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Healthcare workers (HCWs) have a theoretically increased risk of contracting severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) given their occupational exposure. We tested 2,167 HCWs in a London Acute Integrated Care Organisation for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in May and June 2020 to evaluate seroprevalence. We found a seropositivity rate of 31.6% among HCWs.
Despite the scientific evidence, most families of people with schizophrenia in Europe never receive a carer education programme. We evaluated whether a carer education course delivered by telepsychiatry was as effective as a carer education course delivered in situ.
We delivered the carer education course for schizophrenia simultaneously to a carers group in rural north west Ireland (remote) via three ISDN lines and live to a carers group in a city (host). We compared knowledge gains using the Knowledge Questionnaire before and after each course.
Fifty-six carers of people with schizophrenia participated in the trial. At baseline, participants at the remote and host centers did not differ in terms of knowledge about schizophrenia. After the course, carers at both centers improved significantly and the knowledge gains between groups were equivalent at 6 weeks.
Telepsychiatry can deliver effective carer education programmes about schizophrenia and may provide one solution to bridging the chasm between scientific evidence and clinical reality.
International best-practice guidelines for the management of first-episode psychosis have recommended the provision of psychoeducation for multifamily groups. While there is ample evidence of their efficacy in multiepisode psychosis, there is a paucity of evidence supporting this approach specifically for first-episode psychosis. We sought to determine whether a six-week caregiver psychoeducation programme geared specifically at first-episode psychosis improves caregiver knowledge and attitudes.
Caregivers of people with first-episode psychosis completed a 23-item adapted version of the self-report Family Questionnaire (KQ) and a 17-item adapted version of the self-report Drug Attitudes Inventory (DAI) before and after the six-week DETECT Information and Support Course (DISC). Using a Generalised Linear Repeated Measures Model, we analyzed the differences in proportions of correct answers before and after the programme.
Over a 24-month study period, 31 caregivers (13 higher socioeconomic; 13 lower socioeconomic; five unspecified socioeconomic; 19 female; 12 male) participated in the DISC programme and completed inventories before and after the course. Knowledge of psychosis and specific knowledge of medication treatment improved among caregivers overall (p < .01; effect sizes 0.78 and 0.94 respectively). There were no significant gender or socioeconomic differences in any improvement.
This study confirms that caregiver psychoeducation specifically for first-episode psychosis directly improves knowledge of the illness overall and, in particular, knowledge of medication. Gender is not a factor in this, while the lack of any socioeconomic differences dispels the myth that patients in lower socioeconomic groups are disadvantaged because their caregivers know less.
Although there is some evidence that duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) is geographically stable, few have examined whether the phenomenon is temporally stable. We examined DUP in two cohorts within two discrete time periods (1995–1999 and 2003–2005) spanning a decade in the same geographically defined community psychiatric service with no early intervention programme. Patients were diagnosed by Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID) and we determined the DUP using the Beiser Scale. The DUP of the 240 participants did not differ significantly between study periods.
Females care for individuals with chronic illness more commonly than males and have different attitudes to illness. Additionally, they experience greater burden and reduced quality of life, when compared to their male counterparts. Since knowledge has been shown to be related to burden, we sought to determine whether there were gender differences in knowledge acquisition during a six-week caregiver psychoeducation programme (CPP).
Caregivers of people with schizophrenia completed a 23-item adapted version of the self-report Family Questionnaire (FQ) before and after the six-week CPP. Using a Generalized Linear Mixed Model, we studied the differences in proportions of correct answers before and after the programme by gender.
Over a 46-month study period, 115 caregivers (58% female) participated in the programme. There was an overall improvement in knowledge with an effect size of 1.12. The improvement was statistically significant (P < 0.001) within each of six specific areas of knowledge. However, female caregivers gained more knowledge overall and specifically regarding signs and symptoms, recovery and especially caregiver support. Knowledge gains regarding medication were roughly equal, while male caregivers gained more knowledge about risk factors.
Our findings indicate that there are gender differences in the amount and type of knowledge gained during a CPP, with female caregivers showing greater knowledge acquisition than their male counterparts in most areas. Interventions designed to assist caregivers may be improved by targeting areas of knowledge specific to each gender. Such an approach might further reduce burden and improve the outcome for their relatives affected by schizophrenia.
