IoPPN researchers celebrate wins at the ACAMH Awards 2023

IoPPN researchers celebrate wins at the ACAMH Awards 2023

IoPPN researchers celebrate wins at the ACAMH Awards 2023

The ACAMH Awards recognise work of exceptional quality in the discipline of child and adolescent mental health.

a young girl holding a leaf

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) won awards and commendations at the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) Awards ceremony on 9 November 2023. To be nominated for an ACAMH Award is a prestigious recognition of those who are at the forefront of the advancement of child and adolescent mental health research, and practice.

Digital Innovation Award for Best Digital Intervention

Dr Johnny Downs was announced as winner of the Digital Innovation Award at the ACAMH Awards Ceremony. This award is presented to a clinician who has put evidence base into practice within the information technology and digital fields of child and adolescent mental health.

I feel incredibly honoured to receive this award from ACAMH, although naming me as individual belies how much of the work is driven by the team I’m a part of. I am so grateful to my wonderful colleagues at the CAMHS Digital Lab, who are driven by a shared mission to enhance the access and engagement of evidence based mental health interventions for children, young people and their families, and crucially, support CAMHS practitioners and make their working lives better.

I do want to say a very special thanks to my colleagues: Dr Alice Wickersham, Craig Colling and Jess Penhallow who are wonderful to work with, and who mischievously submitted this nomination without my knowledge. And finally thank you to ACAMH, who through this award category highlights those who do important interdisciplinary CAMH research and practice using mental health digital interventions. I would urge everyone to look all the nominees for this category, and great work they are doing.

Dr Johnny Downs

Senior Clinical Lecturer (Honorary Consultant) in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at IoPPN

Dr Johnny Downs is an NIHR Clinician Scientist at the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent lead, Centre for Translational Informatics. His research focuses on the use of digital information for epidemiological studies examining risks factors and outcomes for childhood neurodevelopmental and mental health disorders. Dr Downs is the founding lead of the CAMHS Digital Lab with the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and is a co-investigator at the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit.

Research Trainee of the Year Award

The Research Trainee of the Year Award was presented to Dr Genevieve Morneau-Vaillancourt, from the school of Mental Health and Psychological Sciences at the IoPPN. This award is given to a trainee or student who is less than two years post PhD and who has shown initiative or made a significant contribution to child and adolescent mental health.

“I feel very honoured and privileged to receive The Research Trainee of the Year Award from ACAMH! I have the privilege of working with fantastic colleagues from the EDIT lab, TNG lab, and TEDS team at the SGDP Centre. I am lucky to be supported by great mentors, particularly Professor Thalia Eley, who inspires me and has taught me so much about research, making important decisions as an early career researcher, and managing work-life balance in academia. This award is a fabulous recognition of the work I have conducted along with my colleagues on the role of peer relationships in driving risk for mental health problems in children and adolescents and will support me in further examining these questions using different genetic approaches. Huge congratulations to the other nominees!

Dr Genevieve Morneau-Vaillancourt

Post-doctoral Research Fellow at IoPPN

Dr Genevieve Morneau-Vaillancourt is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow whose research interests include understanding why some children and adolescents suffer from persistent anxiety and depression and which factors exacerbate these internalising problems over time.

David Cottrell ‘Education of CAMH Professionals’ Award

Dr Mark Kennedy was highly commended in the category of Education of CAMH Professionals Award, an award which focuses on professionals having a significant impact upon the education or training of those working in child and adolescent mental health care.

“Firstly I’d like to say a big thank you to those who contributed to the course and to all the students on it. Also, I would like to say a huge congratulations to the winners and other nominees for their inspiring work.”

Dr Mark Kennedy

Lecturer in Mental Health Education at IoPPN

Dr Mark Kennedy is a Senior Teaching Fellow as part of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department at the IoPPN in the School of Academic Psychiatry. He was also a researcher on the English and Romanian Adoptees (ERA) study at King’s College London. His work has focused on the developmental outcomes of extreme early adversity, including ADHD/neurodevelopmental disorders, attachment and mental health.

