Early detection and intervention (EDI) is a main challenge in psychosis research. The Chilean schizophrenia (SZ) national program has universal support and treatment by law for all SZ patients, but this does not yet extend to earlier stages of illness. Therefore, we have piloted an ultra-high risk (UHR) program to demonstrate the utility and feasibility of this public health approach in Chile.
We introduce "The University of Chile High-risk Intervention Program," which is the first national EDI program for UHR youths. Longitudinal follow-up included clinical and cognitive assessments, and monitoring of physiological sensory and cognitive indices, through electroencephalographic techniques.
We recruited 27 UHR youths over 2 years. About 92.6% met criteria for attenuated psychosis syndrome (APS). Mean Scale of Psychosis-Risk Symptoms (SOPS) ratings in the cohort were 6.9 (SD 4.6) for positive, 9.1 (SD 8.3) for negative, 5.4 (SD 5.3) for disorganized and 6.3 (SD 4.1) for general symptoms. About 14.8% met criteria for comorbid anxiety disorders and 44.4% for mood disorders. Most participants received cognitive behavioural therapy (62.9%) and were prescribed low dose antipsychotics (85.2%). The transition rate to psychosis was 22% within 2 years.
We describe our experience in establishing the first EDI program for UHR subjects in Chile. Our cohort is similar in profile and risk to those identified in higher-income countries. We will extend our work to further optimize psychosocial and preventive interventions, to promote its inclusion in the Chilean SZ national program and to establish a South American collaboration network for SZ research.