Category Archives: Educator Resources

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Early or Warning Signs of Psychosis

If you have concerns about a young person who may be experiencing psychosis, please contact the early psychosis intervention (EPI) service for your health region. The contact information can be obtained by calling 811 (HealthLinkBC) and asking for ‘early psychosis intervention’ or visiting this link.   These clinics can normally be contacted directly, without a referral from a doctor.

(This resource from Vancouver/Richmond EPI Early Psychosis Intervention service)

The following symptoms may indicate that an individual is experiencing psychosis or is in the prodromal phase. Frequently, individuals will display unusual behaviours prior to the onset of the acute psychotic episode. It is useful to educate individuals with psychosis about these symptoms once they’ve recovered from the episode, and to help them identify which symptoms are their personal “warning signs” of relapse.

Behavioural

  • Strange posturing
  • Odd or bizarre behaviour
  • Feeling refreshed after much less sleep than normal
  • Excessive writing without meaning
  • Cutting oneself; threats of self-mutilation
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Hyperactivity or inactivity, or alternating between the two
  • Staring without blinking – or blinking incessantly
  • Agitation
  • Severe sleep disturbances
  • Drug or alcohol abuse (This may be a coping mechanism: self-medicating)

Thinking and Speech

 

  • Things around them seem changed in some way
  • Rapid speech that is difficult to interrupt
  • Irrational statements
  • Extreme preoccupation with religion or with the occult
  • Peculiar use of words or odd language structures
  • Unusual sensitivity to stimuli (noise, light, colours, textures)
  • Memory problems
  • Severe distractibility

Social

 

  • Sensitivity and irritability when touched by others
  • Refusal to touch persons or objects; wearing gloves, etc.
  • Severe deterioration of social relationships
  • Dropping out of activities – or out of life in general
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and reclusive
  • Unexpected aggression
  • Suspiciousness

Emotional

 

  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Inability to cry, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Inability to express joy
  • Euphoric mood Personality
  • Reckless behaviours that are out of character
  • Significantly prolonged drops in motivation or speech
  • Shift in basic personality.

Options for single-class presentations

You can watch the full ReachOut performance live or via our online recording, and even schedule a free follow up with a performer via Skype.

Other options for evidence based small group presentations on this important issue:

 

 

For Teachers: How to identify and refer students with psychosis, a medical condition of the brain

Printable version of this resource: Teacher Fact Sheet – pdf We invite you to print and distribute this fact sheet to your colleages.

What’s the most important thing for teachers of youth to know about psychosis?

All young people who may be experiencing psychosis need to be assessed by a doctor or mental health team as soon as possible. Youth 16-30 are at the age when psychosis normally first appears, and rapid medical treatment has been shown to have a big effect on how quickly and thoroughly people recover.

What signs should I watch out for? How do I know a student may be experiencing psychosis? (excerpted from Vancouver/Richmond Early Psychosis Program with permission)

The following symptoms may indicate that an individual is experiencing psychosis. Frequently, people will display unusual behaviours before the onset of the acute psychotic episode.

Social

  • Sensitivity and irritability when touched by others
  • Refusal to touch persons or objects; wearing gloves, etc.
  • Severe deterioration of social relationships
  • Dropping out of activities – or out of life in general
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and reclusive
  • Unexpected aggression
  • Suspiciousness
  • Behavioural
  • Strange posturing
  • Odd or bizarre behaviour
  • Feeling refreshed after much less sleep than normal
  • Excessive writing without meaning
  • Cutting oneself; threats of self-mutilation
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene
  • Hyperactivity or inactivity, or alternating between the two
  • Staring without blinking – or blinking incessantly
  • Agitation
  • Severe sleep disturbances
  • Drug or alcohol abuse (This may be a coping mechanism: self-medicating)

Thinking and Speech

  • Things around them seem changed in some way
  • Rapid speech that is difficult to interrupt
  • Irrational statements
  • Extreme preoccupation with religion or with the occult
  • Peculiar use of words or odd language structures
  • Unusual sensitivity to stimuli (noise, light, colours, textures)
  • Memory problems
  • Severe distractibility
  • Emotional
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Inability to cry, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Inability to express joy
  • Euphoric mood

Personality

  • Reckless behaviours that are out of character
  • Significantly prolonged drops in motivation or speech
  • Shift in basic personality.

How can I help students get appropriate medical help? Who do I refer students with suspected psychosis to?

Important note: The latest research is clear that the sooner a youth with psychosis gets effective medical treatment the faster and more completely they recover. Because delays in treatment have such a big impact, it is critically important to refer  youth to specialized early psychosis intervention team wherever possible, which will see them without delay and will be aware of the most effective treatments. This is preferable to referring them to their family doctor or a mental health team.