Further IoPPN researchers were shortlisted for awards: Ms Alice Stephens for Digital Innovation Award for Best Research on Digital Impact, Miss Emelia Pasternak-Albert for Clinical Trainee of the Year Award and the SPARK Research Team for Innovative Research, Training or Practice in Low and Middle Income Countries.

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Change the Story: Nina’s Story

Change the Story: Nina’s Story

Change the Story: Nina’s Chapter

Our CAMHS inpatient ward – The Maudsley Adolescent Unit (MAU) is an open unit offering mental health care for young people with serious mental illness such as psychosis or problems relating to their mood and require hospital admission. We have developed a national and international reputation for innovation and pioneered the introduction of a comprehensive, all-hours emergency admission service.

Within this unit, individuals such Nina, are the driving force behind our efforts to support and nurture the mental health of the next generation. Their commitment forms the very core of our Partnership. In this spotlight, Nina tells her story on how her team went above and beyond to support a young person to attend college from an inpatient CAMHS ward.



Ward Manager, CAMHS PICU

Young people admitted to inpatient CAMHS wards usually attend the on-site hospital school. The school is independent of the hospital and is run by Southwark council and staffed by an incredible group of teachers and support staff. They work with young people at various ability levels and support young people who are just starting secondary education, right up to young people who sit GCSE and A-Level exams whilst in hospital. However, fantastic as the school is, sometimes they aren’t able to provide the exact course a young person wants to do. Previously in these instances we may have encouraged a young person to look at alternative courses; ones which the hospital school could support them with. Or suggest doing different courses for a year and applying to the one they really wanted next year. However, over the summer we spoke with one particular young person on the ward and realised that this approach didn’t really work for them and wouldn’t be supporting them to achieve what they could.

This young person had been an inpatient with us for a number of months. Due to this she sat her GCSE exams at the hospital school at the Maudsley. During this period, she was also able to meet with a careers advisor at school to begin thinking about what she wanted to do post-16, as well as more long term. As a nursing and education team, we also began thinking about how we could support her with achieving her goals. She told us that her ultimate goal was to train as a nurse and work in healthcare; so, we started looking at what she would need to do to start on that path. After lots of conversations she decided that a college course in health and social care would be the best next step.

During evenings and weekends (when not revising for her GCSEs!) she began looking up different colleges and the courses they offered. Staff on the ward gave her advice on her applications and her parents were able to take her to some open days to meet with college staff. After a lot of work she found a college in South London that felt like the best fit for her and applied. Then following her fantastic GCSE results she officially enrolled in August!

Despite all the incredible work she had done towards getting her college place, the young person wasn’t able to be discharged before it started; and so, we began thinking about how best to support her to attend. Everyone was agreed that we wanted her to start college and that doing a course she was passionate about was so important. We were also conscious of not making too many big changes at the same time, so we all agreed that starting to attend college from the ward first made the most sense. We were really keen (as was she!) to make this as ‘normal’ as possible whilst ensuring she had all the support she needed.

We suggested doing some practice journeys between the ward and her college before her first day. Ray, an activity support worker on the ward, met with her to look up the route on public transport and plan the journey. The two of them the caught the bus there together to get familiar with the journey and where to go once she was at the college campus. Since then, she’s been attending all of her classes at college, and has begun making her own way there and back each day.

It was a tricky journey to get there at times, and the easiest solution all those months ago would have been to say the young person needed to be discharged before going to college full time. However, we all knew this wasn’t the best solution for her at the time; and we wanted to make sure we were thinking of what was important to her and doing whatever we could to support her in safely achieving those goals.

