The Importance of Early Intervention: A School Social Worker's Professional and Personal Story (PIER Program, Portland, Maine)

Cynthia Wilcox learned the importance of early intervention with psychosis - both as a school social worker and as the mother of a son who has struggled with mental illness.

School social worker Cynthia Wilcox referred students with early signs of psychosis to the Portland Identification and Early Referral (PIER) program. Then, in 2008, she had to turn to the same program to help her youngest son.

Dates of Program: August 2006 to May 2013

Description: The Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP) tested the effectiveness of a family-centered model of intervention across the United States in a large, ethnically and geographically diverse population. The goal was to demonstrate that intervening early with young people at high risk of psychosis could delay or prevent the development of extreme symptoms.

Story Told: Cynthia Wilcox, LCSW, a school social worker for many years, knew little about early signs of psychosis until she attended a seminar in 2004 sponsored by EDIPPP. Armed with this new knowledge, she and her colleagues were able to refer appropriate students to the program.

In 2008, when Wilcox and her husband received a call that parents fear—the dean of the college saying, “Come quickly. Your son is displaying bizarre, potentially dangerous behavior”—she went from being someone who referred students to services to a consumer of those services.

“The support I got from the other parents was such a comfort. It made me realize we were not alone as we were going through this really heart-wrenching time.”—Cynthia Wilcox

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