29 November 2017

Orygen researchers receive $6.8M to improve mental health outcomes for young people

Orygen researchers receive $6.8M to improve mental health outcomes for young people

Research into online mental health interventions, support for young people with borderline personality disorder, and new treatments for young people with depression will receive $6.8 million in funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council’s project grants program, federal health minister Greg Hunt announced today.

The funding will support four research teams from Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, and the Centre for Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, in developing the best possible early intervention treatments to ensure young people reach optimal mental health.

Associate Professor Mario Alvarez-Jimenez will receive $3.3M to undertake two large online-based intervention projects. The first will trial the effectiveness of an online social media intervention aimed at improving social functioning in young people at ultra-high risk of developing psychosis. The second trial will determine the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based cognitive online social therapy specifically developed to prevent relapse in young people with major depressive disorder.

Associate Professor Alvarez-Jimenez said both projects focused on designing and developing new and relevant mental health interventions that address the key challenges in treating young people with mental health issues.

“We now have the unique opportunity to refine these online interventions and rigorously evaluate their impact,” he said. “If they prove to be effective, we will disseminate them rapidly across the network of youth mental health services.”

Professor Andrew Chanen will receive more than $1.3M to trial an evidence-based approach to supported employment and education services for young people with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

“We’re tackling one of the most controversial and difficult problems in psychiatry,” Professor Chanen said. “For many young people, BPD is a pathway to severe educational disadvantage and unemployment. By integrating supported employment and education services with early intervention for BPD, this trial will be the first to test whether we can improve vocational outcomes for young people with BPD”, Professor Chanen said.

Associate Professor Christopher Davey, who heads Orygen’s mood disorders research program, will receive $2.2M to lead a trial on the effectiveness of low-dose ketamine for young people with severe depression and elevated suicide risk.
 
“There is a compelling need for treatments that can provide rapid and significant alleviation of symptoms in severely depressed youth,” Associate Professor Davey said.

“Recent evidence from adults with treatment-resistant depression indicates that low-dose ketamine holds considerable promise as an agent that acts rapidly on depressive symptoms, and which appears to have specific effects on reducing suicidal thoughts.”