Language is an important aspect of communication and language status is known to impact healthcare accessibility, its perceived suitability, and outcomes. However, its influence on treatment engagement and/or disengagement is unknown. Our study therefore sought to investigate the impact of language on service disengagement in an early intervention psychosis program in Montreal, Quebec (a province with French as the official language). We aimed to compare service disengagement between a linguistic minority group (i.e., English) vis-à-vis those whose preferred language was French and to explore the role of language in service engagement. Using a mixed methods sequential design, we tested preferred language and several sociodemographic characteristics associated with service disengagement in a time-to-event analysis with Cox proportional hazards regression models (N = 338). We then conducted two focus groups with English (seven patients) and French speakers (five patients) to further explore differences between the two linguistic groups. Overall, 24% (n = 82) disengaged from the service before the two-year mark. Those whose preferred language was English were more likely to disengage (n = 47, 31.5%) than those whose preferred language was French (n = 35, 18.5%; χ2 = 9.11, p < .01). This remained significant in the multivariate regression. In focus groups, participants identified language as one aspect of a complex communication process between patients and clinicians and highlighted the importance of culture in the clinical encounter. Language status of patients plays an important role in their engagement with early psychosis services. Our findings underscore the value of establishing communication and cultural understanding in creating clinical/therapeutic alliance.
Keywords: early intervention; official minority language; psychosis; service engagement.