Psychiatry - Research Publications

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    Mental health problems and needs of frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spain: A qualitative analysis.
    Mediavilla, R ; Monistrol-Mula, A ; McGreevy, KR ; Felez-Nobrega, M ; Delaire, A ; Nicaise, P ; Palomo-Conti, S ; Bayón, C ; Bravo-Ortiz, M-F ; Rodríguez-Vega, B ; Witteveen, A ; Sijbrandij, M ; Turrini, G ; Purgato, M ; Vuillermoz, C ; Melchior, M ; Petri-Romão, P ; Stoffers-Winterling, J ; Bryant, RA ; McDaid, D ; Park, A-L ; Ayuso-Mateos, JL ; RESPOND Consortium, (Frontiers Media SA, 2022)
    Background: Healthcare workers (HCWs) from COVID-19 hotspots worldwide have reported poor mental health outcomes since the pandemic's beginning. The virulence of the initial COVID-19 surge in Spain and the urgency for rapid evidence constrained early studies in their capacity to inform mental health programs accurately. Here, we used a qualitative research design to describe relevant mental health problems among frontline HCWs and explore their association with determinants and consequences and their implications for the design and implementation of mental health programs. Materials and methods: Following the Programme Design, Implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DIME) protocol, we used a two-step qualitative research design to interview frontline HCWs, mental health experts, administrators, and service planners in Spain. We used Free List (FL) interviews to identify problems experienced by frontline HCWs and Key informant (KI) interviews to describe them and explore their determinants and consequences, as well as the strategies considered useful to overcome these problems. We used a thematic analysis approach to analyze the interview outputs and framed our results into a five-level social-ecological model (intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public health). Results: We recruited 75 FL and 22 KI interviewees, roughly balanced in age and gender. We detected 56 themes during the FL interviews and explored the following themes in the KI interviews: fear of infection, psychological distress, stress, moral distress, and interpersonal conflicts among coworkers. We found that interviewees reported perceived causes and consequences across problems at all levels (intrapersonal to public health). Although several mental health strategies were implemented (especially at an intrapersonal and interpersonal level), most mental health needs remained unmet, especially at the organizational, community, and public policy levels. Conclusions: In keeping with available quantitative evidence, our findings show that mental health problems are still relevant for frontline HCWs 1 year after the COVID-19 pandemic and that many reported causes of these problems are modifiable. Based on this, we offer specific recommendations to design and implement mental health strategies and recommend using transdiagnostic, low-intensity, scalable psychological interventions contextually adapted and tailored for HCWs.
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    Effectiveness of a brief group behavioural intervention on psychological distress in young adolescent Syrian refugees: A randomised controlled trial.
    Bryant, RA ; Malik, A ; Aqel, IS ; Ghatasheh, M ; Habashneh, R ; Dawson, KS ; Watts, S ; Jordans, MJD ; Brown, FL ; van Ommeren, M ; Akhtar, A ; Grais, RF (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2022-08)
    BACKGROUND: Millions of young adolescents in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) affected by humanitarian crises experience elevated rates of poor mental health. There is a need for scalable programs that can improve the mental health of young adolescents. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a nonspecialist delivered group-based intervention (Early Adolescent Skills for Emotions (EASE)) to improve young adolescents' mental health. METHODS AND FINDINGS: In this single-blind, parallel, controlled trial, Syrian refugees aged 10 to 14 years in Jordan were identified through screening of psychological distress as defined by scores ≥15 on the Paediatric Symptom Scale. Participants were randomised to either EASE or enhanced usual care (EUC) involving referral to local psychosocial services (on a 1:1.6 ratio). Participants were aware of treatment allocation but assessors were blinded. Primary outcomes were scores on the Paediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC; internalising, externalising, and attentional difficulty scales) assessed at week 0, 9 weeks, and 3 months after treatment (primary outcome time point). It was hypothesised that EASE would result in greater reductions on internalising symptoms than EUC. Secondary outcomes were depression, posttraumatic stress, well-being, functioning, school belongingness, and caregivers' parenting and mental health. Between June 2019 and January 2020, 1,842 young adolescent refugees were screened for eligibility on the basis of psychological distress. There were 520 adolescents (28.2%) who screened positive, of whom 471 (90.6%) agreed to enter the trial. Overall, 185 were assigned to EASE and 286 to EUC, and 169 and 254 were retained at 3 months for EASE and EUC, respectively. Intent-to-treat analyses indicated that at 3 months, EASE resulted in greater reduction on the PSC-internalising scale than EUC (estimated mean difference 0.69, 95% CI 0.19 to 1.19; p = 0.007; effect size, 0.38) but there were no differences for PSC-externalising (estimated mean difference 0.24, 95% CI -0.43 to 0.91; p = 0.49; effect size, -0.10), PSC-attentional problem (estimated mean difference -0.01, 95% CI -0.51 to 0.54; p = 