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(SACRAMENTO) — The UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs’ holistic approach to treating mental illness is featured in a moving new documentary short about Chris Ferrari, who received life-changing help from the clinic. The release is from One Mind, a leading brain health nonprofit. 

Ferrari was in college when he began hearing voices that did not make any sense to him. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a serious mental illness that is typically diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties. He dropped out of school and worried his condition would never get better. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, every year about 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the U.S. experience their first episode of psychosis. 

“Psychosis is a really broad term, and it just refers to a set of symptoms. Things like hallucinations or hearing things that aren’t there,” said Paula Wadell, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and medical director for the UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs. 

"People who have psychosis absolutely can get better."

— Paula Wadell

Ferrari’s mother, Deanna Ferrari-Leong, spent hours researching the disease after her son’s diagnosis. In the documentary, she explains, “I saw that UC Davis had a program. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.” 

Ferrari became a client in the EDAPT program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He and his mother began driving back and forth between Stockton, where they live, to the outpatient clinic in Sacramento for weekly treatments. 

Progress was slow at first. After about a year and a half of being part of the program, Ferrari began to see it as a good thing. “At first, I was skeptical. But Dr. Wadell put me on some medication that actually helped me out more. I started to see differences. They got better and better,” Ferrari said. 

Holistic approach includes families and support people

The Early Psychosis Programs at UC Davis are nationally recognized as leading providers of early psychosis care. Each client has a clinician who helps to identify the client's unique needs and recovery goals. The treatment plans encourage clients to build upon their strengths and take an active role in treatment decisions. Families and support people are actively engaged in the care process to ensure that the client’s support network has the knowledge and tools to help their loved ones toward wellness.

HHS Secretary Becerra tours Early Psychosis Programs

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra toured the Early Psychosis Programs at the UC Davis Medical Center on Wednesday, May 19. The EDAPT and SacEDAPT clinics are nationally recognized as leading providers of early psychosis care. Read more.

“When we see someone for the first time, we take a lot of time to really listen to the client’s and the family’s story. We like to have different members of the team hear the client’s story so that we develop a treatment plan that’s best for them,” said Tara Niendam, an associate professor and the executive director of the program. 

“The treatments we have include medications that can decrease the frequency or eliminate the symptoms. We also use cognitive behavior therapy that really teaches our clients how to cope with what they are dealing with,” said Waddell. “Our treatment plan also includes family members, and we use that term broadly. Whoever is seen as a support person. We absolutely could not do what we do without the family’s support.” 

“I thought when it first happened, it was never going to get better. I guess this is how it’s going to be. And as I started going through the process, things started looking brighter at the end of the tunnel,” said Ferrari. He went back to college and received an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

“Everyone deserves their chance at happiness. And we want to help our clients achieve their goals,” Wadell said. “It might be college or getting married and having children. And those are all outcomes we see with the young people we work with. People who have psychosis absolutely can get better.” 

Effective, timely treatments can help people with schizophrenia manage their symptoms and lead rich and fulfilling lives. For more information, visit the Early Psychosis Programs webpage

About the Early Psychosis Programs

The Early Psychosis Programs in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis are nationally recognized as a leading provider of early psychosis care. The programs have a strong and diverse interdisciplinary team of physicians, clinicians, support staff, and consumer/family advocates with unique expertise in state-of-the-art assessments and evidence-based practices for early identification and intervention for psychotic disorders. They provide coordinated specialty care in an outpatient setting that incorporates targeted medication management, individual, family and group psychosocial interventions, case management services, and supported education and employment with the goals of early diagnosis, treatment, and disability prevention.

About One Mind

One Mind is a leading mental health nonprofit that heals lives through brain research, working from science to services to society. By bringing together the best minds in brain science and advocacy around a collective vision of “Accelerating Brain Health for All,” One Mind is advancing a three-pronged program strategy of accelerating discoveries, scaling implementation and transforming societal culture. www.onemind.org.