Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, a research scientist in Temple University’s Collaborative on Community Inclusion, received a K08 award from the National Institute of Mental Health for a four-year project to develop and test a peer-delivered support intervention for emerging adults with early psychosis.
The project aims to understand how to better engage adults aged 18 to 25 who are experiencing early symptoms of psychosis in coordinated specialty care (CSC) programs, with the goal of developing a peer-delivered decision support intervention.
Though many CSC programs for early psychosis exist, they fail to benefit many emerging adults who disengage during the first several months of treatment. Dr. Thomas’ project aims to develop a more effective method to engage these individuals through the support of peers, who can offer a level of emotional support that care providers typically could not, in addition to sharing firsthand knowledge of the experience.
For those experiencing early signs of psychosis — such as hallucinations or delusions — early and consistent treatment can help emerging adults feel minimal long-term impact.
“Often, these are people who are going to school or recently start in their careers who then have an interruption caused by mental illness,” said Dr. Thomas. “They withdraw socially and don’t know how to deal with these new experiences.” Early treatment, she said, can teach methods of coping with these issues and symptoms. That is, psychosis symptoms don’t have to prevent people from living fulfilling, functioning lives.
Housed in Temple University College of Public Health, the Collaborative on Community Inclusion seeks to “target obstacles that prevent people with psychiatric disabilities from fully participating in their communities, develop the services and support consumers and communities need to promote full integration into all aspects of community life, and expand the range of opportunities for people who have psychiatric disabilities to participate in their communities as active, equal members.” In the Collaborative, researchers across public health disciplines partner with individuals who have lived experience with serious mental health issues, policymakers, and care providers.