Infant, Child & Adolescent Mental Health Research Seminar

Join us every second Wednesday, 12pm – 1pm.

We welcome researchers, clinicians and postgraduate students to discuss our research, share ideas, collaborate and learn from each other at our seminar series. These meetings are open to interested research colleagues and students at The University of Auckland and elsewhere.

For enquiries and Zoom details, contact coordinator Dr. Suzanne Stevens | Department of Psychological Medicine |

2023 seminars:
15-Mar | Adapting #chatsafe - a guideline for safe communication online (Sarah Hetrick) & Towards developing a digital mental health intervention for young people awaiting psychological treatment (Melody Kim) (Room507-3056)

Adapting #chatsafe – a guideline for safe communication online
Sarah Hetrick

Sarah is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of youth mental health, specializing in youth depression and suicide prevention. She is also the Principal Clinical Advisor for the Suicide Prevention Office.

Towards developing a digital mental health intervention for young people awaiting psychological treatement
Melody Kim (supervised by Karolina Stasiak)

The prevalence of mental health issues is on the rise, particularly among youth in New Zealand. The number of secondary school students experiencing depressive symptoms and significant suicidal distress has almost doubled. Mental health services in New Zealand are not able to meet the demand for support, with wait times that can stretch for months, with little to no support. There is an opportunity to provide a digital intervention during the waiting time but to date, this is a largely unexplored area and the evidence for existing interventions is mixed. This research will explore preliminary results of the ‘needs-and-wants’ of mental health clinicians and those with lived experience and map out my planned PhD project.

29-Mar | Youth voice on mental wellbeing in NZ secondary schools (Jamie Penno) (Room 507-3056)

Youth voice on mental wellbeing in NZ secondary schools
Jamie Penno

This presentation will explore the preliminary findings on Mental Wellbeing Support in NZ Secondary Schools from a large online, mixed methods survey.

19-Apr | Youth mental health and sleep, digital tools and social media (Nicola Ludin) (Room 507-2056)

Youth mental health and sleep in the South Pacific
Sarah Hetrick, Nicola Ludin, Dee Muller, Roannie Ng Shiu, Matthew Pawley, Bridgette Thwaites, Guy Warman.

Very little is known about sleep circadian rhythm disruption and mental health in rangatahi Māori and Pacific youth in the South Pacific region.  Our research team is uniquely placed to fill these gaps in knowledge. We aim to undertake a longitudinal prospective cohort study to examine self-reported anxiety and depression symptoms, quality of sleep, insomnia, as well as objective measures of sleep and circadian variables (using actigraphy) in rangatahi Maori and Pacific youth in urban and rural areas in New Zealand and in Samoa. This will allow exploration of latitudinal clines, traditional versus city living, and environments dominated by natural versus artificial lights and digital technology.  The first step in this research is to collect a single cohort (i.e., a cross sectional study) to investigate the feasibility of this approach and to gather preliminary data where there are currently none.  Here I will discuss our approach and project plan and invite your feedback.

Social media advertising to increase uptake and awareness of Headstrong
Nicola Ludin, Sarah Bodmer, Kiani Stevensen, Natasha Allen, Naomi Davies, Karolina Stasiak, Tania Cargo, Sarah Hetrick.

The mental health and wellbeing of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand was already deteriorating before COVID hit. The number of young people with depressive symptoms is rising rapidly (13% in 2012, 23% in 2019). Not all the impacts of COVID-19 are fully understood, but there is no doubt that the psychosocial and mental health needs of young people have increased, and that the pandemic has had a role in that increase. Indigenous youth in Aotearoa, rangatahi Māori, continue to be overrepresented in need for access to mental health support.

Headstrong is an app launched in 2022. It offers a chatbot platform to help young people build and maintain mental wellbeing, using brief (five-minute) chat- like sessions. The content is structured, authored by clinicians, and guided by best evidence. Currently, Headstrong has three courses: “Foundations” “Stress Detox” and “Aroha”. Aroha is currently being transitioned to include a bicultural and bilingual experience.

The focus of this project is on radically changing the way we approach the promotion of mental health, and of tools that support mental health for young people. We are co-designing (with young people) social media marketing on Instagram and Tiktok to provide engaging and culturally relevant content with links to the Headstrong app. Here I will share our approach and results to date.

3-May | Gender minory youth & digital health (Casian Ailincai) & TBC (Emily Adeane) (Room 507-3056)

Gender minority youth & digital health
Casian Ailincai (supervised by Naomi Davies, Sarah Hopkins & Sarah Fortune)

Casian will be discussing her Masters where she is pioneering work into gender minority youth’s perspectives on digital mental health interventions. This talk would also be valuable to those interested in discovering more about the unique academic and mental health landscapes of gender minority youth.

