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This paper aims at providing an overview of the background, design and initial findings of Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS).
PICOS is a large multi-site population-based study on first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients attending public mental health services in the Veneto region (Italy) over a 3-year period. PICOS has a naturalistic longitudinal design and it includes three different modules addressing, respectively, clinical and social variables, genetics and brain imaging. Its primary aims are to characterize FEP patients in terms of clinical, psychological and social presentation, and to investigate the relative weight of clinical, environmental and biological factors (i.e. genetics and brain structure/functioning) in predicting the outcome of FEP.
An in-depth description of the research methodology is given first. Details on recruitment phase and baseline and follow-up evaluations are then provided. Initial findings relating to patients' baseline assessments are also presented. Future planned analyses are outlined.
Both strengths and limitations of PICOS are discussed in the light of issues not addressed in the current literature on FEP. This study aims at making a substantial contribution to research on FEP patients. It is hoped that the research strategies adopted in PICOS will enhance the convergence of methodologies in ongoing and future studies on FEP.
This paper examined the hypothesis that males with first-episode psychosis (FEP) experience lower pre-morbid adjustment, greater social disability and more self-perceived needs at illness onset than females (by controlling for duration of untreated psychosis, diagnosis, age and symptoms at onset). Results disconfirming this hypothesis were thought to suggest the potentially mediating role of social context in determining the impact of symptoms and disability on the everyday lives of male patients in the early phase of psychosis.
A large epidemiologically representative cohort of FEP patients (n=517) was assessed within the Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS) framework – a multi-site research project examining incident cases of psychosis in Italy's Veneto region.
Despite poorer pre-morbid functioning and higher social disability at illness onset, males reported fewer unmet needs in the functioning domain than females did. An analysis of help provided by informal caregivers showed that males received more help from their families than females did. This finding led us to disconfirm the second part of the hypothesis and suggest that the impact of poorer social performance and unmet needs on everyday life observed in male patients might be hampered by higher tolerance and more support within the family context.
These findings shed new light on rarely investigated sociocultural and contextual factors that may account for the observed discrepancy between social disability and needs for care in FEP patients. They also point to a need for further research on gender differences, with the ultimate aim of delivering gender-sensitive effective mental health care.
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