Early Identification and Treatment of Schizophrenia Goal of New Yale School of Medicine Psychiatric Research Clinic

The Yale University psychiatry department’s new PRIME Research Clinic – short for Prevention through Risk Identification, Management and Education – is revolutionary in its focus on the early identification and prevention of schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders.

The clinic is launching a study of individuals age 14 to 45 who are concerned with a recent change in their thoughts or feelings. Signs that someone may be at risk for greater difficulties include decline in work or school performance, social withdrawal, trouble concentrating or thinking clearly, feeling suspicious or worried about the intentions of other people, and changes in the way things look or sound. These experiences may be accompanied by mood shifts such as depression, anxiety, or outbursts, said Thomas McGlashan, M.D., executive director of the Yale Psychiatric Institute and leader of the study.

The study is the first in this country to explore the possibility of preventing, delaying or significantly reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses with a combination of early identification and treatment for individuals who, while in the prime of their lives, are at risk for developing a debilitating mental illness.

Preliminary results from research conducted in Norway and Australia indicate that early intervention may prevent symptoms from developing or may significantly reduce symptoms of mental disorders. Traditional treatment involves reducing symptoms after the illness has already caused sometimes severe problems.

“Most people diagnosed with serious mental disorders encounter sometimes irreversible reduction in quality of life, including failure at work or school, loss of sense of self, social estrangement, or distractions from persistent voices and fear of persecution,” McGlashan said. “Although people who have serious mental illness in their families are more likely to develop these diseases, 85 percent of people who develop this kind of disease have no family history.”

Schizophrenia accounts for about 75 percent of all mental health expenditures in industrialized countries. “Because of its early onset – typically in the late teens and early twenties – schizophrenia robs society of its victims’ intellectual and physical productivity,” McGlashan said.

The PRIME Clinic offers individual and family psychotherapy focusing on education, management and coping strategies as well as a medication trial. Treatment lasts for one year, accompanied by one year of follow-up monitoring. All study related treatment is free of charge and all discussions are completely confidential.

For more information or to enroll in the study, call Tandy Miller, Ph.D., the project director, at (203) 737-1238, or at 1-800-Ask Yale and request the PRIME Clinic, or fax (203) 785-7855. Address mail to PRIME, P.O. Box 208038, New Haven, CT, 06520-8038.

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