29 August 2019

Orygen researchers receive more than $1.8M to expand youth mental health research

Orygen researchers receive more than $1.8M to expand youth mental health research

Research into suicide prevention and online interventions for mental ill-health has received more than $1.8 million in funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council, the federal health minister Greg Hunt announced today.

The funding supports two researchers from Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health and the Centre for Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, to reduce the impact of mental ill-health on young people, their families and society.

Professor Mario Alvarez-Jimenez received funding of more than $1.2 million to continue his research into delivering youth mental health care through online platforms while Dr Katrina Witt received over $600,000 to investigate how emergency departments (EDs) respond to young people who present with self-harm.

Dr Witt’s research will examine if there’s a pattern in the treatment and services given to young people who present to the emergency department for self-harm, how these patterns may vary depending on the method a young person uses to harm themselves, and whether these differences ultimately influence the risk that a young person will engage in further episodes of self-harm or suicide.

“Often EDs are the first health care service to see a young person after self-harm, making EDs nationwide a key frontline service in the fight to prevent suicide,” Dr Witt said.

Professor Alvarez-Jimenez said early intervention was an evidence-based approach that could improve the long-term outcomes of young people with mental health disorders.

“Through eOrygen we are developing and evaluating digital interventions designed to significantly enhance the accessibility, long-term impact and cost-effectiveness of youth mental health care services.”

“Unfortunately, current youth mental health services have major limitations; many young people and families don’t access the help they need, and when they do, we can only provide time limited support,” Professor Alvarez-Jimenez said.

“Many young people will go on to experience relapses which will lead to entrenched disability.”

“We still rely on reactive models of care, waiting for young people to become unwell and seek face to face treatment as opposed to helping them ‘in the moment’, before things take a turn for the worse.  This usually results in mental health care services providing support that is too little, or too late for many young people and families in need.” Professor Alvarez-Jimenez said.

“We want to bring about a digital revolution in youth mental health services and this grant will go a long way in helping us realise this goal.”