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 Published: 28/11/2011



Who and what are we?

We are a small specialist team that works as part of St Lukes Community Mental Health Centre (CMHC). We provide support to people between the ages of 18 and 35 who are experiencing a first ‘psychotic episode’ and who live in the catchment area for our mental health centre.

What is a ‘psychotic episode’?

A ‘psychotic episode’ refers to a range of experiences a person can have which relate mainly to how the person thinks and feels. Often these experiences involve changes in how the person understands important aspects of the world. Examples of psychotic experiences are ‘hallucinations’ (when a person hears, sees, or in some other way experiences things that are not actually there: a common form of hallucination is for the person to hear a voice which sounds real to the person but which no one else can hear) or ‘delusions’ (when a person holds false beliefs). You can find more information about psychosis here.

Why do we offer a special service?

We believe that people experiencing a first psychotic episode have particular needs which are best met by staff who have special skills in this area. Our experience (and a number of international research studies) tells us that if we work closely with a person who has had a first psychotic episode we can not only help them recover from the episode more quickly, but we can also help improve the person’s longer term 
chances of keeping mentally well.

How long do we work with our clients?

We like to offer to work with clients for 1 year initially. Towards the end of this time we will discuss with the client what options there are for future involvement with mental health services if this seems like a good idea. Exactly how long we work with each client will vary depending on the needs of the particular client.

How is discharge arranged?

At some point during the first few months of working with a client, we will start talking about how we will arrange discharge from our service (even though actual discharge may be some way in the future). The exact discharge plan will vary from client to client. Some clients may feel that they have no need for further help from a mental health service, whereas others might feel that it would be useful if they could be offered continued support. We will discuss the options with each client and hopefully we will be able to come up with a plan which meets the needs of the individual client and his or her whanau/family. One of the options could involve the client's care being transferred to his or her GP (family doctor); a member of the team who knows the client can help with this process.

What services do we offer?

We offer a range of services, including:

  • carrying out comprehensive assessments, with the involvement of Maori or Pacific Islands mental health services, or an interpreter, where this is appropriate.

  • providing information for clients and their whanau/families about psychosis.

  • teaching specific skills such as problem solving and communication skills, when needed.

  • carefully planning the use of medication when it is indicated.

  • providing the client and her/his whanau/family the opportunity to discuss important issues in their lives

  • groups

  • providing support to explore work/training opportunities

  • psychotherapy

What is our philosophy?

We believe that anyone can experience mental health problems and that with help and support people can recover from these experiences and move on in their lives. Our aim is to foster hope and enhance recovery. We try to work in partnership with clients and their whanau/families.

Who is in our team?

There are five members of staff in our team: a psychiatrist (Dr Mark Burns), two psychologists (Jim Geekie and Vanessa Beavan) an occupational therapist (Dale Rook), and a nurse (Stephen Gallier). From time to time we also have students on placement with us. Currently we have Huw Jenkins Occupational Therapist covering for Jim while he is away until July 2009.

After hours crisis service

The staff on our sub team generally work Monday to Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm. Some late afternoon/early evening appointments will be available. For after hours (evenings and weekends) service, our clients can use the St Lukes CMHC crisis team (Phone 0800 800 717) which is available 24 hours a day.