Title TBC
Emily Adeane (supervised by Karolina Stasiak)

Details to follow

17-May | TBC (Vin Allen) & Self-harm and suicide prevention in Aotearoa New Zealand (Linda Bowden)

Title TBC
Vin Allen (supervised by Karolina Stasiak)

Vin will be joining us online from Thailand – details to follow

Self-harm and suicide prevention in Aotearoa New Zealand
Linda Bowden (PhD supervised by Sarah Hetrick)

Linda is a child and youth mental health clinician with a background in suicide prevention and postvention, youth mental health research and has experience in systems change for equitable outcomes.

Youth suicide rates have not declined in two decades, and rates of self-harm have increased. To turn this around it is critical that prevention efforts are developed in a data-rich environment, grounded in evidence, and co-designed with those with lived experience. This PhD will apply robust statistical methods to investigate time trends in suicide and self-harm rates while examining the role of age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation, and methods of self-harm. I will undertake a robust synthesis of the evidence about best practices for schools supporting young people who engage in self-harm, particularly in terms of how they engage whānau. Finally, I will interview both school personnel and whānau to examine their experience, and support and resource needs, in relation to implementing this evidence. The outcome will be an evidenced based approach to supporting young people engaging in self-harm, and ultimately to preventing suicide. This PhD research will contribute knowledge to the understanding of the role and supports required for both the school and home environment can play in reducing youth suicide in Aotearoa New Zealand.

31-May | IDEAL Study Update (Trecia Wouldes, Natalia Simonov, Suzanne Stevens) (507-G145)

IDEAL Study Update
Trecia Wouldes, Natalia Simonov, Suzanne Stevens

An update from the Infant Development, Environment and Lifestyle (IDEAL) study. We will focus on the middle childhood and adolescent phases of this longitudinal study, established to investigate the effects of prenatal methamphetamine use on mothers and their infants.

21-Jun | The role of child language in the intergenerational transmission of mental health difficulties (Amy Bird) & 'Re-implementing' Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (Melanie Woodfield) (Room 507-3056)

The role of child language in the intergenerational transmission of mental health difficulties
Amy Bird

Understanding mechanisms by which mental health difficulties are passed from one generation to the next is critical for informing effective interventions. Child language is related to parent-child interactions, parent mental health and child emotional and behavioural difficulties. This presentation will briefly discuss theoretical models of the role of language in intergenerational transmission and then describe two studies within Growing Up in New Zealand where our team has specifically tested language as a mechanism. The implications of this research for interventions that promote positive parent-child verbal interactions will be discussed. 

‘Re-implementing’  Parent-Child Interaction Therapy
Melanie Woodfield 

Melanie Woodfield is a clinical psychologist working with children, adolescents and families.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based treatment for conduct problems in young children. It is derived from the same theory as the Incredible Years or Triple P but is somewhat distinctive in that it involves live coaching of parents by a clinician based behind a one-way mirror. Ensuring sustained delivery of evidence-based interventions in routine care environments is notoriously challenging, and relatively few clinicians deliver PCIT, despite having received intensive training in this effective approach. This presentation will provide an overview of a series of studies that aimed to understand the challenges clinicians may face, and to design and trial an intervention to support already-trained clinicians to use PCIT in their work with families in Aotearoa.       

23-Aug | Preventative Measures - Testing a Digital Wellbeing Intervention for Adolescents (Mir Mahrukh) & National survey of school-based wellbeing interventions (Hiran Thabrew)

Preventative Measures – Testing a Digital Mental Wellbeing Intervention for Adolescents 

The aim of this research is to establish the efficacy of a wellbeing app in improving mental health and wellbeing outcomes for younger adolescents. The initial version of the app previously showed significant improvements for older adolescents and adults and the current altered version of the app (Whitu For School) is now being tested for its efficacy with younger adolescents, specifically 13-15 year olds. 

Hiran Thabrew will also be presenting on results from a national survey or school-based well-being interventions.

20-Sept | Youth voice and mental health (Jessica Stubbing)
4-Oct | Validating Kiwi-ASQ developmental assessment for Aotearoa's Well Child checks (Alison Leversha - Starship)

Alison will be talking about the KiwiASQ study she is doing with Prof Trecia Wouldes and Dr Nataliia Simonov (fellow ICAMH research group members) and others on improving the before school well checks children receive. The KiwiASQ tests speech, development, behaviour, vision and hearing and will replace the Before School Check (B4SC).

18-Oct | Development of Internalising Behaviours in Children Born Very Preterm (Mia Mclean - AUT)