0.97; effect size, -0.01) scores, or on depression, posttraumatic stress, well-being, functioning, or school belongingness. Relative to EUC, caregivers in EASE had less psychological distress (estimated mean difference 1.95, 95% CI 0.71 to 3.19; p = 0.002) and inconsistent disciplinary parenting (mean difference 1.54, 95% CI 1.03 to 2.05; p < 0.001). Secondary analyses that (a) focused on adolescents with probable internalising disorders; (b) completed the 3-month assessment; and (c) controlled for trauma exposure did not alter the primary results. Mediation analysis indicated that for caregivers in the EASE condition, reduction in inconsistent disciplinary parenting was associated with reduced attentional (β = 0.11, SE 0.07; 95% CI 0.003, 0.274) and internalising (β = 0.11, SE 0.07; 95% CI 0.003, 0.274) problems in their children. No adverse events were attributable to the intervention. A limitation was that EUC was not matched to EASE in terms of facilitator attention or group involvement. CONCLUSIONS: EASE led to reduced internalising problems in young refugee adolescents and was associated with reduced distress and less inconsistent disciplinary parenting in caregivers. This intervention has the potential as a scalable intervention to mitigate young adolescents' emotional difficulties in LMIC. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Prospectively registered at Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12619000341123.
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    The mental health of Farsi-Dari speaking asylum- seeking children and parents facing insecure residency in Australia
    Rostami, R ; Wells, R ; Solaimani, J ; Berle, D ; Hadzi-Pavlovic, D ; Silove, D ; Nickerson, A ; O'Donnell, M ; Bryant, R ; McFarlane, A ; Steel, Z (ELSEVIER, 2022-10-01)
    Background: This research examined the mental health of a cohort of asylum-seeking children, adolescents and their primary caregiver affected by insecure residency while living in the community, compared to refugees and immigrants. Methods: The project investigated the prevalence of psychosocial problems among Iranian and Afghani asylum seeker, refugee and immigrant children and adolescents, and their caregivers who arrived in Australia from 2010. In total, n=196 children and adolescents aged 5-18 years, and their primary caregiver were asked about family visa status, country of origin, level of education, parent symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire) and child wellbeing (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire). An additional n=362 Farsi and Dari speaking children, recruited through the Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA) study, a national comparison sample of families with permanent refugee visas, were included. Findings: Asylum seeker children and adolescents displayed significantly more psychosocial problems compared to those with full refugee protection and immigrant background within the current sample and when benchmarked against a national sample of Farsi-Dari speaking refugee children. Higher parental posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms was associated with poorer child and adolescent psychosocial functioning. This effect was more marked in families with insecure residency. Interpretation: Insecure visa status is associated with higher rates of children's mental health problems and a stronger association with parental PTSD symptoms compared to children with secure residency. This raises important questions about Australia's restrictive immigration policies. Funding: This project was supported by an Australian Rotary Health Research Fund / Mental Health of Young Australians Research Grant and by the Australian Research Council (DP160104378).
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    Sustained Negative Mental Health Outcomes Among Healthcare Workers Over the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Prospective Cohort Study.
    Mediavilla, R ; Fernández-Jiménez, E ; Martinez-Morata, I ; Jaramillo, F ; Andreo-Jover, J ; Morán-Sánchez, I ; Mascayano, F ; Moreno-Küstner, B ; Minué, S ; Ayuso-Mateos, JL ; Bryant, RA ; Bravo-Ortiz, M-F ; Martínez-Alés, G (Frontiers Media SA, 2022)
    Objective: To characterize the evolution of healthcare workers' mental health status over the 1-year period following the initial COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and to examine baseline characteristics associated with resolution or persistence of mental health problems over time. Methods: We conducted an 8-month follow-up cohort study. Eligible participants were healthcare workers working in Spain. Baseline data were collected during the initial pandemic outbreak. Survey-based self-reported measures included COVID-19-related exposures, sociodemographic characteristics, and three mental health outcomes (psychological distress, depression symptoms, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms). We examined three longitudinal trajectories in mental health outcomes between baseline and follow-up assessments (namely asymptomatic/stable, recovering, and persistently symptomatic/worsening). Results: We recruited 1,807 participants. Between baseline and follow-up assessments, the proportion of respondents screening positive for psychological distress and probable depression decreased, respectively, from 74% to 56% and from 28% to 21%. Two-thirds remained asymptomatic/stable in terms of depression symptoms and 56% remained symptomatic or worsened over time in terms of psychological distress. Conclusion: Poor mental health outcomes among healthcare workers persisted over time. Occupational programs and mental health strategies should be put in place.