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King’s College London receives £11m Research England grant to transform research into children and young people’s mental health

King’s College London receives £11m Research England grant to transform research into children and young people’s mental health

King’s College London receives £11m Research England grant to transform research into children and young people’s mental health
Over £11m of funding from UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) for King’s College London from Research England will fund cutting-edge brain imaging equipment and a pioneering mental health research collaboration hub at the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People, which will open in South London in 2024.

The new clinical research Centre will be the only facility in Europe whose primary focus is on mental disorders and neurodevelopmental conditions affecting children and young people.

This equipment will provide a significant upgrade to the Centre’s research capabilities, transforming understanding of the interplay between young brains, behaviour and cognition, by providing cutting-edge clinical research equipment alongside a dedicated research collaboration hub, and facilitating collaboration with all sectors across the UK. Researchers will be able to work alongside the young patients and families who are being supported by clinical services in the Pears Maudsley Centre to improve their understanding of why children develop these conditions and how treatments work and deliver more effective prevention strategies.

The Pears Maudsley Centre is home to the King’s Maudsley Partnership – comprising King’s College London, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Maudsley Charity.

Children’s brains, thinking styles and experience of the world are not the same as adults. This exciting news means that we can get the necessary equipment to undertake the cutting-edge research required to improve children and young people’s mental health. This new funding means we can better understand the specific disorder mechanisms underpinning mental health problems and identify and test opportunities for effective intervention.
Professor Emily Simonoff

Interim Director of the King's Maudsley Partnership

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair at Research England, said: “I am delighted that we are able to support The Pears Maudsley Centre with £11m from the UKRPIF fund. The investment will enable King’s College London to develop an invaluable collaborative research environment in which to drive the creation of personalised mental health prevention and treatment strategies for children and young people.

“We hope this funding will help enable new insights into the causes and progression of these disorders which affect one in six young people and provide a transformative leap forward in research in this area by leveraging King’s College London’s unrivalled expertise in the field.”

The state-of-the-art equipment will give new insights and transform understanding of why some children develop mental health problems, allowing researchers to develop effective ways to prevent and treat mental illness both in the UK and around the world. To date, many studies have been carried out with equipment designed for adults or those without neurodevelopmental conditions.

The new equipment is specifically designed for use with babies, children and young people to enable the study of their brain structure and function, cognition and emotions.

It includes:

  • OPM-Magnetoencephalography (MEG) which is worn like a helmet and adapts to any head size, including babies, allowing participants to move freely, play or interact with family during a scan. The MEG cap tracks brain networks in real time and can be an early indicator of conditions such as autism or ADHD.
  • 3T MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) a high-quality portable MRI which is well-suited to children.
  • Child friendly suites for near infra-red (NIRS) and electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking which are more robust for younger children and those who find it difficult to sit still.
  • Immersive assessment facility (to understand social and cognitive function in real world settings) and VR for both experiences and therapy.

Despite the urgency and scale of the challenge, mental health research lags far behind the focus and discoveries resulting from successful investment in physical health care research. As of 2018, only 6.1% of the UK’s health research budget was spent on mental health and funding has remained largely unchanged for a decade1. As a result, improvements in prevention and care are progressing too slowly to meet the increasing need.
This investment from Research England will support a step-change in mental health research for young people.

The ambitions of the Pears Maudsley Centre are to ensure that all young people enter adult life with their best mental health by generating new scientific insights, reducing the time taken to translate new discoveries into effective prevention and treatment effective programmes.

The Pears Maudsley Centre is set to be a game-changer in children and young people’s mental health. This UKRPIF and philanthropic funding will enable us to deliver a major upgrade in research capabilities, by providing cutting-edge clinical research equipment alongside a dedicated research collaboration hub, facilitating collaboration between our world leading academics and clinicians. It will give us a crucial understanding of brain mechanisms and more accurate, personalised measures of treatment in a specialist clinical research facility designed specifically for children and young people.

Professor Shitij Kapur

President & Principal of King’s College London

The funding from Research England is double match-funded (£22m) by private and philanthropic sources, including Maudsley Charity, Pears Foundation, The Rayne Foundation, The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, The Wolfson Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, and The Prudence Trust.

