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February

Evidence-based website for families and friends of people with psychosis

08 February 2010

mentalhealthcare.org.uk the website aimed at carers of people with mental health conditions - has been relaunched with a fresh new look and a fresh new focus.  After extensive research with carers' groups it was found there was a gap in the market for clear, evidence-based and reliable information for relatives and friends of people with psychosis.   Focusing solely on psychosis, the new website intends to bridge this gap and is packed with updated information and support with the new addition of specially made videos by leading experts in the field.

Psychosis describes a set of symptoms that include delusions, hallucinations – hearing voices, for example – and confused or disturbed thoughts.  It is a symptom of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. It can also be a symptom of dementia, some forms of personality disorder, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses. People who abuse drugs and alcohol sometimes experience symptoms of psychosis, and psychosis can occur as a side effect of some types of medication. Psychotic experiences can be triggered by severe stress or anxiety, severe depression or sleep deprivation.  Schizophrenia is the most serious of the illnesses that include symptoms of psychosis. About one in every 100 people will have schizophrenia at some time in their lives.

Elizabeth Kuipers, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the IoP is leading the development of the website. She said: ‘Looking after someone with psychosis can, at times, be emotionally demanding. There is still an enormous amount of stigma and shame about psychosis, and worry and upset when a relative is diagnosed with a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia. There are a lot of myths about what it means if you have one of these problems, so it’s helpful to have information that you can trust, information that helps you know what you are dealing with.  Through this new website we aim to provide clear information about treatment, medication and other support available to carers and people with psychosis.’

www.mentalhealthcare.org.uk-  is a joint venture between The Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London (IoP) and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), in association with Rethink, the campaigning mental health charity that runs support groups for carers. It is funded by a public engagement grant from The Wellcome Trust.

Consultation carried out with carers across the UK puts reliable information that is quickly and easily available near the top of their wish list.  They also said that while there are many websites about psychosis on the internet, there are few British ones, and few that are reliable. Of those available, it is hard to know which to believe as they often say completely different things. www.mentalhealthcare.org.uk aims to address these key issues by providing:

• short filmed interviews with health professionals and researchers talking about different aspects of psychosis, treatment and care;

• Ask the Pharmacist, Ask the Psychologist and Ask the Psychiatrist pages where visitors to the site can submit general questions;

• summaries of IoP research about psychosis, written in plain English;

• information on how to get involved with research;

• links to other key websites.

All information on the website is based on research carried out to learn more about the causes of psychosis in order to develop better treatments or improve existing ones. The information is provided by IoP researchers and SLaM mental health professionals who have extensive knowledge and experience of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other illnesses that can involve the symptoms of psychosis.  The site is easy to navigate, clear and easy to read. It uses simple language and explains mental health terms; provides information about medication and what side effects can be expected; describes other treatments, such as talking therapies and sets out how mental health services work.

‘Access to reliable information in the early stages of diagnosis is crucial,’ said Marshall Whiting who supported his late brother and now his eldest son, through schizophrenia. ‘Although therapies and medication have moved on significantly since my brother was diagnosed in 1962, there is still not enough information and support from the authorities or the medical profession. ‘Most information is shared by carers through support groups and word of mouth, so something like the new website is a big step in the right direction to helping provide carers and families and friends of people with psychosis with the information they need.’

For further information contact:  Carol Leach, 07968 619 129

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