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Australian Early Psychosis Research Network: national collaboration, international competitive advantage

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An expansion of clinical infrastructure for early psychosis intervention offers new possibilities for research, treatment and service development

Over the past three decades, Australian researchers have pioneered a conceptual model of the clinical stages underpinning progression of potentially serious mental disorders, including psychosis. This approach, supported by growing evidence, has informed the development of new service models focusing on the mental health needs of young people.

By shifting the focus of the health sector to intervention during the early and less specific stages of mental disorders, substantial conceptual and practical progress has been made.1 This progress has generated optimism, buttressed by growing evidence of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of early intervention in psychosis from clinical trials and health services research conducted in Australia and around the world.24

Early intervention has demonstrated potential to reduce the effects of illness on age-specific developmental and occupational goals. It can also improve social and economic participation and productivity. Programs such as headspace have been scaled up across Australia, and have already improved access and engagement in stigma-free, youth-friendly settings.5