Current research highlights

The RANZCP Foundation encourages psychiatric research as an important activity to drive new discoveries in mental health, research theory and methods essential for clinical psychiatry practice. 

Our grants, scholarships and awards programs support this aim.

2019 Beverley Raphael New Investigator Grants

The Beverley Raphael New Investigator Grants provide a number of small grants up to a combined total of $20,000 annually to RANZCP trainees or recent Fellows to facilitate research projects.

The 2019 Beverley Raphael New Investigator Grant recipients are listed below.

Bionomic fractals and evidence-based design: Improving patient and staff outcomes in an acute psychiatry ward

Dr Marc Jurblum, RANZCP Trainee

Admission to a mental health ward is a confronting experience. At the height of their vulnerability, the patient is exposed not only to the illness of others but is expected to endure a stressful clinical environment. Environmental psychology has demonstrated the building and its aesthetic impact on the patient’s physiological stress, their resulting recovery trajectory and their engagement with health clinicians both during their admission and following discharge. Evidence-based design (EBD) seeks to characterise features of the built environment which display a transactional relationship with human physiology (stress responses/visual perception) and psychology (performance/resilience/social modulation).

This study will apply EBD and existing healthcare design principles in an acute psychiatry ward environment. It aims to identify environmental features where modifications are both low cost and likely to have significant impact on patient outcomes (length of stay, episodes of aggression) and staff resilience/performance (stress/sick leave).

The study will also pioneer the application of bionomic fractal visual interventions on the ward which have previously been demonstrated to have beneficial cognitive and affective impacts in non-healthcare settings simply through passive exposure. This neuroaesthetic intervention will be examined to potentially further elucidate the relationship between human visual processing and the much-researched benefits of exposure to natural environments.

Stimulating social cognition in early psychosis: Effects of anodal high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation to the right temporo-parietal junction in young adults with early psychosis

Dr Patrik Ho, RANZCP Trainee

Awareness of relationships that exist between oneself, one’s surroundings, and other agents is a primary, ongoing task of the perceptual system. This is known as the self–other processing.

Although symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions are characteristic of the psychosis-related conditions, it is the cognitive deficits that have the greatest negative impact on social and occupational functioning. The current inability to improve social cognition with pharmacological treatment has encouraged researchers to identify innovative methods to address these issues.

The use of anodal high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to improve cognition provides some optimism that future treatment options may be more personalised and better able to target brain regions or networks responsible for cognitive deficits.

If successful, this study will provide novel evidence for whether HD-tDCS to the ‘social brain’ has a similar effect in people living with psychosis as it previously has been demonstrated to have in healthy young adults. The baseline data from this research will also provide novel evidence for differences in social cognition between young adults with psychosis and healthy young participants.

2019 RANZCP Foundation Early Research Career Grants 

The Early Research Career Grants are designed to encourage innovative research in psychiatry, especially by those who might be new to research or intend to have a career in research, by providing up to $10,000 in funding.

The 2019 RANZCP Foundation Early Research Career Grant recipients are listed below.

The Sydney Melancholia Prototypic Index as a predictor of treatment response to ketamine for treatment-resistant depression

Dr Adam Bayes, RANZCP Fellow

Approximately one third of individuals with depression fail to achieve remission despite multiple trials of antidepressant medication – so-called ‘treatment resistant depression’ (TRD). Studies examining ketamine versus placebo have shown ketamine to be a rapid and effective antidepressant for TRD.

The aim of the current project is to examine use of the Sydney Melancholia Prototypic Index – a clinical tool that classifies patients into differing subtypes of depression (melancholic vs. non-melancholic) – and its prediction of subsequent mood improvement after ketamine therapy. It has been proposed that melancholic symptoms may identify those more likely to respond to ketamine. Findings may contribute to a more personalised approach to treatment selection for depression, allowing for selection of a subgroup of individuals more likely to benefit from ketamine treatment.

Dr Adam Bayes is a psychiatrist and clinical senior lecturer based at the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute, Sydney. He recently completed his PhD on differentiating the bipolar disorders from borderline personality disorder. His research interests focus on mood disorders including novel treatments.

‘Papa BEAR’ – Building Early Attachment and Resilience (BEAR) – A pilot of an attachment-based group intervention for fathers and their infants in neonatal intensive care

Dr Natalie van Swet

Becoming a parent to a premature baby can be stressful and emotionally challenging. Prematurity can present challenges to some of the core tasks of early parenting and can influence the developing parent–child relationship. Parents often report feelings of shock, grief and guilt. Research focusses on the maternal experience, with a paucity of data in regard to the developing father–child bond ‘Papa BEAR’ is a novel program to support fathers with the transition to parenthood in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

There are two phases of this project, which is mixed methods in design, with a range of pre- and post-intervention assessment tools. Phase one involves seeking consumer feedback from fathers who have previously had an infant in NICU. The qualitative data analysed will contribute to refinement of the program prior to implementation of a pilot study.

