Before starting to do any type of community education or capacity building, one should first start with doing a community assessment.
The notion of community assessment may appear daunting – however, if one considers the population of youth at risk of experiencing early psychosis and who they interact with, the task starts to appear more manageable. You will find that many of your skills of working with clients and families will help prepare you to engage in a community assessment.
Research indicates that psychosis has a lifetime prevalence of about 3% and often the onset begins during adolescence and early adulthood. Brainstorming about the systems and contacts young people have during those formative years focuses the planning on educational, social, recreational, and employment programs and services. Families and friends are the most influential social groups for young people and represent the key stakeholders in any plan.
In British Columbia, most young people are still residing in their family home during adolescence and increasingly well into their twenties. Most communities, government ministries and school boards track the population of youth in order to plan programs and services. Getting a sense of the scope and numbers of youth can help early intervention planning in prioritizing where efforts should be made.
It’s important to acknowledge that increased community education may lead to some increase in mental health referrals initially. Preparing for this potential initial increase means ensuring that other agencies that serve youth and their families are brought into the education and planning process at the earliest stage.
It is essential in developing your community education plan that key individuals be informed about the warning signs of mental illness, about how to respond and about the serious implications of failing to respond.
Delays in effective treatment will only prolong the distress of the young person and their family. The trauma associated with the onset of a first episode can be exacerbated by: an involuntary admission to hospital, a disruption of social roles and functioning, or an inadequate or insufficient response or a failure to follow up in a reasonable time.