  1. Call 811 (no area code needed) and ask for the number for an early psychosis intervention (EPI) team in your community. You, the young person, or their family will be able to call them without a referral. Here is a link to a list of teams online.
  2. If there is no EPI team in your area, then contact your local mental health team.  There are separate teams for children and youth (under 18) or adults (18+). You can call 811 to ask for contact information for these services. When you contact the service, ask to be put in touch with an Early Psychosis clinician to assess a young person for psychosis. Being specific in asking for early psychosis assessment may help speed up the process of getting the young person effective treatment.
  3. If neither of the above services exist locally, the affected person should go to their family doctor and let them know they might be experiencing psychosis.

Why alerting youth to schizophrenia signs is critical

At age 25, Renea Mohammed was an ambitious young woman, studying for a master’s in library sciences at UBC. Then people started whispering about her. “At first, it was people who I knew,”she recalled in a phone conversation with the Georgia Straight. Soon, strangers were talking about her too. “People on the bus—I’d think they were looking at me and talking about me, like they’d be spying on me.…I started to think I was being followed when I went out.”[Link to Full Georgia Straight Article

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Sign up to recieve info and resources for educators, families, health professionals

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Drugs and Psychosis

– Psychosis can be induced by drugs or can be “drug assisted”. Some stimulating drugs, like amphetamines, can cause psychosis, while other drugs, including marijuana, can trigger the onset of psychosis in someone who is already at increased risk because they have “vulnerability”.

It is also believed that some drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine can cause a condition known as a drug-induced psychosis. This psychosis can last up to a few days, and is often characterized by hallucinations, delusions, memory loss and confusion. This usually results from prolonged or heavy street-drug use; and it responds well to treatment.

Cannabis and Psychosis – information on why marijuana/pot/hash/cannabis is risky for people who have psychosis or are at risk for psychosis

Marijuana use increases risk for psychosis by 40% – An article by Theresa H.M. Moore, MSc, from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues was published in the July 28 issue of The Lancet. Moore compared the results of several research studies that followed people over a period of time (systematic review of longitudinal studies). She found that there is enough new evidence that the use of cannabis (marijuana) increases the risk for later psychotic illness by roughly 40%.

What Causes Psychosis?

How to Get Help for Psychosis

Supporting Students with Psychosis on Return to School

The following is posted here with permission of the Vancouver Richmond Early Psychosis Intervention Program www.hopevancouver.com Please see the following link for a printable version: Supporting Students with Psychosis Return to School

Dispel myths and stigma

  • Likelihood of violence is not greater in a student with psychosis.
  • Keep hurtful words like ‘psycho’ or ‘crazy’ out of the classroom.

Remember that brain diseases cause psychosis

  • Difficulties learning and socializing are often because of illness, rather than poor character, attitude, or parenting.
  • Motivation, thinking, fitting in, confidence, and spontaneity are all affected
  • Improvement will be gradual, with temporary set-backs.
  • Allow for difficulties with concentration and thinking
  • Reduce homework demands if possible, especially initially.
  • Provide a quiet room and/or more time for exams.
  • Allow the student enough time to respond to questions or instructions.
  • Use varied instructional techniques and modalities.

Provide breaks

  • Modify schedules, if possible, to allow for 1 or more study blocks.
  • Find a low-stimulation ‘safe place’ where the student can take breaks.
  • Strike a balance between encouraging the student to stay in the classroom and also providing a refuge if he or she is very overwhelmed or anxious.

Consider the effect of medications

  • Most students will take psychiatric medications that are very helpful.
  • Medication side-effects are often troublesome, usually lessening with time.
  • Using gum or hard candy can help with dry mouth side-effects.
  • Drowsiness may not be from late nights or lack of interest, but from side-effects. Suggest the student/family talk to their doctor if extreme drowsiness lasts for more than a few weeks.

Support re-integration

  • Have a designated staff person, such as a counsellor or youth worker, check in with the student; do not expect the student to take the initiative.
  • Anticipate that the student may be embarrassed about psychosis.
  • Remind the student that he or she does not need to discuss the psychosis experience with everyone who asks; help the student with what to say to maintain privacy.
  • Suggest that the student confide in trusted friends, if comfortable.

ReachingOut: a school resource video and teachers guide

ReachingOut: a school resource video sponsored by the Community Action Initiative, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and the Sto:lo Nation

Reaching Out Teachers Manual

BCSS is providing this resource package for teachers to use in schools. If you want a complete copy of the reaching out resource package-(including resource attachments) please call the BCSS office at 1-888-888-0029 or prov@bcss.org

Information for a young person recovering from psychosis

This booklet was designed for children & younger youth, or persons with lower reading levels, in consultation with the Fraser South Early Psychosis Intervention program. It is designed to be printed on letter sized paper, double-sided, and then folded into a booklet. Booklet for Young People Recovering from Psychosis