Highlights from 16th Annual Child Mental Health Research Network Day 2019

Professor Barry Wright began the day and welcomed all those in attendance. Richard Andrews, CEO of Healios, delivered an exciting presentation regarding the use of technology and apps in delivering mental health interventions for young people. Richard described how the technology provides flexibility for families, so interventions fit around their lives and how this way of delivering the interventions has been positive for clinicians. Richard also outlined how assessments can be completed within the app. The next presentation was given by COMIC Research Assistant Megan Garside. Megan presented about the Cluster Schools Project, a study which identified and then evaluated the mental health and wellbeing services in 21 mainstream secondary schools across Yorkshire and Humber. The presentation included some initial results comparing different high school year groups, showing differences from pupils in year 8 in comparison to those in year 11 on the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire subscales.

Ellen Kingsley, Research Fellow and Roshanak Nekooi, Research Assistant, provided an update on the ongoing I-SOCIALISE study. I-SOCIALISE is a cluster randomised controlled trial that is examining the effectiveness of LEGO®-based therapy for children with autism. The study has received positive feedback from participating schools and the research team hope to present results at next year’s Annual Child Mental Health Research Network Day. Dr Lisa-Marie Henderson presented some fascinating findings regarding sleep and memory consolidation in children who were typically developing compared with children who have autism. Sleep improves vocabulary consolidation.

Following a short coffee break, Dr Elena Ratschen’s presentation outlined initial feasibility research plans of investigating animal-assisted interventions for child mental health and also showed how therapy dogs are currently being used to support children. The next presentation was given by Rachel Hodkinson, Research Assistant and Olivia Taylor, Trial Support Officer, who discussed  the ASSSIST2 study which is examining the effectiveness of Social StoriesTM for children with autism . The ASSSIST2 study is currently recruiting participants across Yorkshire and Humber.

Dr Catarina Teige, Research Fellow, outlined a feasibility research study which is investigating the role of microRNAs and if we could collect them and analyse in the future to test whether there may be biomarkers in autism. Autism has strong genetic heritability. This presentation received a lot of interest, especially with regards to the collection of data. Emily Hayward, Research Assistant and Hannah Edwards, Research Assistant, spoke about the Alleviating Specific Phobias Experienced by Children Trial (ASPECT).  Emily and Hannah gave an insight into the different phobias they have seen on the randomised controlled trial so far and described how they set up single and multi-session therapy for these specific fears.

After lunch Danielle Varley, Research Programme Manager, shared the progress of a systematic review of systematic reviews exploring reasons for self-harm in young people. There has been a rise in figures of self-harm in young people. One of the aims of the systematic review is to explore the possible reasons why children and young people are self-harming. This was followed by an interesting presentation regarding defining ‘Social Media’ and the use of it as being positive or negative. Daniel Johnston, PhD student at the University of York, presented an exciting ongoing study to reduce or eliminate specific sound phobias for children with autism.  Using an interactive game and sound field, the intervention allows children to play an interactive game which they are in control of, whilst the sound they fear is slowly introduced into the sound field. Professor Barry Wright gave the final presentation which summarised the future plans for the COMIC research team, including some impressive grant applications that are in submission or under preparation. Barry thanked the presenters, audience, organisers and interpreters.

The day was a fantastic opportunity for researchers, clinical staff and anyone with an interest in child mental health research to network. On behalf of the COMIC research team, we’d like to thank all of the attendees, presenters and the two British Sign Language interpreters, Russell and Hayley.  If you would like any more information about our research or information about future conferences and events, please contact [email protected] to be added to the mailing list. You can also visit our website - www.comic.org.uk for more information about our team and current projects.