Centre for Youth Mental Health - Research Publications

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    Broad clinical high-risk mental state (CHARMS): Methodology of a cohort study validating criteria for pluripotent risk
    Hartmann, JA ; Nelson, B ; Spooner, R ; Amminger, GP ; Chanen, A ; Davey, CG ; McHugh, M ; Ratheesh, A ; Treen, D ; Yuen, HP ; McGorry, PD (WILEY, 2019-06-01)
    AIM: The development of the ultra-high risk (UHR) criteria for psychosis created a new paradigm for the prevention research in psychiatry. Since (1) prevention research faces the challenge of achieving adequate statistical power when focusing on single low-incidence syndromes and (2) early clinical phenotypes are overlapping and non-specific, this study broadens the UHR state beyond psychosis as an outcome. The CHARMS (clinical high at-risk mental state) study aims to prospectively validate a set of trans-diagnostic criteria to identify help-seeking young people at risk of developing a range of serious mental illnesses. METHODS: This paper describes the methodology of the CHARMS study, which involves applying the CHARMS criteria to a cohort of help-seeking young people aged 12 to 25 attending youth mental health services in Melbourne. New referrals meeting the CHARMS criteria are allocated to the CHARMS+ group; referrals not meeting CHARMS threshold are allocated to CHARMS- group (control group); referrals meeting criteria for a full-threshold disorder are excluded. Transition status and clinical and functional outcomes are re-assessed at 6 and 12 months. CONCLUSIONS: This study will be the first to introduce and validate clinical criteria to identify a broader at-risk patient population, which may facilitate young people's access to clinical services and early treatment by reducing the reliance on "caseness" defined according to current diagnostic categories being required for service entry. These criteria may introduce a new, trans-diagnostic approach for understanding risk factors and pathogenic mechanisms that drive the onset of severe mental illness and the next generation of preventive intervention trials.
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    Staged Treatment in Early Psychosis: A sequential multiple assignment randomised trial of interventions for ultra high risk of psychosis patients
    Nelson, B ; Amminger, GP ; Yuen, HP ; Wallis, N ; Kerr, MJ ; Dixon, L ; Carter, C ; Loewy, R ; Niendam, TA ; Shumway, M ; Morris, S ; Blasioli, J ; McGorry, PD (WILEY, 2018-06-01)
    AIM: Previous research indicates that preventive intervention is likely to benefit patients "at risk" of psychosis, in terms of functional improvement, symptom reduction and delay or prevention of onset of threshold psychotic disorder. The primary aim of the current study is to test outcomes of ultra high risk (UHR) patients, primarily functional outcome, in response to a sequential intervention strategy consisting of support and problem solving (SPS), cognitive-behavioural case management and antidepressant medication. A secondary aim is to test biological and psychological variables that moderate and mediate response to this sequential treatment strategy. METHODS: This is a sequential multiple assignment randomised trial (SMART) consisting of three steps: Step 1: SPS (1.5 months); Step 2: SPS vs Cognitive Behavioural Case Management (4.5 months); Step 3: Cognitive Behavioural Case Management + Antidepressant Medication vs Cognitive Behavioural Case Management + Placebo (6 months). The intervention is of 12 months duration in total and participants will be followed up at 18 months and 24 months post baseline. CONCLUSION: This paper reports on the rationale and protocol of the Staged Treatment in Early Psychosis (STEP) study. With a large sample of 500 UHR participants this study will investigate the most effective type and sequence of treatments for improving functioning and reducing the risk of developing psychotic disorder in this clinical population.
