Helping psychosis patients early in their illness can dramatically reduce the suicide and attempted suicide rates of the sufferers, the first 10-year study on the illness has found.
The suicide rate of patients receiving early intervention was 62 per cent lower than those receiving the standard care, while the rate of attempted suicide dropped by 46per cent.
The findings came from a study of 290 psychosis patients by the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Hong Kong's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine.
The patients are diagnosed as people who cannot think in an organised way and are eight times more likely to try to kill themselves than the general population. Half of them received early intervention help and the other half received standard care service from 2000 to 2012.
Six patients receiving early intervention died over the 10 years, with no more than two deaths in each year. Of those who received standard care, seven died in the first year and five in the second, but there were just three deaths in later eight years.
Eric Chen Yu-hai, clinical professor and head of the university's psychiatry department, said: "If we give early intervention service to these patients and help them survive the first few years, they will be much less likely to commit suicide."
A patient receiving early intervention will, in addition to a doctor's help, be given personalised and integrated help after a management team has assessed the person's individual situation.
Chen said there were about 200,000 psychosis patients in Hong Kong, and 1,300 new cases were being received by the Hospital Authority annually.
There were only about 40 case managers in the Hospital Authority's Early Assessment Service for young people with psychosis.
The service was launched in 2001. Patients are followed by a case manager for three years before they are moved to the standard mental health service.
Chen appealed for more public funding to increase the number of managers.