Orygen’s research program bolstered by $6.3m in NHMRC funding for psychosis and trauma studies

Orygen’s research program bolstered by $6.3m in NHMRC funding for psychosis and trauma studies

20 December 2023

Orygen researchers have received substantial Investigator Grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to revolutionise our understanding and treatment of young people with early psychosis, as well as those affected by trauma.

  • Orygen’s Executive Director, Professor Patrick McGorry, has secured $2 million for research that will explore why certain treatments are successful for young people experiencing early psychosis;
  • Professor Barnaby Nelson received $2.8 million to refine tools for predicting, intervening in, and treating early psychosis in young people; and
  • Associate Professor Sarah Bendall secured $1.4 million to better understand how to treat and support young people affected by trauma.

Professor McGorry’s breakthrough program is aimed at developing new treatments for young people in the earliest stage of psychotic illness, seeking to further the science around ‘precision psychiatry’.

Professor McGorry said his research has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of young people with psychosis and was grateful to the NHMRC for their support.

“We urgently need a breakthrough to make ‘precision psychiatry’ – that is, personalising treatment to the individual patient – a reality and move from past rhetoric, serendipity, and the time honoured ‘trial and error’ approach,” he said.

“We will tackle this by turning the traditional research approach on its head, working backwards from people who respond to specific treatments to understand exactly why they have got better.”

Professor Nelson said one of the key outcomes of his research will be to develop tools for predicting which individuals with sub-threshold symptoms are at greatest risk of progressing to a psychotic disorder.

"Early intervention is crucial for improving the lives of young people with mental ill-health – this funding will allow us to develop new tools for predicting and treating psychosis as early as we can,” he said.

“The recognition and support from the NHMRC underscore the importance of addressing the mental health of young people, and we are committed to making a meaningful impact in their lives.”

Associate Professor Sarah Bendall, who leads Orygen’s trauma research, said that although many young people have experienced traumas, such as child abuse, community disasters or COVID-19, their needs have not been adequately addressed in youth mental health services.

“Trauma-informed care has been stipulated in key mental health policy directives but not researched. This welcomed NHMRC funding will assist my team to develop evidence-based trauma-informed care models for youth mental health services in Australia,” Associate Professor Bendall said.