Early intervention programs for mood and anxiety disorders show improved patient outcomes and access to care, all while saving health care dollars.

It was during college that Kirstie Leedham started to struggle the most with depression and anxiety.

“I was crying all the time, sleeping all the time...disassociating all the time and it came to a point where I realized I wasn’t living life.”

Leedham says she felt helpless until she sought treatment at FEMAP, the First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program at LHSC, and has been working with medical professionals over the past three years.

“My relationships are better, my work life is better, I now have a career, house and car just definitely things I didn’t think were an option for me.”

Leedham is one of the many success stories in a recent study through the Lawson Health Research Institute that looked at just over 300 youth between the ages of 16-25 who were being treated through FEMAP.

“The people who were coming to us had moderate levels, on average, of depression, significant levels of anxiety and were not functioning or under-functioning over four days a week," says Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, medical director and founder of FEMAP.

Osuch says follow-ups with participants six months into treatment showed progress.

“They improved in their function and they improved in their depression scores in a clinically meaningful way over six months on average.”

Osuch says the study proved the effectiveness of early intervention programs.

FEMAP was also part of two other recently released studies, one focusing on patient access to psychiatric care and the other the cost to the health care system.

“FEMAP patients had greater access to psychiatric services, which we know that they needed based on the symptoms, and they also had reduced use of ambulatory services overall and inpatient services overall,” says Osuch.

The hopes are that all these findings will provide useful data to encourage more growth and funding for the program.