Project Title

Which young people are at risk for poor mental and physical health outcomes?

Project Type

Either MPhil or PhD

Supervisors

Research interests of the research team offering the project

The student will be embedded within the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program of Orygen/Centre for Youth Mental Health, led by Associate Professor Lianne Schmaal.

The Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program focuses on learning and understanding more about depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety in young people and how best to treat it. The research is broad – ranging from clinical neuroscience identifying mechanisms underlying mood and anxiety disorders, to trialling new treatments including psychological, pharmaceutical, digital and brain stimulation treatments.

Details of the project       

Anxiety and depression, together referred to as internalising disorders, are the leading contributors to health burden among young people globally and are the primary reason for referral of young people to youth mental health services in Australia. Together, anxiety and depression cause more disability in young people than any other illness. Depression and anxiety symptoms frequently co-occur, especially in early stages of mental disorders. Persistent internalising symptoms in youth disrupt critical aspects of development and functioning – including social, academic, employment and health outcomes – and are related to an elevated risk of mental illness later in life.

Identifying young people with early-stage depression/anxiety at-risk for onset or a progressive course of mental illness, and providing interventions at an early stage, is imperative to prevent negative long-term functional outcomes and the emergence of serious disorders.

This PhD/MPhil project will focus on identifying young people with early stage depression and/or anxiety who are at risk for poor outcomes, including poor mental or physical health outcomes, risk for suicidal behaviour and poor response to treatment. Clinical and neurobiological data will come from local studies at Orygen as well as data from large-scale international datasets (for example ENIGMA MDD, ENIGMA STB, Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study). There will also be the opportunity for the student to be involved in the collection of new data.

Project references

  1. Toenders YJ, Kottaram A, Dinga R, Davey CG, Banaschewski T, Bokde ALW et al. Predicting depression onset in young people based on clinical, cognitive, environmental, and neurobiological data. Biol Psychiatry Cogn Neurosci Neuroimaging 2022; 7(4): 376-384.
  2. van Velzen LS, Toenders YJ, Kottaram A, Youzchalveen B, Pilkington V, Cotton SM, Brooker A, McKechnie B, Rice S, Schmaal L. Risk factors for suicide attempt during outpatient care in adolescents with severe and complex depression. Crisis 2022; Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000860.

Scholarships and fees

A stipend is not available for this project.

To complete this project as a MPhil:

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne. More information here.

Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive. Please speak to the contact person below for more information.

Domestic Master of Philosophy students do not incur fees. Information on University of Melbourne fees for international students is available here.

To complete this project as a PhD:

Scholarships are available through the University of Melbourne – find out more here.

Other scholarship opportunities may also be available but are highly competitive, so please speak to the contact person below for further details.

Information on fees for domestic and international students is available here.

How to apply

To complete this project as a MPhil:

  1. Read information for future students here, and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s).
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, submit your application here.

To complete this project as a PhD:

  1. Read information for future students here and check your eligibility here.
  2. Read our frequently asked questions here.
  3. Liaise with, and gain the support of, the supervisor/s. Please contact them using the details below and attach a copy of your CV and university transcript(s). 
  4. Once you’ve gained supervisor support, follow the steps outlined by the University of Melbourne here. You can go straight to Step 3. 

You are strongly encouraged to submit your application as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Contact

Associate Professor Lianne Schmaal
lianne.schmaal@unimelb.edu.au