Understanding Psychosis in Young People

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Psychosis is a mental health condition where a person’s thoughts, emotions and/or beliefs are out of touch with reality. This can involve hallucinations, paranoia, issues with comprehension and depressed or suicidal thoughts. Psychosis is often caused by mental/ physical illnesses or triggered by drug & severe alcohol use.

Approximately 3% of the population will experience a psychotic disorder [1] , with mid-to-late teens being the most common stage of onset [2].

Psychosis can have a devastating impact on the course of a young person’s life, but this doesn’t have to be the case. The headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program (hYEPP) helps young people and their family manage psychosis and the associated mental health conditions, to allow young people to live a functional and fulfilling life.

We sat down with a young person to learn about their personal experience with psychosis and what assisted them in their recovery:

Black Swan Health: Can you please describe your experience with psychosis?

Young person:   Sure. Initially, I felt euphoric and thought that I understood how everything in the universe was connected. This feeling came on gradually, after days of little sleep and racing thoughts, which I came to believe were ground-breaking. I dismissed the concerns or opinions of others, believing that they were distractions trying to tempt me away from the truth.

Eventually, I began to see everything as a code or a test of my knowledge; like the numbers on a receipt or the direction I faced while sleeping. I’d become completely dysfunctional and even thought that my closest family and friends were trying to test me. It took an overnight hospitalisation and a drastic change in my mindset to come back to reality.

It wasn’t until a few months later that I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1, and I found out that my psychosis was caused by a manic episode.

Black Swan Health: What assisted your recovery?

Young person:   Coming out of psychosis was a confusing time. I lapsed in and out of delusional thoughts, but I overcame it with the unconditional support of the people around me. I was easily overwhelmed and susceptible to stress, so I relied on someone to help me with my daily responsibilities and treatment arrangements. This gave me a chance to re-engage with my responsibilities at my own pace.

Close family and friends helped me re-establish a sense of normalcy and become more socially and physically active. They didn’t dwell on my situation, which put me at ease.

Catching up with a psychologist gave me a chance to make sense of my experiences, and gave my family some much-needed relief, too. I noticed that some family members were emotionally affected by my episode, so counselling became an alternative medium for the thoughts I needed to articulate for my recovery.

Black Swan Health: How has your first episode of psychosis impacted your life?

Young person:   At the time, I thought I’d lost my chance at a normal life and would never be able to trust myself again. I saw my peers progressing and I thought I’d never be able to catch up. Over time as I started reaching small goals and milestones, my confidence built back up. Now just one year after my first episode, I have a great job in a field that I love, I have stronger relationships with my family and friends, and I’m involved in many physical, artistic and charitable pursuits that I find highly rewarding.

While I did face some short-term issues, the experience has made me so much more grateful for the people who supported me and life that I am now able to live. I also have more compassion for people facing debilitating health issues.

Black Swan Health: How important is the headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program for young people facing psychosis for the first time?

Young person:   It’s so important! No one tells you what the correct process is for dealing with psychosis when you’re experiencing it, so it’s incredibly frightening not knowing what’s going to happen to you. hYEPP guides you through your recovery, knowing that every person’s recovery is different and could change day-by-day. If I didn’t have someone to help me through the process and connect me with the right professionals, I may not have received the care I needed and could still be struggling with mental health issues.

hYEPP also provides all the services that a young person with psychosis and their family needs, for free. This makes it easier to coordinate and afford the health services to recover from psychosis, which is a huge burden lifted from an already overwhelming situation.

It’s reassuring to know that there’s a dedicated service I can rely on if I ever need it again and that other young people won’t have to do it alone.


hYEPP offers early intervention and specialist support services to young people experiencing or at risk of psychosis. Supports include:

  • Evidenced-based early treatment with a multidisciplinary team
  • Psycho-education
  • Psychiatric support
  • Comprehensive recovery programs
  • Outreach services
  • After hours and crisis support
  • Support for families and friends.

Find out more about the headspace Youth Early Psychosis Program here or refer a young person to the program using this referral form.