Young people who have migrated to Australia have similar outcomes to other young Australians following their first episode of psychosis, but experience higher rates of involuntary admission to hospital, Orygen research has found.
The study, led by Orygen’s Brian O’Donoghue and James Maguire and published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, is the first to look at outcomes for migrants experiencing a first episode of psychosis in Australia, and is among a limited number of studies to examine migrant outcomes globally.
Previous Orygen research has found young people who have migrated to Australia from Africa are up to 10 times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder than their Australian-born counterparts, while those born in Asia are at a decreased risk.
Co-author and Orygen Executive Director, Professor Patrick McGorry, said the new study’s findings reflected the quality of care the young people received and showed good prospects for recovery from first episode psychosis.
“Around 90 per cent of the study participants achieved remission at some point during the study period – that’s a wonderful outcome for such a potentially serious illness,” Professor McGorry said.
“The fact that both overseas-born and Australian-born young people with a first episode of psychosis had similar symptomatic and functional outcomes means that clinicians should have optimism for a good recovery in both groups.”
The study involved 1220 young people who presented with first episode psychosis at Orygen’s Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC) in Melbourne over a six-year period.
Of those young people, 24 per cent were first-generation migrants.
The study looked at whether there were differences between outcomes for overseas-born and Australian-born young people in three areas: symptomatic outcomes (remission and relapse rates), hospital admission rates (voluntary and involuntary), and functional outcomes (relationships, activities of daily living and occupational outcomes).
The study found no overall difference in symptomatic or functional outcomes which were generally very positive.
There was no difference in overall rates of admission after presentation to EPPIC either, however migrants had a 50 per cent higher rate of involuntary hospital admission after presentation (31.4 per cent versus 24.6 per cent). Migrants from Africa were at the greatest risk of involuntary admission.
“This finding was concerning and really requires further research. It could be due to prejudice and a perception that young people from Africa are more threatening, or because they’re more likely to be referred to the mental health system by law enforcement officers,” Professor McGorry said.
“The higher rate of involuntary admissions could also be because migrants may be more socially isolated and live alone, or that families may not recognise emerging mental illness until a later stage. It’s likely to be a combination of a number of factors.
“We need to dig deeper so we can develop strategies or interventions to help reduce the rate of involuntary admissions, which are typically traumatic and detrimental to young people.”