Anthropology Dedman College Research Faculty News

Black, Latino and other minoritized youth need better early psychosis care, SMU anthropologist learns

SMU News – While youth and teens struggling with psychosis benefit the most with early intervention care, 20 to 40 percent of them drop out of care programs, if they begin them at all. But a recent study shows that ethnoracially minoritized youth, especially, are less likely to utilize an early intervention program and are more likely to drop out once they begin.

What’s to blame for the higher dropout rate for care programs among minoritized youth? The study pinpoints factors such as past experience with discrimination and fears that police will be involved. Family culture and language can also play a role.

Led by SMU (Southern Methodist University) Associate Professor of Anthropology Neely Myers, the study looked at disparities in care pathways for youth in Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, and other ethnoracially minoritized groups as compared to white youth in the United States. Researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburg, University of California Davis, and Columbia University, as well as SMU undergraduate research assistant Matt Hutnyan, ’21, found that youth in ethnoracially minoritized groups who started treatment for early psychosis benefitted from culturally sensitive care, but that few studies exist to address the specific needs of youth and families in these groups.

“It is important to engage any young person experiencing symptoms of psychosis in care as early as possible to promote better outcomes and avoid negative long-term consequences,” said Myers, who has been studying early psychosis care since 2014 and recently joined EPINET-TX, a research network that advances early psychosis intervention in Texas.

“It’s a vicious cycle that may be interrupted with strong support early on—if people are willing to seek them out and use them,” Myers said.

Among the long-term consequences of this lack of care are worsening performance at school and work, difficulties with friends and family and the possibility that psychosis symptoms may result in a crisis, which can lead to police intervention and involuntary hospitalization. The fear of police intervention, in particular, was a barrier to Black and Latino youth seeking early intervention. Cost was another factor; however, as Myers points out, early intervention led to lower overall health care costs for all racial groups in the study.

The study, published in Psychiatric Services looked at research from January 1, 2010, to June 1, 2021 that specifically addressed ethnoracially minoritized youth and early psychosis intervention to better understand the complex factors that feed into healthcare disparities. Myers et al. looked for how the clinical setting, family attitudes and involvement, as well as cultural factors influence whether youth in minoritized groups use and remain in early intervention care programs.

The research was supported by the National Institute Of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01MH120599. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Read the full article