My loved one is displaying symptoms of early serious mental illness. Where do I begin to find help?

Family members are often the first to observe early signs of psychosis in their loved one’s behavior. It’s crucial to identify as early as possible the symptoms and seek treatment immediately.  NAMI’s Psychosis page provides information on the condition, current treatments, ways to support recovery, and links to fact sheets that discuss What is Early and First Episode Psychosis, Early Psychosis: What's Going On, What Can You Do, Encouraging People to Seek Help for Early Psychosis, and Early Intervention Tips for School Staff and Coaches

You may want to reach out to your local NAMI affiliate to look into participation in a Family-To-Family class where you can find information and strategies for taking care of the person you love, or a Family Support Group where you can gain insight from the challenges and successes of others facing similar experiences. Also, NAMI Peer-to Peer is a free educational program where your loved one can get help better understanding themselves and their recovery, while NAMI Connection is a support group for individuals who experience mental illness.  Additionally, you may find the NAMI Ask the Expert Webinar: Supporting a Loved One with Psychosis to be helpful.

Coordinated Specialty Care

If your loved one’s symptoms have presented within the past two years and they are between 16 and 30 years of age, they may qualify for the Coordinated Specialty Care services of a First Episode Psychosis program. 

Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) refers to treatment programs designed for people between the ages of 16-30 who have been experiencing symptoms of psychosis for two years or less.  Clinical research shows CSC to be more effective at the long-term reduction of symptoms and improvement of quality of life.  A CSC program will involve a team of behavioral specialists that work with the client and their caregivers to create a treatment plan involving:

  • Coordination with primary care physician
  • Recovery-oriented psychotherapy
  • Medication management
  • Individual and family education and support
  • Case management
  • Work and/or education support  

To find a CSC program in your area, you may wish to consult:

If your loved one does not qualify for a CSC program, we suggest building your own using the components listed above. The following link includes sites offering resources for families and individuals, examples of which include (but are not limited to) the Early Assessment & Support Alliance, RAISE, and Specialized Treatment Early in Psychosis (STEP)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis (CBTp) is an evidence-based treatment approach shown to improve symptoms and functioning in patients with psychotic disorders.  CBTp was developed as an individual treatment, and later as a group-based intervention to reduce the distress associated with the symptoms of psychosis and improve functioning. More information can be found in this CBTp Fact Sheet.

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