Early Intervention for Psychosis: Building a Mental Health Community | Rachel Waford | TEDxDecatur

In recent years there has been increasing attention given to young people with emerging psychosis, both in popular media coverage of current events as well as policies and movements toward providing specialized services to this vulnerable population. It is often the case that those in a young person’s life (parents, siblings, friends, professors, roommates, counselors, mentors, residence life staff) notice changes that may be consistent with emerging psychosis, however they may not be able to identify it as such, and may not know what to do to appropriately support the young person. Or, it is the case that professionals with whom young people cross paths in times of crisis (law enforcement, campus safety officers, first responders, emergency medical providers) are faced with responding to acute mental health crisis, despite this not being their primary role. The age of onset of psychosis (~16-30 years) is such that that the emergence of symptoms often coincides with engagement in a number of relationships, environments, and roles. In turn, many different people can be unintended “first responders” on the “frontlines” of psychiatric crises. By building a broader mental heath community we can empower the many individuals who might come in contact with a young person in psychiatric distress to do something to help. The aim is to decrease the duration of untreated psychosis, minimize the trauma of psychotic illness, and promote recovery. Rachel Waford is a licensed clinical psychologist in Atlanta, GA and an assistant professor in Emory University’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine. Dr. Waford received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston, MA and her post-doctoral fellowship at Emory University/Grady Health System in Atlanta, GA. Her area of interest and specialty is early identification and intervention for individuals living with severe mental illness, with an emphasis in early psychosis. She also promotes recovery, and destigmatization of mental illness in communities via education and advocacy, and co-authored the text, The Psychosis Response Guide: How to help young people in psychiatric crises. Dr. Waford lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Jared and their dog Sweet Lou. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


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