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Youth mental health and technology

Transforming youth mental health care
We are changing the way mental healthcare is delivered to young people impacted by mental ill-health. Rather than rely on broad diagnostic generalisations, we aim to support a mental health care model that enables young people to receive treatment that caters to their individual needs.

About our research

There is a great need to change the way in which clinical care is delivered to young people with emerging mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, other mood disorders and psychosis. Specialised clinical assessment is required and treatment systems need to be much more customized to the individual’s unique needs. The Youth Mental Health and Technology Team, led by Professor Ian Hickie, puts young people at the centre of their own care, We partner with health services to develop innovative treatments for those aged 12-25 with emerging mental health disorders.

Our research is conducted across several streams that explore digital pathways, systesms science and access to mental health care for young people. Extensive collaborations with health service providers, industry, government, philanthropic and research organisations enable us to quickly and effectively translate our research findings into large-scale health system innovations and mental health policy reform, facilitating continuous improvements to mental health services for the benefit of young people in Australia.

In 2019 the Brain and Mind Centre became the lead institution for a new NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) into suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Read about the work of the CRE on the YOUTHe page.

Our current projects

We are developing next generation clinical and systems-based decision support tools, utilising participatory systems modelling approaches. We harness data science methods and innovation from across disciplines in order to achieve advances in the mental health and mental wealth of young people.

Research programs.

  • Computer Simulation and Advanced Research Technologies (CSART): In collaboration with Fondation Botnar, this program seeks to deliver an integrated decision analysis, monitoring and evaluation infrastructure to support more effective and responsive child and youth mental health systems in Columbia.

Research lead

A/Prof Kenny Lawson and Dr Sebastian Rosenberg

 

National COVID mental health systems modelling

  • Road to Recovery July 2020 (pdf, 1.5 mb) The first national model of mental health and suicide prevention. Uncovering the road to recovery of our mental health and wellbeing using systems modelling and simulation.

 

Regional mental health systems modelling reports

  • Every life matters  Pandemic response recommendations for four primary health networks: North Coast, Hunter New England, Western NSW and Greater Western Sydney [May 2020] (pdf 9.8mb)

We are building sophisticated digital technology and linked information systems, developed through co-design, that permit a young person, their family and carers to be at the centre of clinical care and equal partners with clinicians in key treatment decisions. These systems also allow real-time information collection, to measure the performance of participating health organisations and the impact of new health initiatives allowing health care to be tracked and delivered in a sustainable manner.

Research Programs

  • Best Care, First Time (Bupa Health Foundation): explores how health information technologies can support a genuine circle of care as young people go through the system across primary to specialist health care, and between public and private services.
  • Explainable machine learning to improve youth mental health care, NHMRC Medical Research Future Fund,(MRFF): The project applies modern data science methods to build explainable and integrated machine learning models that can be utilised by health services to make real-time, data-informed clinical decisions in youth mental health care.
  • Project Synergy (Department of Health): A series of research trials funded by the Commonwealth government to measure the effectiveness of health information technologies to support mental health care across the lifespan.
Research leads

Dr Frank Iorfino, Dr Haley Lamonica

Developed following more than 10 years of research by our team, the BMC Youth Model promotes an enhanced youth mental health model of care. It incorporates evidence-based processes, including measurement-based care and routine outcome monitoring. This model explicitly aims to prevent progression to more complex and severe forms of illness, and change trajectories for young people.

Research Programs
  • Youth Mental Health & Technology Program (Future Generation Global): This model of care has been translated into a deployable education and training package, and is most effective when coupled and implemented with digital technology. The training package is endorsed as a Continuing Professional Development activity for psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and occupational therapists. For more information, visit our Engagement Hub site.
  • Design and implementation of clinical care models (Philanthropic family foundation donors): The Brain and Mind Centre Youth Model is underpinned by longitudinal tracking and characterisation of large cohorts of young people. This has enabled us to optimise and develop evidence-based, innovative models of care for the treatment of youth anxiety, depression and other youth mental health issues.
Research leads

•     Associate Professor Elizabeth Scott, Dr Haley La Monica

Together with Monash University, the National Institute of Mental Health and international collaborators, our team is leading key research into abnormalities in the body clock as an underlying cause of mood disorders. While abnormal sleep-wake patterns are commonly reported in mood disorders, it is currently unclear how disruption of the circadian body clock contributes to the development and persistence of these mental illnesses, and how correcting this can improve outcomes.

