies suggest factors affecting access to treatment but provide neither sufficient empirical information nor an adequate conceptual framework to better target secondary prevention strategies. Formulation of a pathways-to-care model appears to offer a useful way of understanding mental health care use. Exploration of consumer experiences would enrich the model. Strategies to reduce treatment delay could then be developed and evaluated. Increased consumer involvement might help ensure that services are better tailored to patients' needs.

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