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    Perceptual abnormalities in an ultra-high risk for psychosis population relationship to trauma and co-morbid disorder
    O' Connor, K ; Nelson, B ; Cannon, M ; Yung, A ; Thompson, A ; Ghose, P (WILEY, 2019-04-01)
    AIMS: The aims of this study were 3-fold. We wished to investigate whether at baseline entry to an ultra-high risk (UHR) clinic whether: (1) perceptual abnormalities are more prevalent in those young people with co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses, (2) perceptual abnormalities are more prevalent in those young people with histories of childhood adversity (childhood trauma, bullying) and (3) perceptual abnormality type is associated with co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses or histories of childhood adversity. METHODS: In a sample of 118 UHR patients we investigated the relationship between perceptual abnormalities and non-psychotic diagnoses and adverse life events at entry to a UHR clinic. RESULTS: Depressive disorder at baseline was associated with increased odds of experiencing perceptual abnormalities (OR 3.59, P = .004), particularly visual perceptual abnormalities (OR 2.36, P = .02). Borderline personality disorder at baseline was associated with increased odds of any auditory perceptual abnormalities (OR 3.44, P = .04) and specifically second person perceptual abnormalities (OR 2.69, P = .04). A history of childhood trauma and childhood bullying were both associated with increased odds of experiencing perceptual abnormalities at baseline (trauma OR 6.30, P < .001; bullying OR 5.00, P = .01). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that in the UHR population, certain types of perceptual abnormalities index risk for co-morbid non-psychotic disorder and indicate prior experience of childhood trauma. The use of detailed phenomenology of psychotic symptoms can help to shape our understanding of risk in UHR patients.
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    Youth mental health services in Italy: An achievable dream?
    Masillo, A ; Brandizzi, M ; Nelson, B ; Lo Cascio, N ; Saba, R ; Lindau, JF ; Telesforo, L ; Montanaro, D ; D'Alema, M ; Girardi, P ; McGorry, P ; Nastro, PF (WILEY, 2018-06-01)
    AIM: "Liberiamo il futuro" (LIF) project was designed to assess psychological problems of adolescents and young adults and to identify individuals at high-risk for developing a psychosis through a collaboration between a University team, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and Adult Mental Health Services. This paper presents the baseline demographic and clinical characteristics of the cohort, particularly the nature and severity of psychopathology. METHOD: All help-seeking young people aged 12-35 years residing in the health district involved in LIF were invited to participate in the study and completed a battery of self- report and interviewer-administered measures of psychopathology and functioning at baseline. RESULTS: A total of 338 adolescents and young people (mean age 17.42) participated in the study. The majority of the sample (n = 107, 35%) had an anxiety disorder, followed by mood disorders (n = 62, 21%). Only 35 (12%) participants had no psychiatric diagnosis. After a screening phase, 166 (52%) individuals were assessed to detect the presence of an Ultra High Risk (UHR) state. Of these, 38.60% (n = 64) met UHR criteria. Overall, the majority of the sample resulted moderately functionally impaired at baseline. CONCLUSIONS: LIF project showed that psychological problems, associated with impaired psychosocial functioning, are very common among help-seeking young people. The help-seeking behaviour of young people is in contrast with the barriers presented by the Italian community mental health system that is modelled around adults' requirements. A need of a strong, stigma-free, young oriented system of care for young people up to the mid-20s emerged.
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    Basic self-disturbances independently predict recovery in psychotic disorders: A seven year follow-up study
    Svendsen, IH ; Oie, MG ; Moller, P ; Nelson, B ; Haug, E ; Melle, I (ELSEVIER, 2019-10-01)
    BACKGROUND: Recovery is the ultimate goal of psychosis treatment. Basic self-disturbances (BSDs) are non-psychotic phenomena associated with clinical outcome, present in prodromal, psychotic and residual phases of psychotic disorders. AIM: To investigate the relationship between BSDs and recovery seven years after first treatment in patients with psychotic disorders. METHOD: Prospective longitudinal study of 56 patients recruited during first adequate treatment for schizophrenia (n = 35) and other psychotic disorders (n = 21) (psychotic bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, psychotic disorder NOS). At baseline and follow-up BSDs were assessed using the Examination of Anomalous Self-Experience (EASE) manual, while standard clinical instruments were used to ascertained diagnosis, clinical symptom severity, and functioning. Recovery was defined as absence of psychotic symptoms and regaining of functioning that persisted the last two years before follow-up. RESULTS: At follow up, 34% achieved recovery (5 (14%) with schizophrenia and 14 (67%) with other psychoses at baseline). Recovery was predicted by an absence of a schizophrenia diagnosis, low baseline level of BSDs and further reductions in BSDs from baseline to follow-up. Change in BSDs was the strongest predictor, also after adjusting for premorbid adjustment and duration of untreated psychosis, and was not confounded by diagnosis. CONCLUSION: Low baseline levels of basic self-disturbances and further reductions over time independently predict recovery seven years later in first treated psychosis patients.