Research Programs
  • Effects of adjunctive brexpiprazole on sleep-wake and circadian parameters in youth with depressive syndromes (Lundbeck Australia): This project seeks to determine if changes in depressive symptoms following adjunctive brexpiprazole treatment are associated with changes in sleep-wake cycle or circadian parameters in young people with depressive syndromes.
Research leads

Dr Joanne Carpenter, Dr Jacob Crouse

This Stream is focussed on supporting effective policymaking to develop healthier, wealthier and more equitable communities.

25 years of national and state mental health plans and policies have failed to deliver fully accessible, safe, quality mental health care. This research takes an innovative approach to  broaden the mental health ecosystem, encompassing both health and non-health sectors, Governments, business and civil society. The aim is to help investment in best value policies and models of care.
To achieve this goal, our Stream takes an inter-disciplinary research approach from economics, system science and implementation science. We combine a ‘system approach’ to provide the lens to understand the systemic drivers of mental health, a ‘societal economic perspective’ to value policy investments (health, economic, and economic impacts), and a ‘place-based implementation’ approach that supports the development of best-value and equitable policy investments that can be tailored for local implementation.
We focus on three key questions:

  • ‘What to do?’ -The allocation of resources to the best value policies
  • ‘How to do it better?’ Identifying more efficient models of implementation, and;
  • ‘For whom?’ Considering both population-wide and targeted policy interventions, with an emphasis on reducing inequities.

In collaboration with Westmead Medical Research Institute and St Vincent’s Private Hospital, we lead clinical trials aimed at developing standardised metabolic screening protocols, assessments and novel immune therapies for atypical mood and psychotic disorders.

Research Programs
  • Neurobiology Youth Follow-up Study: Standardised follow-up suggests that more sophisticated treatment strategies may be required to achieve significant and sustained functional improvements. In this program, we are establishing a new longitudinal tracking study that will establish immune and metabolic profiles to enhance personalised care, at scale for young people.
Research leads

Professor Markus Leweke, Associate Professor Elizabeth Scott  

Key publications

Authors: Ian B Hickie, Tracey A Davenport, Jane M Burns, Alyssa C Milton, Laura Ospina‐Pinillos, Lisa Whittle, Cristina S Ricci, Larisa T McLoughlin, John Mendoza Shane P Cross, Sarah E Piper, Frank Iorfino, Haley M LaMonica 

Date: 06 October 2019 

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Authors: Frank Iorfino, Elizabeth M. Scott, Joanne S. Carpenter, Shane P. Cross, Daniel F. Hermens, Madhura Killedar, Alissa Nichles, Natalia Zmicerevska, Django White, Adam J. Guastella, Jan Scott, Patrick D. McGorry, Ian B. Hickie. 

Date: August, 2019 

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Authors: Jo-An Atkinson, Andrew Page, Mark Heffernan, Geoff McDonnell, Ante Prodan, Bill Campos, Graham Meadows, Ian B Hickie. 

Date: December 2018 

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Authors: Joanne S. Carpenter, Rébecca Robillard, Daniel F. Hermens, Sharon L. Naismith, Christopher Gordon, Elizabeth M. Scott, Ian B. Hickie 

Date: January 2017 

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Author: Brittany L. Mitchell, Adrian I. Campos, Miguel E. Rentería, Richard Parker, Lenore Sullivan, Kerrie McAloney, Baptiste Couvy-Duchesne, Sarah E. Medland, Nathan A. Gillespie, Jan Scott, Brendan P. Zietsch, Penelope A. Lind, Nicholas G. Martin and Ian B. Hickie. 

Date: June 2019 

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Our team

  • Dr Cate McHugh
  • Associate Professor Dagmar Koethe
  • Dr Christine Song
  • Dr Shin Ho Park
  • Grace Lee
  • Alissa Nichles
  • Natalia Zmicerevska
  • Nicholas Ho
  • Jacqueline Hutcheon
  • Alexis Hutcheon
  • Sarah Piper
  • William Capon
  • Samuel Hockey
  • Sam Huntley
  • Simon Chiu
  • Matthew Richards
  • Grace Cha
  • Masoud Fetanat
  • Mathew Varidel
  • Nancy Lee
  • Adam Yoon
  • Eloisa Bennetts
  • Kristen Tran
  • Alison Crowley

 

  • Chloe Wilson (PhD Candidate)
  • Dr Cate McHugh (PhD Candidate)
  • Simon Chiu (PhD Candidate)
  • Grace Lee (PhD Candidate)

 

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