Applying clinical staging to young people who present for mental health care

Ian B. Hickie, Elizabeth M. Scott, Daniel F. Hermens, Sharon L. Naismith, Adam J. Guastella, Manreena Kaur, Anna Sidis, Bradley Whitwell, Nicholas Glozier, Tracey Davenport, Christos Pantelis, Stephen J. Wood, Patrick D. Mcgorry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: The study aims to apply clinical staging to young people who present for mental health care; to describe the demographic features, patterns of psychological symptoms, disability correlates and clinical stages of those young people; and to report longitudinal estimates of progression from less to more severe stages. 

Methods: The study uses cross-sectional and longitudinal assessments of young people managed in specialized youth clinics. On the basis of clinical records, subjects were assigned to a specific clinical 'stage' (i.e. 'help-seeking', 'attenuated syndrome', 'discrete disorder' or 'persistent or recurrent illness'). 

Results: Young people (n=209, mean age=19.9 years (range=12-30 years), 48% female) were selected from a broader cohort of n=1483 subjects. Ten percent were assigned to the earliest 'help-seeking' stage, 54% to the 'attenuated syndrome' stage, 25% to the 'discrete disorder' stage and 11% to the later 'persistent or recurrent illness' stage. The interrater reliability of independent ratings at baseline was acceptable (κ=0.71). Subjects assigned to the 'attenuated syndrome' stage reported symptom and disability scores that were similar to those assigned to later stages. Longitudinally (median=48 weeks), transition to later clinical stages were 11% of the 'help-seeking', 19% of the 'attenuated syndrome' and 33% of the 'discrete disorder' groups. 

Conclusion: Among young people presenting for mental health care, most are clinically staged as having 'attenuated syndromes'. Despite access to specialized treatment, a significant number progress to more severe or persistent disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-43
Number of pages13
JournalEarly Intervention in Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical staging
  • Diagnosis
  • Early intervention
  • Mental health
  • Youth

Cite this