Mental disorders are the leading cause of disease burden in people under 25 years living in high income countries. 

The Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group, led by Associate Professor James Scott, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of young Australians and reduce the burden of illness that accompanies mental disorders. 

Research focus

The research consists of four streams. 

The first and second streams focus on the study of the patterns, causes and effects of mental disorders. This enables identification of factors that influence mental health problems in childhood and adolescence. 

Addressing these influences, such as bullying in schools (traditional and cyber bullying) and maltreatment in childhood, is arguably the most effective way to prevent the onset of mental disorders.

The third area is in neuroimmunology. Research in this area studies the interplay between the nervous system and the immune system. It has become increasingly apparent that some cases of psychosis and depression arise from inflammation in the central nervous system.  

The fourth stream are the Cadence Trials, a program of clinical trials evaluating safe and innovative treatments for young people with psychosis. 

Project grants

In the past five years, the child and youth mental health research program has been awarded more than $5m in competitive grant funding resulting in more than one hundred publications. The substantial body of clinical and public health research has made an important impact on the lives of young people experiencing mental health problems.

Associate Professor Scott’s group is currently engaged in a program of research examining antibodies in young people with psychosis, epidemiology of mental illness in children and adolescents and interventions for early psychosis. 

The programs are a combination of clinical work with patient samples and epidemiological studies in collaboration with large mental health surveys and birth cohort studies.

M1: Mental Illness and the Immune System

The M1 study aims to investigate if the immune system may be involved in the development of psychotic mental illness. This will be done by measuring levels of antibodies against a receptor in the brain, the m1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (m1AChR), in people who are experiencing their first episode of psychotic mental illness. It will be investigated whether m1AChR antibodies are related to particular symptoms of psychotic mental illness and whether their presence at onset of illness is related to the development of chronic psychotic illness.

Chief investigators: A/Prof James Scott, A/Prof Judith Greer Dr Stefan Blum Mr Alexander Ryan