The aim of the pilot study is to test feasibility and acceptability of a father-friendly program in NICU. Eligible fathers will be randomised to either the treatment or control group with those in the treatment arm participating in a once weekly 90-minute group program over five weeks. The focus of these sessions is to think about the infant’s emotional world and help support new fathers in this early phase of parenting.

2019 Trisno Family Research Grant in Old Age Psychiatry

The Trisno Family Research Grant in Old Age Psychiatry, supported by a donation from Dr Roth Trisno and family, aims to support research in the field of old age psychiatry to address the need for more research to optimise the prevention, diagnosis, management and continuing care strategies for older populations.

The grant aims to grow the subspecialty workforce in this area through targeted funding each year specifically in the field of old age psychiatry.

The 2018 Trisno Family Research Grant in Old Age Psychiatry recipient is listed below.

Successful Ageing from New Zealand Laypersons Perspective. Defining Successful Ageing in New Zealand

Dr Nurrul Johari

Dr Nurrul Johari is an advanced trainee in old age psychiatry in Dunedin, New Zealand who was awarded the Trisno Family Research Grant in Old Age Psychiatry to undertake her research project ‘Successful Ageing from New Zealand Laypersons Perspective. Defining Successful Ageing in New Zealand’. Dr Johari’s research aims to provide a clearer public understanding of successful ageing, a term first coined in the 1980s by Rowe and Kahn. Through her research project, Dr Johari identifies the importance of planning and preparing educational programs and interventions to promote health in old age as part of nationwide preventative measures. By understanding how the public perceives successful ageing, Dr Johari also hopes to ensure models used have social significance both locally and to inform policy makers. Starting with surveying community-dwelling older adults attending public talks in and around Dunedin, Dr Johari later aspires to expand her study to obtain a nationwide perception of successful ageing.

The RANZCP Psychotherapy Research Award

This grant encourages research in psychotherapy among RANZCP trainees and recent Fellows in Australia and New Zealand. A maximum of up to $10,000 in line with the research project budget may be awarded.

The 2019 RANZCP Psychotherapy Research Award recipient is listed below.

Psychoeducation, formulation and psychotherapy for functional neurological disorders

Dr Myles Gutkin, RANZCP Fellow

With the support of the RANZCP Foundation the pilot study has been completed, with 29 participants and sufficient benefit detected to warrant continuation of the research. Long term follow-up and exit interviews are now underway to establish sustained benefit and acceptability.

The next year of the study will be focussed on interpreting the results of the pilot to modify and manualise the intervention in preparation for a randomised controlled trial to be undertaken over the subsequent two years.

2020-2021 Kinsman Family Research Scholarship 

The Pat, Toni and Peter Kinsman Research Scholarship, supported by a bequest from the Kinsman family, was established in 1996 to encourage research into postnatal depression in women in Australia and New Zealand. The Scholarship comprises a sum of up to $50,000 paid over a two-year period.

The 2020-21 Pat, Toni and Peter Kinsman Research Scholarship recipient is listed below.

Progesterone loading as a strategy for treating postpartum depression: A proof of concept study

Associate Professor Yoram Barak, RANZCP Fellow

'Progesterone loading as a strategy for treating postpartum depression: A proof of concept study’ aims to assess the feasibility of oral progesterone loading as a treatment for postpartum depression (PPD).

Recently, brexanolone (synthetic allopregnanolone) received USA approval for treatment of PPD. However, brexanolone, which is only available through a restricted program, has to be given intravenously and costs US$35,000. A safe, equitable and globally accessible inexpensive treatment for PPD is needed.

Perinatal hormones such as allopregnanolone (an endogenous progesterone metabolite) are currently the most promising avenues of search for treatment. Studies of progesterone’s effects in PPD are few and inconclusive. This study will help confirm predictions that orally dosed progesterone will increase concentrations of allopregnanolone in the central nervous system, which should relieve symptoms of PPD.

Associate Professor Yoram Barak is a psychogeriatrician and academic in Dunedin, New Zealand who is dedicated to translating scientific endeavours into public health benefits. He will undertake this project alongside his colleagues Professor Paul Glue, Dr Chris Gale and Associate Professor Natalie Medlicott at the University of Otago, School of Medicine.

