CAPITOL HILL -- The young woman on the right, Maggie, age 20, is one of the most intriguing young women with mental illness I have encountered.
At 15, she was at a friend's house having a sleep over. All of a sudden, she says, a switch flipped and her head filled with what sounded like an entire football stadium of voices urging her on to do evil, unspeakable things, as well as telling her how worthless she is.
It went on for days until she eventually, frightened, told her mother.
This is what is known clinically as a first episode psychosis, or in lay terms, often it is called a psychotic break. Thankfully for Maggie and her family, within the next 6 months--early intervention is a key--Maggie and her family were able to find an integrated treatment program that had as its primary goals to keep her functioning and on track to live a life full of meaning and purpose.
Both Maggie's own story and the data from the trial show that when the goal is to keep people in the fold rather than separate them from others and simply "manage" them, great things can happen.
The program is called RAISE, Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode, and is sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. It is a clinical trial that randomly assigns persons to receive either standard community care or the study's 4 step integrated care: medication, goal-oriented psychotherapy, family psychoeducation, and support for keeping the person in work or school.
My impression talking to Maggie was that she was as or more poised and self aware than many, many 20 year olds I have encountered. I think this is partly because she is that kind of person, and she has a very supportive mother (and I would reckon, family), and partly because the RAISE program is effective.
Here's Maggie's story, and how primary care can learn how to see people with schizophrenia as the true people they can be if they are given help early and with intention and purpose.
RAISE for young persons with schizophrenia