Youth Mental Health Tracker: protocol to establish a longitudinal cohort and research database for young people attending Australian mental health services

24 June 2020

Introduction Mental disorders are a leading cause of long-term disability worldwide. Much of the burden of mental ill-health is mediated by early onset, comorbidities with physical health conditions and chronicity of the illnesses. This study aims to track the early period of mental disorders among young people presenting to Australian mental health services to facilitate more streamlined transdiagnostic processes, highly personalised and measurement-based care, secondary prevention and enhanced long-term outcomes. Methods and analysis Recruitment to this large-scale, multisite, prospective, transdiagnostic, longitudinal clinical cohort study (‘Youth Mental Health Tracker’) will be offered to all young people between the ages of 12 and 30 years presenting to participating services with proficiency in English and no history of intellectual disability. Young people will be tracked over 3 years with standardised assessments at baseline and 3, 6, 12, 24 and 36 months. Assessments will include self-report and clinician-administered measures, covering five key domains including: (1) social and occupational function; (2) self-harm, suicidal thoughts and behaviour; (3) alcohol or other substance misuse; (4) physical health; and (5) illness type, clinical stage and trajectory. Data collection will be facilitated by the use of health information technology. The data will be used to: (1) determine prospectively the course of multidimensional functional outcomes, based on the differential impact of demographics, medication, psychological interventions and other key potentially modifiable moderator variables and (2) map pathophysiological mechanisms and clinical illness trajectories to determine transition rates of young people to more severe illness forms.