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    Impact of displacement context on psychological distress in refugees resettled in Australia: a longitudinal population-based study
    Nickerson, A ; Kashyap, S ; Keegan, D ; Edwards, B ; Forrest, W ; Bryant, RA ; O'Donnell, M ; Felmingham, K ; McFarlane, AC ; Tol, WA ; Lenferink, L ; Hoffman, J ; Liddell, BJ (CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2022-07-12)
    AIMS: Refugees typically spend years in a state of protracted displacement prior to permanent resettlement. Little is known about how various prior displacement contexts influence long-term mental health in resettled refugees. In this study, we aimed to determine whether having lived in refugee camps v. community settings prior to resettlement impacted the course of refugees' psychological distress over the 4 years following arrival in Australia. METHODS: Participants were 1887 refugees who had taken part in the Building a New Life in Australia study, which comprised of five annual face-to-face or telephone surveys from the year of first arrival in Australia. RESULTS: Latent growth curve modelling revealed that refugees who had lived in camps showed greater initial psychological distress (as indexed by the K6) and faster decreases in psychological distress in the 4 years after resettling in Australia, compared to those who had lived in community settings. Investigation of refugee camp characteristics revealed that poorer access to services in camps was associated with greater initial distress after resettlement, and greater ability to meet one's basic needs in camps was associated with faster decreases in psychological distress over time. CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the importance of the displacement context in influencing the course of post-resettlement mental health. Increasing available services and meeting basic needs in the displacement environment may promote better mental health outcomes in resettled refugees.
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    Secure attachment primes reduce fear consolidation
    Toumbelekis, M ; Liddell, BJ ; Bryant, RA (WILEY, 2021-05-05)
    BACKGROUND: Recent studies have found that attachment security primes can inhibit fear acquisition. This current study aimed to examine whether a brief imaginal prime of one's attachment figure could impact on fear consolidation. METHODS: A total of 75 participants underwent fear conditioning on Day 1 and fear recall was tested on Day 2. Immediately following conditioning, half the participants were instructed to imagine an attachment figure while the other half imagined a nonattachment positive situation. Fear-potentiated startle and subjective expectancy of shock ratings were used as the measures of fear learning across trials. RESULTS: The attachment group showed significantly lower levels of fear recall on Day 2 at both physiological and subjective levels. Furthermore, this effect was moderated by attachment anxiety, such that it was greatest for individuals who were securely attached. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that attachment relationships are protective during the consolidation of fear memories, and may have implications for how social attachments may impact how anxiety disorders can develop.
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    Investigating neural circuits of emotion regulation to distinguish euthymic patients with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.
    Rai, S ; Griffiths, K ; Breukelaar, IA ; Barreiros, AR ; Chen, W ; Boyce, P ; Hazell, P ; Foster, S ; Malhi, GS ; Bryant, RA ; Harris, AWF ; Korgaonkar, MS (Wiley, 2021-05)
    BACKGROUND: Up to 40% of patients with bipolar disorder (BD) are initially diagnosed as having major depressive disorder (MDD), and emotional lability is a key aspect of both sets of mood disorders. However, it remains unknown whether differences in the regulation of emotions through cognitive reappraisal may serve to distinguish BD and MDD. Therefore, we examined this question in euthymic BD and MDD patients. METHODS: Thirty-eight euthymic BD, 33 euthymic MDD and 37 healthy control (HC) participants, matched for age, gender and depression severity, engaged in an emotion regulation (ER) cognitive reappraisal task during an fMRI scan were examined. Participants either reappraised (Think condition) or passively watched negative (Watch condition) or neutral (Neutral condition) pictures and rated their affect. Activation and connectivity analyses were used to examine group differences in reappraisal (Think vs Watch) and reactivity (Watch vs Neutral) conditions in ER-specific neural circuits. RESULTS: Irrespective of group, participants rated most negatively the images during the Watch condition relative to Think and Neutral conditions, and more negatively to Think relative to Neutral. Notably, BD participants exhibited reduced subgenual anterior cingulate activation (sgACC) relative to MDD during reappraisal, but exhibited greater sgACC activation relative to MDD during reactivity, whereas MDD participants elicited greater activation in right amygdala relative to BD during reactivity. We found no group differences in task-related connectivity. CONCLUSIONS: Euthymic BD and MDD patients engage differential brain regions to process and regulate emotional information. These differences could serve to distinguish the clinical groups and provide novel insights into the underlying pathophysiology of BD.