Past research highlights

2018-19 Kinsman Family Research Scholarship recipient

Improving depression in Indigenous mothers using art and health education

Dr Beth Mah

The 2018-19 scholarship was awarded to Dr Beth Mah together with her colleagues Associate Professor Kym Rae from the University of Newcastle, Ms Lisa Orcher, Director of Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service and Associate Professor Maree Grupetta from Wollotuka who sadly will not continue with the team due to her recent untimely death.

Dr Mah is a perinatal and infant psychiatrist employed in a number of roles. She works at Karitane (a parenting centre incorporating mental health outpatient services as well as a residential unit for sleep and settle interventions), Wandiyali (an Aboriginal run organisation which includes an MST-CAN team devoted to reducing the rate of Out of Home Care) and for Sustaining NSW Families, Kurri Kurri (an intensive home visiting service for vulnerable families with an infant under the age of 2). She completed her PhD in 2015 on the topic of ‘Postnatal depression, oxytocin and maternal sensitivity’.

The project funded by the Kinsman grant is titled ‘Improving depression in Indigenous mothers using art and health education’ which will measure the effectiveness of a culturally responsive psycho-education and referral program uses artmaking to engage depressed Indigenous mothers of infants in the mid north coast of NSW.

Since commencing the project, Dr Mah reports that the funds have been used to employ an Indigenous research assistant who has engaged three Aboriginal services to recruit up to thirty mothers for an initial pilot. The research team anticipate using findings from the pilot to commence a longer intervention in early 2020. Data collected from the study should be analysed and published in 2021.

2018 New Investigator Grant recipients

Physical activity for patients with mental illness in a forensic setting     

Dr Katherine Moss

Dr Katherine Moss is an advanced trainee in forensic psychiatry in Brisbane who is working towards combining a clinical role alongside a research position to improve the care and management of patients with serious mental illness. Dr Moss was awarded a grant for her project: The development and implementation of a physical activity intervention for patients with serious mental illness. Dr Moss’s project will examine the physical health, health risk factors and modifiable barriers to physical activity of patients with serious mental illness residing in a high security hospital. Findings will be used to develop and implement a unique, sustainable physical activity intervention for participants, with consideration to a forensic setting.

Evaluating the effects of brief, regular mindfulness-based intervention to improve mindfulness, attention, communication and teamwork: Pilot Study

Dr Matthew Kang

Dr Matthew Kang is a psychiatry registrar in Melbourne. Dr Kang’s research interests are positive psychology and occupational medicine, especially in healthcare professionals. The aim of his pilot study is to test the feasibility and impact of an organisational mindfulness-based intervention program, by introducing regular, short and guided meditation practice in the acute hospital ward setting to all the staff. It is hoped that the outcomes of this research will help inform the design of brief guided mindfulness practice that will increase mindfulness, communication and teamwork in the workplace.

Assessment of Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in chronic psychiatric disorders: A pilot study

Dr Nicola Warren

Dr Nicola Warren is a psychiatrist and academic in Brisbane who was awarded a grant for her project Assessment of Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in chronic psychiatric disorders: a pilot study. Dr Warren is passionate about combining academic and clinical work within the neuropsychiatry field. Her project aims to assess the feasibility of testing for NMDA receptor antibodies in a chronic psychiatric population to identify cases of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. It builds from the hypothesis that there are currently consumers, who have been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and other chronic mental illnesses, being treated in community clinics, and who actually have an autoimmune encephalitis such as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. It is envisaged that this study will lead to more effective and targeted immunological therapy through better testing and diagnosis.

2018 Block Family Memorial Grant in Perinatal and Infant Psychiatry recipients

Dr Christine Kilcawley, a registrar in child psychiatry, was provided with a grant to participate in the Circle of Security training course. The course was structured around evidence-based therapy for working with family relationships. Dr Kilcawley undertook the course as a means to better inform her own research project and clinical practice.

Dr Wen Hui Daphne Law, a psychiatrist, was awarded a grant to undertake Adult Attachment Interview training. Dr Law aims to use the training to add an invaluable and holistic dimension to her clinical practice, improving her research interests in understanding the needs of children and the significant adults in their lives.

Dr Jennifer Dancer, a perinatal psychiatrist, was given funds under the grant to attend a seminar entitled Perinatal and Infant Mental Health: using a relationship based approach for mood disturbance. Dr Dancer attended the seminar to better inform her interest in interested in the role the marital relationship, and relationships with family members and friends have on perinatal disorders.

Dr Shuichi Suetani, a psychiatry registrar, received a grant to attend the Faculty of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Conference. Dr Suetani used the opportunity to improve his understanding of post-natal mental illness – both the care of patients with existing mental disorders during pregnancy and post-natal period as well as new onset of mental disorders during this period.

