Child and Youth Mental Health

Mental disorders are the leading cause of disease burden in people under 25 years living in high income countries. Led by Associate Professor James Scott, the Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group aims to improve the health and well-being of young Australians and reduce the burden of illness that accompanies mental disorders. The research consists of three streams: mental illness prevision, neuroimmunology, and the Cadence Trials.

Over the past five years, the Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group has been awarded in excess of $4.5 million in grant funding, including three project grants from the NHMRC. The group has authored more than 90 publications – many in leading international journals.

Streams

Mental Illness Prevention

Mental illness prevention focuses on the study of the patterns, causes and effects of mental disorders. This enables identification of factors that influence mental health problems in childhood and adolescence. Addressing these influences, such as bullying in schools (traditional and cyber bullying) and maltreatment in childhood, is arguably the most effective way to prevent the onset of mental disorders.

Neuroimmunology

Neuroimmunology research studies the interplay between the nervous system and the immune system. It has become increasingly apparent that sometimes psychosis and depression arise from inflammation in the central nervous system. A recently completed study by the Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group examined autoimmune encephalitis in patients with early psychosis. This is the first study in the world to examine all patients admitted to hospital with early psychosis for autoimmune encephalitis. Four of 113 patients initially diagnosed with psychosis were in fact found to have an autoimmune disorder which required immunotherapy rather than psychiatric care. These findings have been incorporated into the latest Australian Clinical Guidelines for the management of schizophrenia.

Cadence Trials

The Cadence Trials are a collaboration between researchers, clinicians and people living with psychosis which evaluates safe and innovative treatments for young people with psychosis. The treatments under investigation include novel medications and psychological therapies.

Current projects

In 2017, the Queensland Early Psychosis Study commenced. This partnership between health services and research centres in South East Queensland will standardise clinical, genetic and neuroimaging information collected on all patents attending early psychosis services in Metro North and Metro South Hospital and Health Services. This will lead to improved care of young people with early psychosis, whilst enabling information to be collected on the changes occuring in the brains and the immune systems of young people who are unwell with psychosis.