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Mental Health Monday: What is psychosis?

NOVA center explains how psychosis is expressed, and it's effects on youth. Their new program hopes to identify the signs early and get more people into treatment.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala — During the pandemic we’ve been taking time to talk about different mental health conditions we all might be experiencing. 

Professionals in Huntsville say there’s one condition that we’re not talking about enough. It’s called psychosis. It's expressed in a lot of different ways, and knowing the signs early can potentially help save lives.

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Imagine what it’d be like if how you felt and what you thought wasn’t necessarily in line with what’s happening in reality. That’s how people experiencing psychosis feel every day. One group in Huntsville has a new program specifically designed to help.

We checked in with Kaasha Campbell, the Supported Education and Employment Specialist at the NOVA Center. She tells our reporter, “It’s just important for everyone to know more about psychosis and what it is… 

So, let's clarify. What is psychosis? 

Jacqueline Bell is the FEP Team Lead at the NOVA Center. She explains, “It’s generally identified with a loss of connection with reality. And so, when you’re thinking about psychosis… some of those symptoms can really fall into the line of hallucinations, which can be visual, auditory, tactile. It could be some delusions there-- where their thinking is not the same as what everyone else sees and identifies with….”

Psychosis can manifest as disruptions to people’s thoughts.

It makes it hard for them to distinguish between what’s ‘real’ and what’s happening in their head. It can be expressed in a lot of ways, and looks differently to different people. 

Kaasha Campbell says, “It does interfere with learning. It does interfere with your social interactions.” 

Data from NAMI shows, 100,000 young people experience psychosis every year. 

The NOVA Center’s First Episode Psychosis, or FEP, program is new to Madison County. The goal is to identify signs of psychosis early and get people the help they need. Bell says the program includes, “... educating them about the illness, providing them with that support, assisting them though the transition of learning about the illness, trying to keep them from decompensating and trying to keep them from that cycle of hospitalization.” 

The program is going to help a lot of people. But, these experts say starting the conversation at home can help any family right now. Bell says, “I can relate personally to having family members with a mental illness. Having that conversation initially allows that person to know ‘Hey, I don’t have to hide. I don’t have to go through this alone. I am loved regardless of having a diagnosis or not. It gives them comfort so when they’re having to get that help, it's not that overwhelming feeling of shame and embarrassment.” 

The program gives support long term. With a team full of experts. 

Jacqueline Bell says, “We have myself as the team lead, we have an RN/ Nurse Practitioner, we also have a care coordinator same as a case manager-- we have a supportive Education and Employment Specialist, and we have a youth peer and a parent peer.” 

She adds, “Honestly, this program should be everywhere.”

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