RCSI awarded HRB grant for PhDs to improve care for psychotic disorders

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An RCSI-led PhD consortium is among those to be awarded funding as part of an investment of €4.5 million by the Health Research Board (HRB) under the Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDA) 2021.

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences will lead one of the three expert teams who will each receive €1.5 million under the scheme. The award will provide structured training for up to five PhD candidates and will fund a research programme on health and care in psychotic disorders.

The RCSI consortium, PSychosis Ireland Structured Training and Research programme (PSI-STAR) is led by Professor David Cotter with co-leads Professor Mary Cannon, RCSI, and Professor Agnes Higgins, TCD and with PPI lead, Dr Mike Watts of GROW, a community-based mental health support organisation.

PSI-STAR is a collaboration with clinicians and researchers from Maynooth University, Queens University, NUI Galway, UCD and UCC. Collaborators included HSE and Mental Health Commission partners but most critically a deep representation from Irish Patient and Family Advocacy groups including SHINE, Mental Health Reform, Mental Health Engagement and Recovery, Irish Advocacy Network and Spunout, The PSI-STAR will develop an all-Ireland integrated network of clinicians and researchers from the disciplines of psychiatry, nursing, social work, sociology and psychology, as well as policymakers, who will foster, support and implement findings of clinically-oriented research into psychosis care in Ireland.

"Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder occur in about three in one hundred people. They usually start in adolescence or young adulthood and can have a devastating impact on a young person's education, family and social relationships and career," said Professor David Cotter, Professor of Molecular Psychiatry at RCSI, Consultant Psychiatrist at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin and investigator at FutureNeuro, the SFI research centre for chronic and rare neurological diseases.

"It is critical that people are diagnosed in the early stages of psychosis, or even just before it begins, so that the best treatments and supports can be offered as soon as possible. With funding from the HRB, I am looking forward to the training and research outcomes from the PSI-STAR programme that have the potential to drive early interventions that will potentially aid the recovery of people with psychosis."

The PSI-STAR programme encompasses stigma reduction, improving physical health in people with psychotic disorders and empowering recovery among those admitted to hospital. It will will have extensive public, patient and family involvement, including an academic with lived experience of psychosis, to firmly embed Patient, Public and Carer Involvement (PPI) in this research.

Professor Fergal O'Brien, RCSI Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: "At RCSI, we focus on clinical and patient-centred research that address health challenges in Ireland and internationally. The PSI-STAR programme exemplifies how world-class research can be applied in clinical settings so that those working in patient-facing roles can make meaningful early interventions to improve the lives of people with disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."

According to Dr Mairead O'Driscoll, Chief Executive at the HRB: "This HRB funding will equip a new generation of health and social care researchers and professionals to ensure research done in academic and clinical settings is translated into better care. This will improve the lives of people and their loved ones affected by these difficult diagnoses."