The concept of early intervention for psychosis has received much attention in recent years. The experience of pioneer services in the USA and Australia has convinced the UK Government to set aside millions of pounds to make dedicated early intervention teams an integral part of standard mental health services across the country. Other governments are set to follow suit. The rationale for early intervention is that there is a higher success rate if psychotic symptoms are treated early than if they are treated after they have been present for some time. It is also claimed that interventions early in the course of the illness can decrease the psychosocial impact of a psychotic illness that leads to secondary disability. But have these assertions been empirically demonstrated? Do such services simply take valuable resources, both in terms of funding and staff, from an already-overstretched mental health system, or do they change the trajectory of the disease process in a fundamental way? Dr Max Birchwood, Director of the Birmingham Early Intervention Service, and Dr Anthony Pelosi, consultant psychiatrist with a ‘generic’ community service in East Kilbride, Scotland, debate this issue.
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