Improving psychosocial supports for youth mental health

This research program will focus on improving the mental health of young people with serious mental health disorders. Serious mental health disorders (including schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders) are ranked among the top causes of years lived with disability.

My research will build on what is currently known about psychotic disorders and their treatment, and seek to improve the quality of psychosocial interventions currently available for affected young people.

Specifically, it focuses on developing new interventions to improve psychosocial function in individuals attending the Early Intervention for Psychosis programs currently being trialed by the health Service Executive (HSE).

Working with a team of clinical leaders and international experts, my work will target two groups of young people:

  1. those with continuing low levels of psychosocial function (which is measured in terms of time use, relationships, and education/employment) even after receiving current best practice interventions. Here we will trial a combined intervention that focuses on improving both cognitive function and social activity levels;
  2. The second intervention targets individuals with higher levels of function following early intervention to determine how best to help maintain the benefits already achieved using online clinician moderated supports.

Our main objectives with both groups will be to establish the feasibility and acceptability of the interventions trialed. In addition, this research program will seek to build a network of researchers working in the areas of youth RL 2020 Full Application RL v1.0 Reference: RL-FA-2020-007 Date submitted: 19/09/2019 Page 4 of 123 mental health and psychosis, to share knowledge and develop plans to undertake the further research needed. Alongside this research network building, a key priority will be to exchange knowledge with young people themselves, their families, service providers and policy makers via a program of dissemination. Achieving the goals of the program will impact on key national health priorities of increasing mental health interventions, particularly for younger people (Healthy Ireland).

The overarching aim of this project is to build capacity for evaluating & implementing mental health interventions for young people, which is directly related to one of 14 national strategic priorities in health (Healthy Ireland, p.46).

Specifically, the main aims of my research are to

  • synthesise evidence about predictors of psychosocial function in early psychosis and current evidence based interventions,
  • evaluate novel interventions that are tailored to the needs of young people with either lower or higher levels of function, and
  • use the new knowledge that results to support translation into clinical practice.
Award Date
14 February 2020
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Gary Donohoe
Host Institution
National University of Ireland, Galway
RL FA 2020