Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group

We aim to improve the outcomes for children with child and youth mental health symptoms. Therefore, we investigate which treatment programs are most beneficial and for whom so that, in the future, we are able to provide tailored treatment: mild if possible, intense if necessary. This can also include the evaluation of strategies targeting parental symptoms, even in the perinatal and postnatal period, as this may be beneficial for both parents and children. We further investigate which biological and genetic risk factors influence the development and persistence of psychiatric symptoms across the lifespan.

Current projects

Listed in alphabetical order. 

Breaking the cycle of psychopathology

This project aims to increase knowledge on factors influencing the outcome of childhood and adolescent psychopathology and to improve outcomes by investigating treatment strategies for families in which both parents and children suffer from mental health symptoms.

In families with children referred for child and youth mental health symptoms, we will collect information on a broad variety of factors that may be related to treatment outcome, includingchildren’s and parental symptoms, cognitive functioning, family environment, leisure time activities and biological samples. We will carry out a trial to establish the effect of a parenting program that provide parents with tools to improve problem behavior in children and to cope with associated stressors. Families will be followed till at least 18 months after the first assessment. The results will show whether the parenting program is beneficial for both the parents and the child. They will also show which other factors also influence outcome, providing leads for other ways to improve treatment strategies.

Principal Investigator​s: Christel Middeldorp, Honey Heussler and Matthew Sanders

CAPICE: Childhood and Adolescence Psychopathology: unravelling the complex etiology by a large Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Europe

This project, funded by an EU Marie-Curie International Training Network grant, aims to identify (epi)genetic risk factors influencing the vulnerability and the course of psychopathology at childhood and to get insight into the underlying biological mechanisms. These (epi)genetic risk factors will be investigated in combination with other known risk factors, such as birth weight and smoking during pregnancy. Ultimately, a model will be developed to predict which children have the highest risk for psychopathology and for an unfavourable course. For this project, data from more than 60,000 children are brought together from birth and adolescent cohorts over the world, including Australia. Of all these children, DNA is available as well as repeated measures on psychopathology, lifestyle and family circumstances. Twelve PhD students will be trained at several sites in Europe to become all round genetic researchers to carry out this project. 

Principal Investigator​: Christel Middeldorp

Determining the best outcome measures for assessing cost-effectiveness of interventions for childhood mental disorders

NHMRC Project Grant administered by Deakin University

In this study, data on various quality of life questionnaires are collected in children and adolescents that receive outpatient mental health treatment with the goal to validate these questionnaires. The Child and Youth Mental Health Service contributes to the data collection.

UQ Principal Investigator​: James Scott

Embedding and evaluating an evidence-based transdiagnostic intervention for emotional disorders in adolescents within CHQ CYMHS

Emotional disorders (anxiety and depression) are the most common adolescent psychiatric presentations. This project will embed and evaluate an evidence-based intervention that addresses anxiety and depressive disorders in adolescents simultaneously within Children's Health Queensland’s Child and Youth Mental Health Service.Transdiagnostic treatment (addressing more than one category of diagnoses) is a promising new approach that addresses common core processes across disorders and uses flexible treatment strategies to address diverse problems simultaneously. The Unified Protocol for the Treatment of Emotional Disorders in Adolescents (UP-A) has been found to be efficacious for complex and comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders in research settings. The current project aims to:

1. Use principles of Implementation Science to promote uptake of, and confidence in using the UP-A by CYMHS clinicians with anxious and/or depressed adolescents in the real world setting of a CYMHS community clinic.

2. Evaluate the UP-A compared to treatment as usual (TAU) in the real world setting of a CYMHS community clinic.

Principal Investigator​: Dr Vanessa Cobham (CHQ CYMHS, and University of Queensland) 

Associate Investigators: Dr Stephen Stathis (CHQ CYMHS and University of Queensland) and Dr Jill Ehrenreich-May (University of Miami)

Health of the Nations Outcome Scale for Infants Field Trial

This is a field trial being conducted by the national Child and Adolescent Mental Health Information Development Expert Advisory Panel (CAMHIDEAP), to test the psychometric properties of the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales for Infants (HoNOSI), a new tool that is being developed to measure health outcomes in infants. The HoNOSI relates to the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales for Children and Adolescents (HoNOSCA), which has been widely used in Australia’s public sector mental health services over 13 years. The psychometric properties of the tool are tested in several sites across Australia.

