Frequently Asked Questions

What is psychosis?
Psychosis means a loss of contact with reality. Individuals can experience a break from reality in many different ways. For instance, some may think particular things are true when they are actually false, such as believing that the television is sending messages to them. A loss of reality can also occur in one’s perceptual experiences, such as hearing a voice that is not heard by others.

What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects approximately 1% of the population. Although each person who lives with schizophrenia is different in his or her presentation, by definition, schizophrenia is characterized by delusions (a persistent false belief held in the face of contradictory evidence), hallucinations (false perceptions, such as hearing a voice or seeing things that are not actually present), disorganized thinking and/or speech, and negative symptoms (thoughts, feelings, or behaviors normally present that are absent or diminished, such as social withdrawal, lack of motivations, etc).  These symptoms must be present for at least 1 month, and be accompanied by impairment in school, work or social functioning.

What does it mean to be at clinical risk for psychosis?
The determination that an individual is at clinical risk for developing psychosis can only be made by trained mental health professionals. The PREP program uses a structured clinical interview by expert interviewers to identify the signs and symptoms that someone meets criteria for being at-risk for developing a psychotic disorder.  Our assessment process identifies low-level versions of the symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations and delusions, where a person does not believe with 100% conviction that the experience is real.  Recent studies show that up to 35% of young people with the clinical high risk syndrome develop a full psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, over the next 2.5 years.  It’s important to note that even if someone is determined to be at-risk, the majority will not develop full psychosis.   That’s why we treat only the symptoms the person has right now.  These symptoms themselves are usually troubling to the young person and loved ones.

Is Schizophrenia preventable?
Many researchers and clinical programs, like PREP, are trying to do just that, prevent schizophrenia from developing in individuals who are at-risk. Currently, the jury is still out on whether we can actually prevent schizophrenia from developing in those so identified as being at clinical high risk. Yet, there has been significant progress on understanding factors that increase the risk for developing schizophrenia. There is substantial evidence showing that the environment alone cannot cause schizophrenia and neither can genetic risk alone. This is good news for those interested in influencing known environmental risk factors. For instance, avoiding street drugs, initiating early treatment for depression, anxiety, and any changes in one’s thinking that is bothersome, having a low-key, low stress family environment, and maintaining healthy friendships are all good steps that families can take.

What does it mean if I get diagnosed with schizophrenia?
Just because someone has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it does not mean that one’s hopes and dreams for the future have to go out the window. The outlook for individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia has significantly improved over the last 20 years. With early treatment, evidence-based interventions, and family support, many people with schizophrenia are able to lead meaningful, independent, and satisfying lives.

How is PREP funded?
The PREP Program is funded by the statewide Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), passed in 2004 to reform California’s public mental health system to provide those from at-risk, underserved and unserved communities free public mental health services.

The focal point of the MHSA is to provide culturally competent services, community collaboration through stakeholder meetings and community input, services are client and family driven with a wellness focus, which includes key concepts of recovery and resilience in those having been affected by a mental health need and lastly to integrate service experiences to enhance programs.