2018 Early Research Career Grant recipients

Addressing physical activity for people with mental illness in residential rehabilitation units.

Dr Nicole Korman

Dr Nicole Korman is a consultant psychiatrist at Coorparoo Community Care Unit (CCU) at the Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services. Dr Korman’s research will examine the feasibility and acceptability of wrist-worn self-monitoring devices in improving the physical activity of persons with severe mental illness (SMI) living in residential rehabilitation.

People living with SMI die approximately 15-20 years earlier than the general population due in part to their increased risk of preventable conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Modifiable risk factors such as inactivity and low cardiorespiratory fitness contribute to this increased risk.

Residents of community care units frequently experience motivational deficits, and the optimum way to engage them in physical activity has yet to be ascertained.

The study will involve a two-arm parallel, randomised controlled trial, with one group receiving regular care and information regarding the benefits of physical activity, and the second group receiving additional support to increase physical activity through targeted autonomous motivation via a self-monitoring device (ie Garmin). The study will enable a better understanding of the effectiveness of targeted device-led interventions in improving physical activity in those with SMI. Through conducting this research, Dr Korman expects the results can be used to inform a larger randomised control trial.

What happens to consumers after residential rehabilitation care: Listening to their stories and thoughts about what helps and hinders recovery.

Dr Stephen Parker

Dr Stephen Parker is the director of training at Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services and is an associate lecturer at University of Queensland Medial School. He is a current PhD candidate in the Queensland Centre of Mental Health Research. Dr Parker’s project uses qualitative interviews and grounded theory analysis to develop an understanding of consumers’ experiences and reflections on care following discharge from community care units. The goal of this study is to generate a comprehensive understanding of the consumer journey, including reflections on the aspect of care supporting or impeding their recovery. The outcomes of this work will provide valuable information to assist in the improvement of consumer experiences, engagement and outcomes.

2016–2017 Kinsman Family Research Scholarship recipient

Predictors of postnatal depression: antenatal depression, maternal attachment and oxytocin.

Dr Josephine Power

The 2016-17 scholarship was awarded to Dr Josephine Power together with her colleagues Dr Jean-Loup Rault, Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Professor Michael Permezel, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Dr Power is a consultant psychiatrist working in perinatal mental health at the Mercy Hospital for Women, and in the Department of Neurology at Austin Hospital where she provides consultation liaison for inpatients admitted under this unit. She is currently undertaking a PhD in the field of perinatal mental health. 

The project funded by the Kinsman grant is entitled: Predictors of postnatal depression: antenatal depression, maternal attachment and oxytocin and will explore the relationship between post-natal depression and depression occurring during pregnancy, along with measures of the mother’s own early relationships with caregivers, and levels of a hormone, oxytocin, which is known to influence social functioning and mood.  It will provide an opportunity to identify women most at risk of the poor outcomes associated with post-natal depression and assist in directing resources to those families most in need.

Since commencing her project Dr Power reports that using funds from the Kinsman grant her research team have measured oxytocin levels of women recruited in pregnancy for the Mercy Pregnancy and Emotional Wellbeing Study. This study, run by Professor Megan Galbally, has collected data across biological, psychological and social domains in a cohort of women and their offspring, with oversampling of women with a history of depression. Data has been collected and measurement completed, and Dr Power anticipates that analysis and results will be published later in 2019.  

More previous grant recipients

The consumer experience of residential mental health care

Dr Stephen Parker

In 2014 Dr Stephen Parker received a New Investigator Grant of $6000 for his research project Evaluating residential mental health rehabilitation outcomes across three Community Care Units: Qualitative evaluation of the consumer journey encompassing expectation and realities of care. The grant played a critical role in getting the qualitative component of the mixed-methods parent study up and running. The funding opened up the opportunity to engage consumers in individual interviews rather than one-off focus groups. 'I am grateful for the assistance provided by the New Investigator Grant and encourage other Fellows and trainees who are starting out in research to consider applying in the future,' said Dr Parker.

Physical activity in people with psychotic disorders

Dr Shuichi Suetani

In 2016 Dr Shuichi Suetani received a New Investigator Grant for $6000 for his research project ‘Acceptability of physical activity measures in people with psychotic disorders’.

Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease

Dr Philip Mosley

In 2014 Dr Phillip Mosley received a New Investigator Grant from the RANZCP, which allowed him to collect pilot data from a cohort of patients. Dr Mosley says, 'we have now been able to study a large group of people with Parkinson's disease and have found that developing harmful psychiatric symptoms is closely linked to the site and distribution of stimulation in the subthalamic nucleus, the most common surgical target for deep brain stimulation.'

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