A pilot project aimed at providing early treatment for young psychosis patients will see two clinics opening at public hospitals at the end of this year. The clinics, at Queen Mary and Kwai Chung hospitals, are expected to cut waiting times for patients by diverting them from existing services. However, a lack of funding and the need to reach young patients early means the clinics will initially treat only those aged under 25. Dr Eric Chen Yu-hai, associate psychiatry professor at the University of Hong Kong and a project initiator, hoped the clinics would encourage patients to seek help as early as possible. 'The earlier a patient suffers psychosis, the worse the prognosis,' he said. 'We need an accessible and non-stigmatised service so that a proper evaluation can be carried out in a more relaxed setting.' Psychosis denotes a group of mental illnesses that cause a loss of contact with reality. These include schizophrenia and severe paranoia. A restricted budget has forced the clinics to deploy staff from the hospitals' psychiatric departments. It is hoped the clinic can receive government funding to offer services to older patients after it finishes the two-year pilot phase. Dr Chen said patients were usually reluctant to seek early psychiatric help because of the stigma, and they tended to wait for a while before seeing a doctor. Many doctors found that patients would wait more than a year before seeking help. 'It is not very good for the new patients. It is long but comparable with international standards,' Dr Chen said. He suggested the clinics should replace the name 'psychiatric department' with something that had no connotation of mental illness, but no such name had been thought of so far.