Purpose: Delay in the treatment of a first psychotic episode can have a negative influence on the future course of the disease. In this context, it is important to examine pathways to care to understand factors contributing to delay in access to adequate care.
Methods: Using the Basel Interview for Psychosis, we examined the help-seeking behaviour of 61 individuals with an at-risk mental state for psychosis and 37 patients with a first episode of psychosis in a low threshold health care system as part of the Basel early detection of psychosis study.
Results: The median duration of untreated illness was 3.4 years, of untreated psychosis 12 months. Eighty-six percent of all individuals sought help of some kind before reaching our specialised early detection outpatient clinic, with a mean number of help-seeking contacts of 1.5 prior to referral. The most frequent first help-seeking contacts were family members or relatives n = 24 (26.7 %), close friends n = 17 (17.9 %), psychiatrists in private practice n = 13 (14.4 %) or general practitioners n = 11 (12.2 %). Most patients consulted other health professionals in the early course of the illness before reaching our specialised service; help-seeking with non-medical institutions was rare. Women had more help-seeking contacts than men before contact with our early detection clinic.
Conclusions: Family, close friends and medical professionals play an important role in help-seeking leading to specialised psychiatric care. Men seek help less often; specific strategies for encouraging young, at-risk men to seek help should be developed.