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Early Psychosis

Brief overview

Psychosis is a brain-related condition that leads to alterations in a person’s thoughts, perceptions, beliefs and/or behaviour. It can be associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but it can also be triggered by other things like substance use or a brain injury. 

The role of the SMH professional

Psychosis occurs in approximately three percent of the population with an onset usually occurring during adolescence or young adulthood (age 13 – 30 years, but most commonly between the ages of 18 and 25). Though relatively rare amongst school-aged children and youth, it’s important that SMH professionals recognize the signs and know where to turn for additional support. 

Very briefly, in children and youth, signs of psychosis include

  • hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not there)
  • delusions (unusual, false beliefs)
  • paranoia (like thinking others are watching them, or trying to hurt them)
  • confusion or muddled thoughts
  • disorganized speech
  • actions that don’t make sense to others
  • flat affect
  • loss of interest or motivation

While psychosis can be a frightening condition, many people can make a full recovery. Early detection and intervention are critical. 

For more information

Infographics from EPION

These infographics developed by EPION are helpful visuals and quick reference guides to help support students affected by psychosis.

What can you do for students with Psychosis

Special Interest Group materials

Title: Emerging Psychosis in Youth: What you need to Know

Presented by: Early Psychosis Intervention Ontario Network, October 2014

Provides an overview of psychosis, related myths and facts, signs to pay attention to and key messages. Included are vignettes to support further case study discussions about supporting students affected by psychosis.

If you are a school mental health professional registered with a professional college and would like access to this material, please contact us.

Have a question about this topic?

Contact us. We can review relevant research to help to answer your question.  In cases where several requests focus on the same theme, we can arrange for a more comprehensive review which will be shared on the School Mental Health Ontario site

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