Objective: This study explored the pathways to employment, education, and/or disability among young adults with First-Episode Psychosis (FEP) with the intent to reduce poverty and disability among this population. Method: Using a critical case design, 10 young adults (ages 21–28) completed two qualitative interviews exploring the key moments that influenced their pathway toward employment and education or disability after experiencing a first-episode of psychosis. Participants had lived experience of an FEP, had completed a Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) program, and were members of the Early Assessment and Support Alliance’s Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC). Qualitative analysis was completed using a four-step template approach and focus group. Results: Early stigmatizing behavior by hospital staff and the diagnostic label of psychosis challenged participants’ self-identity and self-confidence which led to a pause in vocational activities. Meeting peers (i.e., other individuals who had experienced a first-episode of psychosis) through their CSC program normalized their psychosis diagnosis and alleviated feelings of selfstigma; this was integral in returning to and initiating new employment and education goals. YALC involvement provided opportunities for practicing work skills, such as public speaking, and additional peer support that further eradicated self-stigma and improved connection to employment. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Implications for CSC models include broad consideration of the ways that early psychiatric labeling can construct self-stigma, and how this phenomenon stunts the self-confidence needed to pursue employment and education goals. Specific recommendations include utilizing peer connections, peer spaces, and peer-delivered anti-stigma interventions to enhance employment and education pathways.
- First-episode psychosis
- Peer support
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Professions (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health