Post hoc analysis of occupational attainment and performance on a standard neurocognitive battery suggests that performance on letter-number sequencing is strongly associated with work attainment. Letter-number sequencing may warrant further investigation as a clinically useful tool to inform decisions around vocational rehabilitation.
The aim of this study was to identify the features of first episode schizophrenia that predict adherence antipsychotic medication at six-month follow-up. We used validated instruments to assess clinical and socio-demographic variables in all patients with first episode schizophrenia from a defined geographical area admitted to a Dublin psychiatric hospital over a four-year period (N = 100). At six-month follow-up (N = 60) we assessed adherence to medication using the Compliance Interview. One third of patients with schizophrenia were non-adherent with medication within six months of their first episode of illness. High levels of positive symptoms at baseline, lack of insight at baseline, alcohol misuse at baseline and previous drug misuse predict non-adherence. These results indicate that an identifiable subgroup of patients with first episode schizophrenia is at high risk of early non-adherence to medication. While high positive symptom scores pre-date and predict non-adherence in most patients, reduced insight is the best predictor of non-adherence in patients who do not misuse alcohol or other drugs.
Individuals with schizophrenia who participated in a psychosocial and educative rehabilitation programme showed a 46% improvement in quality of life in the absence of any significant change in symptom severity. In contrast, there was no significant change in quality of life for individuals who continued with supportive rehabilitation. Our preliminary findings highlight the ‘quality of life’ benefits of psychosocial and educative rehabilitation for individuals with schizophrenia who are clinically stable and living in the community.
Schizophrenia is associated with altered neural development. We assessed neurological soft signs (NSS) and dermatoglyphic anomalies (total a–b ridge count (TABRC) and total finger ridge count) in 15 pairs of twins concordant and discordant for schizophrenia. Within-pair differences in both NSS and TABRC scores were significantly greater in discordant compared to concordant monozygotic pairs. There was no significant difference in NSS and TABRC scores between subjects with schizophrenia and their co-twins without the illness. However, monozygotic discordant twins with schizophrenia had higher ABRCs on their right hands compared to their co-twins without the illness. These findings suggest that an unidentified environmental event acting between weeks 6 and 15 of gestation affects the development of monozygotic twins who go on to develop schizophrenia but does not have a corresponding effect on their co-twins who do not develop the illness. The effect of such an event on dermatoglyphic profiles appears lateralised to the right hand in affected twins.
Although genetic and environmental factors operating before or around the time of birth have been demonstrated to be relevant to the aetiology of the major psychoses, a seasonal variation in the rates of admission of such patients has long been recognised. Few studies have compared first and readmissions. This study examined for seasonal variation of admission in the major psychoses, and compared diagnostic categories by admission status. Patients admitted to Irish psychiatric inpatient facilities between 1989 and 1994 with an ICD-9/10 diagnosis of schizophrenia or affective disorder were identified from the National Psychiatric Inpatient Reporting System (NPIRS). The data were analysed using a hierarchical log linear model, the chi-square test, a Kolmogorov-Smirnov (KS) type statistic, and the method of Walter and Elwood. The hierarchical log linear model demonstrated significant interactions between the month of admission and admission order (change in scaled deviance 28.77, df = 11, P < 0.003). Both first admissions with mania, and readmissions with bipolar affective disorder exhibited significant seasonality. In contrast, only first admissions with schizophrenia showed significant seasonal effects. Although first admissions with mania and readmissions with bipolar disorder both show seasonality, seasonal influences appear to be more relevant to onset of schizophrenia than subsequent relapse.
Having a diagnosis of schizophrenia is a risk factor for involuntary admission to psychiatric inpatient care, but we have a limited understanding of why some patients and not others require involuntary admission. We aimed to identify the predictors of involuntary admission in first episode schizophrenia. We used validated instruments to assess clinical and socio-demographic variables in all patients (n = 78) with first episode schizophrenia from a defined geographical area admitted to a Dublin psychiatric hospital over a 4-year period. Involuntary patients (n = 17) could not be distinguished from voluntary patients (n = 61) on the basis of age, gender, living status, marital status, drug abuse or duration of untreated psychosis. Neither positive nor negative symptoms were useful predictors of admission status. Lack of insight was a strong predictor of involuntary status.
