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UEA scientist receives £750k to research PTSD in children

A University of East Anglia researcher has been awarded almost £750,000 by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to research therapies for children affected by post-traumatic stress disorder.

The award comes from a package of funding focusing on research into long term conditions in children and young people, offered to mark the tenth anniversary of the NIHR.

Lead researcher Dr Richard Meiser-Stedman, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: “Many thousands of children and young people in the UK are exposed to traumatic experiences. While not all youth experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this condition is a common response to trauma, and one that can have significant, long-term repercussions for their functioning, well-being and health.”

Dr Meiser-Stedmanand his colleagues at the Norwich Clinical Trials Unit, King’s College London and the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit will initiate the first UK randomised controlled trial looking at how NHS mental health services support youth with PTSD.

This trial, entitled DECRYPT (Delivery of Cognitive Therapy for Young People after Trauma), will address the needs of children and young people who have been subjected to multiple traumas such as abuse and domestic violence, targeting some of the more complex and severely affected young people that NHS services work with.

Dr Meiser-Stedman said: “We’ll compare the usual care that children and young people receive to a talking therapy called Cognitive Therapy (CT). CT has been shown in previous trials to be a very powerful treatment for PTSD in adults and in young people who have experienced single traumas but it is not clear whether these encouraging findings extend to youth who have been experienced months or years of harm.”

The trial will be conducted in NHS child and adolescent mental health services in East Anglia and London, and will examine not only whether CT works but also how it might work, and what having CT is like for young clients and their therapists. In this way the DECRYPT trial aims to both evaluate a novel treatment for PTSD in children and young people and understand how such treatment might be taken up and implemented in routine care.

Minister for Mental Health, Alistair Burt, said: “Children’s mental health is a priority for me and this government. We know that intervening early can have a lasting impact, and that’ is why we have funded this vital research which I hope will develop more effective therapies for young people affected by trauma.”

2016 marks a decade since the NIHR was established. Throughout the last ten years it has contributed significantly to the health and wealth of the nation and is now the most comprehensive research system in the world.

The NIHR works with patients and the public to shape the research agenda, finding new ways of preventing, identifying and treating ill health, evaluating the effectiveness and impact of new healthcare treatments, and ensures that the best possible evidence is available to inform decisions about health and social care.

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