How long would you wait

Understanding what the early stages of psychosis really feel like

At a Glance:

Campaign: How Long Would You Wait?

Client: Cornwall and Isles of Scilly NHS Foundation Trust

Goal: Increase referrals to the psychosis early intervention unit

Result: 71% uplift

Project details

In 2010, a collection of young people with experiences of psychosis worked with us to respond to an NHS brief and help raise awareness of the early stages of psychosis – all to increase referrals to its early intervention unit.


Authentic experience is the most compelling: it’s obvious. If you want people to understand what the early stages of psychosis look like, in order to know when to seek help for someone they care about, you need to build out from firsthand experiences.

Cornwall and Isles of Scilly NHS Foundation Trust wanted to increase awareness of the early stages of psychosis, directing the public to its early intervention unit as a way of helping young people struggling with the condition as soon as possible. We knew how to help.

In collaboration with four young people, we developed a film campaign inspired by and drawing on their authentic experiences of psychosis to help audiences understand the realities of what it feels like, so they could be better prepared to recognise an episode and act.

Through a 12-day devising process we planned and created a campaign that would be visually arresting, clear on its call to action, and have viral potential. We knew it needed to draw the commonalities of psychosis into a clear narrative that could be captured into a cohesive campaign message.

Through acting, physical performance, underwater dance, writing and photography we honed in on the approach; using the idea of being underwater as a metaphor for the reality shift people with psychosis experience. Which found us at the bottom of a dive pit, with five characters, totally submerged.

The final film had a cinematic premiere, was supported by a new website and print collateral, to really push the message out, across the region. And the results speak for themselves.

The Facts and Figures

71% increase in referrals

In the seven months following the campaign, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly NHS Foundation Trust Early Intervention Team experienced a 71% uplift in referrals (on the previous year) which helped save NHS costs on treatment intensity and helped people recover sooner.

4 young producers

Having all experienced first episodes of psychosis, our young producers brought their insights, perspectives and creativity to the table. They were supported through the devising process to make sense of their personal experiences in a collaborative, non-stigmatising environment. Their contribution was the linchpin to the whole campaign; their work, invaluable. And the impact of the project on the young producers themselves was clear. How Long… achieved a voluntary attendance rate of 94% compared to the average 40% for projects of this nature. Two of the four young producers re-entered work or volunteering following the project which they would not have been able to do prior to working with us.

A valuable resource

Since its premiere and release the NHS has used the How Long… campaign as a valuable tool at workshops, staff training and presentations to continue to raise the profile of the work it does and the service it offers. The original video has been played more than 26,000 times, published across platforms in the Netherlands and reposted and shared XX times across the NHS’ and public networks.

“ I think that effervescent are a fantastic company. Bringing other professionals together and making this happen has been a real feat. I am so pleased this has been achieved and I am sure it’ll help towards our common goal of supporting individuals to achieve their potential by getting the right support as early as possible. ”

Angela Hawke, Team Leader, Early Intervention Psychosis Team Cornwall