Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group

Led by the newly appointed Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Professor Christel Middeldorp, the Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group aims to improve outcomes for families with children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders. The group hopes to achieve this by investigating risk and protective factors for the development and persistence of childhood and adolescent mental health symptoms, and through the development and evaluation of new treatment and prevention programs.

2017 Highlights

New Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry brings together mental health clinicians and researchers
Psychiatrist, Professor Christel Middeldorp, has come from the Netherlands to accept a role as Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that spans our centre, the Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS), and Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CHQ HHS). Her research interests involve the role of genetic and other familial influences on the development and persistence of psychopathology across the lifespan.

Group leader wins international award
Our group’s success was highlighted in 2017 when Professor Middeldorp was presented the American Academy of Child and Youth Psychiatry international scholar award.

Study contributes to the discovery of genes associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Professor Middeldorp is co-chair of EArly Genetics and Lifecourse Epidemiology (EAGLE) – a large consortium involving researchers from around the globe. In collaboration with other large groups, EAGLE’s data underpinned a study which discovered 16 genetic regions associated with childhood ADHD.

CAPICE project trains students in psychiatric genetics
Professor Middeldorp also coordinates the CAPICE Project (Childhood and Adolescence Psychopathology: unravelling the complex etiology by a large Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Europe). Established in February 2017, CAPICE takes PhD students from across Europe and trains them in psychiatric genetics using data from the EAGLE consortium. For more information see: http://www.capice-project.eu/index.php

Current projects

Listed in alphabetical order. 

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 outcomes in mental health. A longitudinal clinical study in children and their families

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 HeusslerMatthew Sanders and Professor Naomi Wray

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