As a member of the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH), I believe the biggest benefit is having access to high impact publications and world-class scientific research. ACAMH brings to the table experience and an impressive track record of consistently publishing rigorous, thought-provoking, ground-breaking research, which supports and maintains my compassion for children as I journey through my PhD.
Why I decided to choose Child Mental Health as a career
My interest in mental health dates back to my childhood. Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, I faced the reality that many children were using drugs or alcohol at an early age to cope with the symptoms of undiagnosed ADHD and the stigma associated with mental disorders. Their resilience to deal with mental health conditions was weak and social support was limited since the focus was more on medication than coping or prevention. Compared to other nations, the Caribbean lags behind in programs for children and young people living with mental health problems who are attending mainstream schools, transitioning to adulthood or in need of long-term care. The current economic crisis is exacerbating this situation as the governments are cutting funding for youth mental health and emphasizing the use of prevention strategies.
This problem resonates deeply with me, and I hope to someday work on finding a solution, which coincides with “the prevention and treatment approach”. I strongly believe that in any instance a more balanced approach is necessary as those in treatment can more clearly inform about prevention strategies. It is for this reason that I am pursuing a PhD in Evidence Based Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the University College London (UCL), funded by the European Union’s 2020 Horizon Programme, to acquire the skills and knowledge I need to impact this worthy cause.
The use of digital interventions to encourage treatment of CAMH
During my undergraduate studies, I conducted research to determine groups of children and young people who were more likely to display aggression. The outcome of my study explored the correlation of online gaming and aggression. At that point I was already convinced that digital interventions can therefore be used inversely, to be beneficial to the mental health of young people.
Currently there is little or no emphasis placed on digital interventions in the Caribbean and other parts of the world, to encourage prevention and treatment of CAMH. In light of this, the need for such a program is long overdue. My main interest is to find ways to develop and improve the types of services available at a systematic level. In an advancing world, digital interventions can be the foundation for organising, managing, developing, shaping and planning of social policies related to CAMH. I believe the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) within the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and Clinical, Education and Health Psychology department at UCL will enable me to gain the necessary skills to accomplish that.
How did ACAMH support me as a researcher?
Many articles published in the JCPP and CAMH have formed the foundation of my PhD study. The examination of patient reported outcome measures (PROM) use and clinician’s efficacy (Edbrooke-Childs et. al, 2017) will inform my investigations into the knowledge and skills that clinicians need to implement new interventions. Additionally, the July 2016 issue of JCPP provided me with even more insight into mental health challenges that young people encounter. In this issue, Michael Bloch’s editorial on Reducing Adolescent Suicide highlighted the dire need for more interventions in the field of child and adolescent mental health. Therefore, these articles along with many others have implications for the design and implementation of my study and future research.
Edbrooke-Childs, J., Barry, D., Rodriguez, I. M., Papageorgiou, D., Wolpert, M. and Schulz, J. (2017), Patient reported outcome measures in child and adolescent mental health services: associations between clinician demographic characteristics, attitudes and efficacy. Child Adolesc Ment Health, 22: 36–41. doi:10.1111/camh.12189
Bloch, M. H. (2016), Editorial: Reducing adolescent suicide. Journal of Child Psychology Psychiatry, 57: 773–774. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12585