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    Emerging experience with selected new categories in the ICD-11: complex PTSD, prolonged grief disorder, gaming disorder, and compulsive sexual behaviour disorder.
    Reed, GM ; First, MB ; Billieux, J ; Cloitre, M ; Briken, P ; Achab, S ; Brewin, CR ; King, DL ; Kraus, SW ; Bryant, RA (Wiley, 2022-06)
    Among the important changes in the ICD-11 is the addition of 21 new mental disorders. New categories are typically proposed to: a) improve the usefulness of morbidity statistics; b) facilitate recognition of a clinically important but poorly classified mental disorder in order to provide appropriate management; and c) stimulate research into more effective treatments. Given the major implications for the field and for World Health Organization (WHO) member states, it is important to examine the impact of these new categories during the early phase of the ICD-11 implementation. This paper focuses on four disorders: complex post-traumatic stress disorder, prolonged grief disorder, gaming disorder, and compulsive sexual behaviour disorder. These categories were selected because they have been the focus of considerable activity and/or controversy and because their inclusion in the ICD-11 represents a different decision than was made for the DSM-5. The lead authors invited experts on each of these disorders to provide insight into why it was considered important to add it to the ICD-11, implications for care of not having that diagnostic category, important controversies about adding the disorder, and a review of the evidence generated and other developments related to the category since the WHO signaled its intention to include it in the ICD-11. Each of the four diagnostic categories appears to describe a population with clinically important and distinctive features that had previously gone unrecognized as well as specific treatment needs that would otherwise likely go unmet. The introduction of these categories in the ICD-11 has been followed by a substantial expansion of research in each area, which has generally supported their validity and utility, and by a significant increase in the availability of appropriate services.
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    A critical review of mechanisms of adaptation to trauma: Implications for early interventions for posttraumatic stress disorder.
    Bryant, RA (Elsevier BV, 2021-04)
    Although many attempts have been made to limit development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by early intervention after trauma exposure, these attempts have achieved only modest success. This review critiques the biological and cognitive strategies used for early intervention and outlines the extent to which they have prevented PTSD. The major predictors of PTSD are reviewed, with an emphasis on potential mechanisms that may underpin the transition from acute stress reaction to development of PTSD. This review highlights that there is a wide range of biological and cognitive factors that have been shown to predict PTSD. Despite this, the major attempts at early intervention have focused on strategies that attempt to augment extinction processes or alter appraisals in the acute period. The documented predictors of PTSD indicate that a broader range of potential strategies could be explored to limit PTSD. The evidence that people follow different trajectories of stress response following trauma and there is a wide array of acute predictors of PTSD indicates that a flexible and tailored approach needs to be investigated to evaluate more effective early intervention strategies.
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    Course and predictors of posttraumatic stress and depression longitudinal symptom profiles in refugees: A latent transition model
    Lenferink, LIM ; Liddell, BJ ; Byrow, Y ; O'Donnell, M ; Bryant, RA ; Mau, V ; McMahon, T ; Benson, G ; Nickerson, A (PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD, 2021-12-18)
    Exposure to potentially traumatic events and post-migration living difficulties (PMLDs) may explain the high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in resettled refugees. Latent class analyses (LCAs) in refugees have identified subgroups that differ in symptom profiles of PTSD and comorbid symptoms. However, knowledge on longitudinal symptom profiles in refugees is sparse. Examining longitudinal PTSD and depression symptom profiles could provide information on risk factors underlying worsening of symptoms post-resettlement. Self-rated PTSD (Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale) and depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) symptoms were assessed among 613 refugees who had resettled in Australia up to two years previously (W1) and at 6 months follow-up (W2). PTSD and depression symptom profiles were identified using LCAs for W1 and W2 separately. Latent transition analysis was used to examine (predictors of) changes in symptom profiles, including gender, age, trauma exposure, and PMLDs. Four classes were identified that were consistent across timepoints: a No symptoms (W1 61%; W2 68%), Low PTSD/Moderate depression (W1 16%; W2 10%), Moderate PTSD/depression (W1 16%; W2 14%), and High symptoms class (W1 7%; W2 7%). Higher levels of problems with PMLDs, including being discrimination and family separation, predicted movements out of the No symptom class at W1 to classes with psychopathology at W2. To conclude, most participants did not develop PTSD or depression symptoms. The risk of developing these symptoms seems higher when problems with interpersonal PMLDs increased, pointing to the need for considering these stressors when addressing the mental health needs in this population.