In operation since 2005, ReachOut is a program of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) and the Mind Foundation with funding from BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information. The program provides a concert tour that travels around the province, raising awareness about mental illnesses and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.
Mental illness is most likely to first occur in young adulthood (ages 16-30) and is quite common. Approximately 3 out of every 100 young people will experience a psychotic episode, making mental illness more common than diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization's World Health Report 2001, schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis which affect young people represent a major public health problem. Worldwide, psychoses rank as the third most disabling condition (following quadriplegia and dementia) and pose an enormous burden in terms of economic cost and of human suffering.
Identifying and treating symptoms of mental illness in youth as early as possible is critical in order to:
- Reduce the severity of illness.
- Decrease the number of relapses.
- Promote fuller and faster recovery.
- Promote an enhanced quality of life.
Research indicates that the average time from onset of symptoms to treatment is 1 to 2 years. Research also indicates that the duration of untreated mental illness is related to the types of outcomes experienced. Studies suggest that when the duration of untreated mental illness is brief, the outcomes are better: recovery is faster and fuller, and relapses are reduced.
ReachOut was developed initially as a fundraising concert that featured multiple bands, but additional funding made it possible to offer the concert as a tour with a band, slam poet, and emcee.
The concert provides entertainment and information at high schools, youth detention centers, and adult custody centers. Basic information on mental illness symptoms and early intervention is combined with music and slam poetry performance. Two of the band members share their personal experiences with mental illnesses in high school and the experiences of a friend at the time.
The focus of the concert is to educate the audience on mental illnesses, the symptoms, triggers, and how someone might act if they are experiencing mental illness. Most of all, the concert delivers the message that mental illness is nobody's fault. Just like diabetes, it needs treatment, and it's okay to talk about it.
The concert is booked through direct phone and e-mail outreach to teachers and school districts. A Web site provides booking and tour information, along with resources on mental illnesses. Ads in local community papers and youth and teacher publications also are used to book the concert, along with word-of-mouth through BCSS.
After the concert, audience members are encouraged to go to the www.reachoutpsychosis.com site and fill out a quiz testing their knowledge of mental illness; they are also asked to fill out an evaluation form after the concert. Individuals completing the quiz or evaluation are eligible for prizes. This strategy has been extremely successful in obtaining audience feedback.
Host teachers are provided with an evaluation form that they can return via e-mail; this has increased response considerably over paper/fax forms. Host teachers also receive a CD containing parent, teacher, and student resources, fact sheets, and audiovisual files on mental illnesses. Parent advisory councils also are informed of the program and receive basic facts about mental illnesses through paid mailings from the provincial Confederation of Parent Advisory Council.
The program has had large yearly increases in bookings and traffic to www.reachoutpsychosis.com. In the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the program was performed for more than 5,000 students and reached 1,600 parent advisory councils and teachers. The teacher and student evaluations are overwhelmingly positive.
To obtain additional information about the ReachOut program, contact Tracy Dudley (or Carola Tize), ReachOut coordinator, BCSS, at 604-682-7020 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You also may visit the program Web site at www.reachoutpsychosis.com.
For additional evaluation data for the program, contact Sophia Kelly, ReachOut program manager, at email@example.com.