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    Migrant status and identification as ultra-high risk for psychosis and transitioning to a psychotic disorder
    Geros, H ; Sizer, H ; Mifsud, N ; Reynolds, S ; Kim, DJ ; Eaton, S ; McGorry, P ; Nelson, B ; O'Donoghue, B (WILEY, 2019-10-01)
    BACKGROUND: Certain migrant groups are more likely to develop a psychotic disorder compared to the native-born populations, and a younger age at migration is associated with greater risk. However, it is not known at which stage migration has an effect on the development of psychotic disorders. We examined whether migrants were more likely to be identified as ultra-high risk for psychosis (UHR) compared to native-born young people and whether migrant status was associated with the risk of transition to a full-threshold psychotic disorder. METHODS: The cohort included all young people aged 15-24 who were identified as UHR at a specialist clinic over a five-year period (2012-16). Australian census data were used to obtain the at-risk population. Poisson regression was used to calculate rate ratios and Cox regression analysis determined hazard ratios. RESULTS: 467 young people were identified as UHR, of which 13.5% (n = 63) were born overseas. First-generation migrants were 2.6-fold less likely to be identified as UHR compared to Australian-born young people (IRR = 0.39, 95% CI [0.30, 0.51], P < 0.001). There was no difference between migrant and native-born young people in their risk of transitioning to a psychotic disorder (HR = 0.90, 95% CI [0.39, 2.08], P = 0.81). CONCLUSIONS: UHR first-generation migrants may be under-accessing mental health services.
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    The relation of basic self-disturbance to self-harm, eating disorder symptomatology and other clinical features: Exploration in an early psychosis sample
    Rasmussen, AR ; Reich, D ; Lavoie, S ; Li, E ; Hartmann, JA ; McHugh, M ; Whitford, TJ ; Nelson, B (WILEY, 2019-07-02)
    BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The notion of basic self-disturbance has been proposed as a core feature of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders and as an indicator of future transition to psychosis in high-risk populations. However, the relation of this notion to many clinical characteristics has not been explored. The aim of this study was: (a) to investigate the distribution of self-disturbance and other symptoms dimensions in ultra-high risk (UHR), first-episode psychosis (FEP) and healthy control groups; and (b) to explore the association of self-disturbance with a history of self-harm, suicidal attempt, eating disorder symptomatology, school bullying victimization and sexual or physical abuse. METHODS: Patients with UHR status (n = 38) or FEP (n = 26) and healthy controls (n = 33) were assessed with the Examination of Anomalous Self-Experience (EASE) and the Comprehensive Assessment of at Risk Mental States (CAARMS). The clinical-historical variables were assessed through medical records. RESULTS: The FEP group scored significantly higher on the EASE than the UHR group, which scored significantly higher than the healthy control group, which had a very low score. Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed that higher EASE score was significantly associated with a history of self-harm, disordered eating and bullying victimization (but not with suicide attempts or sexual/physical abuse) after controlling for positive, negative and depressive symptoms. CONCLUSION: These novel findings suggest that self-disturbance may be related to a history of school bullying victimization, self-harm and eating disorder symptomatology in patients with or at-risk of psychosis. If further confirmed, these findings are potentially relevant to clinical risk assessment and therapy.
