Objective: To discuss the rationale for early intervention in psychotic disorders and to explore why the widespread implementation of early intervention services has stalled.
Method: Four central questions are explored regarding early intervention in psychosis: (i) what is the rationale for early intervention services in psychosis and is it justified? (ii) what are the obstacles to the implementation of early intervention services throughout Australia? (iii) how could some of these obstacles be overcome? and (iv) what else needs to occur?
Results: Early intervention in psychosis aims to improve recognition and access, promote recovery from the initial psychotic episode, minimize secondary morbidity and reduce collateral damage. It may also prevent some brain dysfunction and damage, which may otherwise occur later in the illness. Despite the now growing body of evidence supporting the idea of early intervention, obstacles remain to its widespread adoption in policy and implementation, principally related to chronic under-funding of the public mental health system. Among the solutions proposed is the need to develop services with a youth focus, able to cater for young people with both psychotic and non-psychotic psychiatric disorders. These services should be well integrated with primary care and other youth orientated agencies.
Conclusions: We are hopeful that strong investment in early intervention and better services for young people will be among the highest priorities of the Third National Mental Health Plan. This is not only where the greatest public health burden lies, but also where cost-effectiveness of intervention is likely to be maximal.