Principal Investigator: Dr Peter Brann

Associate Investigators: Dr Nick Kowalenko, Ms Gordana Culjak

Queensland Site Coordinator: Dr Elisabeth Hoehn

Improving the tertiary referral pathways for gender diverse children and adolescents

The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital gender clinic seeks to contribute to the literature base underpinning the care of gender diverse children and adolescents. Specifically, the research seeks to validate a new Australian measure of gender dysphoria and further to establish the diagnostic predictive value of self report and parent report measures of gender diverse behaviour. This research will translate to clinical practice improvements by comparing existing assessment measures for gender clinic screening and contribute to efficient tertiary referral pathways for children and adolescents

Principal Investigators: Dr Claire McAllister; Dr Stephen Stathis

Associate Investigator: Olivia Donaghy

Perinatal Mental Health and Wellness Project

A research project focussed on developing, evaluating and documenting a program of antenatal and postnatal education that incorporates a focus on mental health and emotional wellness. The education program is being collaboratively developed and delivered by clinical personnel, non-government organisations, and peer support workers with lived experience of perinatal mental health recovery. The trial program is delivered through the Women and Newborns Service at Redcliffe Hospital, and evaluated and documented with a view to potential adaptation for other sites across Queensland.

Principal Investigator: Dr Elisabeth Hoehn

Associate Investigator: Dr Andrea Baldwin

Quality improvement program (QIP) for metabolic monitoring of youth prescribed atypical antipsychotics

This project is carried out in collaboration with the Child Development Service program of Children’s Health Queensland. The aim is to improve the monitoring of the metabolic side effects, such as weight gain and hyperlipidemia, of atypical antipsychotics in children. First, a retrospective audit of youth prescribed atypical antipsychotics will be undertaken over the past 12

months through the case records providing a view on the current metabolic monitoring. Staff, stakeholders and consumers will be interviewed to establish the challenges in safe use of antipsychotic medicines among youth. Based on the outcomes, relevant strategies for monitoring antipsychotic prescription in the services will be developed through validated behavioural change frameworks. Finally, these strategies will be implemented across the study sites and the success of implementation will be evaluated.

Principal Investigator​: William Bor and Dr. Sohil A Khan (Grifftih University)

SMS4Perinatal Parents

The Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH) in collaboration with the University of Newcastle Family Action Centre (UNFAC) are undertaking a feasibility study in Queensland, that will trial a digital mental health promotion and prevention intervention for parents, who are at greater risk of experiencing emotional distress in the perinatal period (pregnancy and early parenthood). The project, SMS for Perinatal Parents (SMS4PP) will develop, implement and evaluate the provision of information and mental health support, via the use of smart phone text messaging (SMS) to women with an infant less than six months of age, who have been diagnosed with perinatal mental illness, and their partners.

Principal Investigator: Dr Elisabeth Hoehn (QCPIMH)

Associate Investigators: Ms Catherine Rawlinson (QCPIMH), Dr Richard Fletcher (UNFAC)

Together in Mind, a perinatal and infant mental health day program

An investigation of a collaborative interagency service model, for mothers with a perinatal mental illness, and their infant children less than 12 months of age, delivered by adult and child and youth mental health clinicians and community child health nurses, across multiple sites in Queensland. The research aims to investigate the impact of this intensive small group intervention on maternal and infant mental health outcomes, maternal parenting skills and the parent-infant relationship, as well as exploring the clinicians’ experience of collaborating to deliver the program. 

Principal Investigator: Dr Elisabeth Hoehn

Associate Investigators: Ms Catherine Rawlinson, Ms Adrienne Irvine, Dr William Bor

Collaborators