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Keywords:

  • high risk;
  • mental health service;
  • psychosis;
  • youth

Abstract

Aim: To qualitatively examine the common experiences of child and adolescent mental health clinicians working with adolescents suspected of having an ‘at-risk mental state’ (ARMS) for psychosis.

Methods: A semistructured interview was conducted with six experienced child and adolescent mental health clinicians working in North East England.

Results: A thematic analysis of clinicians' experiences indicated that the identification and management of an ARMS within this patient group is particularly complex. In terms of treatment options, approaches that promoted social inclusion were favoured, but the use of antipsychotic medication was perceived as a ‘last resort’, requiring serious consideration. Clear guidelines and an overall consensus were judged to be lacking in terms of coordinating care and multi-agency working practices.

Conclusions: Establishing a formalized care pathway that also incorporates regular training and supervision may be required by this and other clinical services working with adolescents suspected of having an ARMS. Improved identification, a firmer evidence base regarding treatment practices and clear guidelines are required for this age group. This need will become more urgent should a psychosis risk syndrome be included as a diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V).