MAR 17, 2016 09:00 AM PDT

Featured Speaker - Preventive Strategies in Emerging Mental Disorders in Young People: Clinical Staging and Translational Research

Presented At Neuroscience
  • Executive Director of Orygen, Professor of Youth Mental Health at The University of Melbourne, and a Director of the Board of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation
      Professor Patrick McGorry is the Executive Director of Orygen, Professor of Youth Mental Health at The University of Melbourne, and a Director of the Board of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation (headspace). He is a world-leading researcher in the area of early psychosis and youth mental health, and has a strong interest in promoting the mental health of the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers.

      His work has played a critical role in the development of safe, effective treatments and innovative research into the needs of young people with emerging mental disorders, notably psychotic and severe mood disorders. He has also played a major part in the transformational reform of mental health services to better serve the needs of vulnerable young people.

      Professor McGorry was a key architect of the headspace model and has been successful in advocating with colleagues for its national expansion. He has successfully advocated for the establishment of a national early psychosis programme based on the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre model. He is frequently asked to advise on youth mental health policy both nationally and internationally.

      Professor McGorry has published extensively in the specialist literature, and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Early Intervention in Psychiatry. He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the current President of the Society for Mental Health Research, and the President-Elect of the Schizophrenia International Research Society.


    A key goal in psychiatry is to build new diagnostic, therapeutic and translational tools and capacity to reduce the impact of emerging mental disorders in young people on survival, distress, quality of life and productivity. Young people bear the major burden of onset for mental disorders with 75% of such illnesses appearing before age 25 years.  This can only be done within a novel non-stigmatising interface between young people and clinical care in mental health such as that recently created by headspace in Australia and increasingly in some other developed nations. We must also develop new terminology enabling early clinical phenotypes of mental disorders to be defined in a normalizing and health-promoting way that will promote trust and confidence. A transdiagnostic strategy is critical, transcending existing subthreshold risk syndromes, with new “pluripotential” criteria capturing clinical high risk for multiple syndromes. This strategy seeks to solve problems with specificity, power and reduce false positives. Secondly, we must focus on novel therapeutics. This starts with the development and evaluation of novel forms of psychosocial intervention for early stage illness. A complementary strategy needs to focus upon candidate biomarkers as therapeutic probes within a reverse translation strategy moving towards biosignatures or profiles of emerging disorder. Relationships between response and baseline levels of and changes in biomarkers may create a pathway to personalised/stratified medicine. Finally translation of existing expertise and systematic reform of clinical practice and cultures of care is something that is achievable with the present state of knowledge yet is poorly implemented.

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