Negative symptoms have been previously reported during the psychosis prodrome, however our understanding of their relationship with treatment-phase negative symptoms remains unclear.
We report the prevalence of psychosis prodrome onset negative symptoms (PONS) and ascertain whether these predict negative symptoms at first presentation for treatment.
Presence of expressivity or experiential negative symptom domains was established at first presentation for treatment using the Scale for Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) in 373 individuals with a first episode psychosis. PONS were established using the Beiser Scale. The relationship between PONS and negative symptoms at first presentation was ascertained and regression analyses determined the relationship independent of confounding.
PONS prevalence was 50.3% in the schizophrenia spectrum group (n = 155) and 31.2% in the non-schizophrenia spectrum group (n = 218). In the schizophrenia spectrum group, PONS had a significant unadjusted (χ2 = 10.41, P < 0.001) and adjusted (OR = 2.40, 95% CI = 1.11–5.22, P = 0.027) association with first presentation experiential symptoms, however this relationship was not evident in the non-schizophrenia spectrum group. PONS did not predict expressivity symptoms in either diagnostic group.
PONS are common in schizophrenia spectrum diagnoses, and predict experiential symptoms at first presentation. Further prospective research is needed to examine whether negative symptoms commence during the psychosis prodrome.
There is evidence that psycho-education courses for caregivers of individuals with schizophrenia improve the short-term outcome of the condition. However, most of the outcome studies are limited to two-year follow-up.
Materials and methods
This study is a five-year retrospective case-control follow-up of an original cohort of 63 patients and their 101 caregivers who completed a six-week Caregiver Psycho-education Programme (CPP) for schizophrenia and psychosis between 2002 and 2005, and 60 controls, matched for age, gender and severity of their psychotic illness.
Patients whose caregivers learned more from the six-week psycho-education course had a significantly longer time to relapse (P = 0.04) and a significantly shorter length of stay during their first relapse (P < 0.05). Patients whose caregivers attended the six-week psycho-education course (regardless of how much the caregivers learned) had a significantly better outcome than controls. This included a significantly smaller number of relapses (P < 0.01), longer time to relapse (P < 0.01), shorter length of stay during their first relapse (P < 0.01) and smaller number of bed days over five years (P < 0.01). The odds ratio of controls relapsing, although insignificant at one year, was 4.13 (1.85–9.21) at five years. Outcome was not affected by either the numbers of caregivers attending for each patient, or caregiver gender.
Discussion and conclusions
This study, which is among the first to examine outcome over five years, supports the efficacy of psycho-education for caregivers in improving outcome for patients. Caregivers should be encouraged to take up psycho-education where it is available.
In a RCT of family psychoeducation, 47 carers of 34 patients were allocated to one of three groups; Multifamily Group Psychoeducation, Solution Focussed Group Therapy or Treatment as Usual. Carers in both the MFGP intervention and the SFGP arm demonstrated greater knowledge and reduction in burden than those in the TAU arm.
Impaired insight is commonly seen in psychosis and some studies have proposed that is a biologically based deficit. Support for this view comes from the excess of neurological soft signs (NSS) observed in patients with psychoses and their neural correlates which demonstrate a degree of overlap with the regions of interest implicated in neuroimaging studies of insight. The aim was to examine the relationship between NSS and insight in a sample of 241 first-episode psychosis patients.
Total scores and subscale scores from three insight measures and two NSS scales were correlated in addition to factors representing overall insight and NSS which we created using principal component analysis.
There were only four significant associations when we controlled for symptoms. “Softer” Condensed Neurological Evaluation (CNE) signs were associated with our overall insight factor (r = 0.19, P = 0.02), with total Birchwood (r = −0.24, P<0.01), and the Birchwood subscales; recognition of mental illness (r = −0.24, P<0.01) and need for treatment (r = −0.18, P = 0.02). Total Neurological Evaluation Scale (NES) and recognition of the achieved effects of medication were also weakly correlated (r = 0.14, P = 0.04).
This study does not support a direct link between neurological dysfunction and insight in psychosis. Our understanding of insight as a concept remains in its infancy.