YOUNG people with early signs of mental health problems could be diagnoses using an online tool.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow, who created the tool, found nearly one third of the participants using it were found to be at risk of developing psychosis.

The findings were published in Schizophrenia Bulletin demonstrate that a web-based screening process could help in the early intervention and diagnosis of mental health problems in young people.

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The online tool is part of the MRC-funded Youth Mental Health Risk and Resilience Study (YouR Study), which was set up to help identify neurobiological mechanisms and predictors of psychosis risk.

Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them, and might involve hallucinations or delusions and can be caused by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression.

Current detection is limited by the fact that high-risk criteria is only found through interviews by trained personnel, in patients that are already in the health care system.

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For the study, researchers asked participants to the website to answer an initial 25-item questionnaire screening for the assessment of basic symptoms.

Participants who met a set of inclusion criteria were then invited through email to participate in a face-to-face clinical assessment to determine psychosis risk.

Of the initial 2,279 participants, 1,787 were invited for a clinical interview and 356 interviews were then conducted (a response rate of nearly 20 per cent).

Using the Comprehensive Assessment of At-Risk Mental State (CAARMS) and the Schizophrenia Proneness Interview, the researchers identified 101 as being at high risk for psychosis and eight were identified as meeting the criteria for a first-episode of psychosis.

Professor Peter Uhlhaas from UofG’s Centre of Cognitive Neuroimaging, said, “Our findings show that e-health applications are an important approach in the intervention and diagnosis of psychotic disorders, and it’s important to develop new, modern ways of identifying young people at risk.

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“Our tool could help circumvent clinical entry points and help spot the potential signs of psychosis and related mental disorders sooner rather than later; and, crucially, help identify those who would benefit from more detailed psychiatric assessments.”