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    Improving functional outcomes in early-stage bipolar disorder: The protocol for the REsearch into COgnitive and behavioural VERsatility trial
    Cotton, SM ; Berk, M ; Jackson, H ; Murray, G ; Filia, K ; Hasty, M ; Chanen, A ; Davey, C ; Nelson, B ; Ratheesh, A ; MacNeil, C (WILEY, 2019-12-01)
    AIM: Young people with bipolar disorder (BD) commonly experience reduced quality of life, persistent symptoms and impaired functional recovery despite often superior school performance. Compromised long-term functioning can ensue. There is evidence that psychological therapies alongside pharmacology may be more efficacious earlier in the course of the disorder. Intervention in the early stages may thus reduce the burden and risk associated with BD and mitigate the impact of the disorder on normal developmental trajectories. To date, however, the availability of evidence-based psychological therapies for young people with early BD is limited. Furthermore, there are no large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of such interventions. METHODS: The study is a prospective, single-blind, RCT examining the effectiveness of an adjunctive individualized and manualized psychological intervention, compared with treatment as usual within youth-specific early intervention services. The REsearch into COgnitive and behavioural VERsatility (RECOVER) intervention is delivered over a 6-month period. About 122 young people in the early stages of BD-I (at least one manic episode in the previous 2 years, with no more than five lifetime treated/untreated manic or hypomanic episodes) will be recruited. The assessments will occur at baseline, 3, 6 (primary endpoint, end of treatment), 9, 12, 15 and 18 months. RESULTS: Recruitment will commence in January 2019 and is anticipated to occur over a 3.5-year period. CONCLUSIONS: To date, there are no evidence-based psychological therapies tailored to young people with early BD. We will test whether early psychological intervention in the course of BD can reduce the symptomatic, psychological, vocational and social impacts that are seen in entrenched disorder.
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    Aripiprazole compared with placebo for auditory verbal hallucinations in youth with borderline personality disorder: Protocol for the VERBATIM randomized controlled trial
    Chanen, AM ; Betts, J ; Jackson, H ; McGorry, P ; Nelson, B ; Cotton, SM ; Bartholomeusz, C ; Jovev, M ; Ratheesh, A ; Davey, C ; Pantelis, C ; McCutcheon, L ; Francey, S ; Bhaduri, A ; Lowe, D ; Rayner, V ; Thompson, K (WILEY, 2019-12-01)
    AIM: Up to half of patients with borderline personality disorder report auditory verbal hallucinations that are phenomenologically indistinguishable from those in schizophrenia, occur early in the course of the disorder, and are enduring, distressing and disabling. In clinical practice, this symptom is widely assumed to be unresponsive to treatment with antipsychotic medication and early intervention is rarely offered. The Verbal Experiences Response in Borderline personality disorder to Aripiprazole TrIal Medication (VERBATIM) study aims to be the first controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of conventional pharmacotherapy for this symptom in this patient group. METHOD: VERBATIM is a 12-week, triple-blind, single-centre, parallel groups randomised controlled trial, with a 27-week follow-up period. Participants between the ages of 15 and 25 years receive either aripiprazole or placebo daily, commencing at 2 mg and increasing to 10 mg by day 15. Further dose escalations (up to 30 mg) may occur, as clinically indicated. This trial was prospectively registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12616001192471 on 30/08/2016. RESULTS: The primary outcome is severity of auditory verbal hallucinations assessed using the Psychotic Symptom Rating Scale. Secondary outcomes include the severity of general psychopathology, borderline personality pathology, social and occupational functioning and change in brain resting state connectivity. The primary endpoint is week 12 and secondary endpoint is week 39. CONCLUSION: The results will inform treatment decisions for individuals with borderline personality disorder who present with auditory verbal hallucinations.