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£4.5M awarded to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for cutting-edge research equipment and technology

£4.5M awarded to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for cutting-edge research equipment and technology

£4.5M awarded to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust for cutting-edge research equipment and technology

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has awarded more than £4.5 million to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to pay for new research equipment and technology.

a young girl holding a leaf

This will be used to improve the accessibility of the Trust’s research so more patients and service users have the opportunity to take part in research. It will include a new sleep laboratory, equipment for the Informatics theme of the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and resources for the new Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People.

New sleep laboratory at the NIHR King’s Clinical Research Facility (CRF)

This investment will allow the creation of a sleep laboratory to study the impact of disturbed sleep on brain functioning and mental health. This will be based in the NIHR King’s Clinical Research Facility and the funding will refurbish existing space for private rooms and purchase new equipment designed for sleep studies. When not used for sleep research, these new facilities will be available as generic clinical space for experimental medicine, thus increasing our capacity for studies across the CRF’s portfolio.

The sleep laboratory will be a leader in this field, building on existing strengths in the development of both silent and motion insensitive MRI, relationships with industry and the UK’s largest clinical sleep service that spans across King’s Health Partners

Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People

The equipment and facilities of the Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People will revolutionize the type and scope of research undertaken, enhancing our understanding of the relationship between brain-based mechanisms, clinical disorders, and social context.

This funding will pay for an MRI compatible EEG system for imaging infants to be used in perinatal services and additional eye tracking equipment that is specifically helpful for younger children who find it difficult to sit still during data capture.

The equipment will enable researchers to explore the interplay between brain and social/environmental risk factors such as trauma exposure, poverty, parental mental illness with an aim to investigate potential prevention targets.

NIHR Maudsley BRC Informatics

The funding will provide dedicated BRC storage and high-performance computing facilities to enable the informatics team to process large datasets. This hardware will enhance research capacity and capability, supporting the development of large language models and increasing the speed of testing of deep learning models. It will also support the creation of a  Mobile Health and Speech Lab which  include a collection of devices and speech equipment to ensure a standardised process for testing, benchmarking, piloting, and evaluating existing and emerging devices for data collection.

“We are delighted that the NIHR has chosen to award £4.5m to South London and Maudsley. It will fund equipment for our new Pears Maudsley Centre for Children and Young People to enable our academics and clinicians to continue their world-leading research into the prevention and treatment of mental illness.”

David Bradley

Chief Executive Officer, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

“This investment will allow us to purchase equipment, technology and hardware, across the NIHR Maudsley BRC, NIHR King’s CRF and for the Pears Maudsley Centre. Not only will this enhance our research capacity and capability, it will also improve the experience of participants in research, particularly children and people with mental health conditions, because our facilities have been designed with their needs in mind.  We are delighted that our application was considered excellent by the NIHR committee.”

Professor Matthew Hotopf

CBE FRCPsych FMedSci, Director of the NIHR Maudsley BRC, and Vice Dean (Research), Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London

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Meet our volunteers: Stephen’s Story

Meet our volunteers: Stephen’s Story

Meet our volunteers: Stephen’s Story

The CAMHS Mentoring Project matches volunteers on a one-to-one basis with a child or young person currently using one of our services. The pair meet regularly to access community activities together and build a relationship. Volunteer mentors are someone the service user can have fun with, try new things with, and talk to for informal pastoral support. 

Stephen, currently a volunteer, shares his experience of the project and how he believes the programme can support young people with their mental health.

Stephen Ayayi-Brown

Stephen Ayayi-Brown

CAMHS Volunteer Mentor

What made you volunteer for the project?

I decided to volunteer as I’d like to have varied experience in the mental health sector. Additionally, I am particularly passionate about mental health in young people. I sought out volunteer opportunities online which is how I found this opportunity. I have been a part of the programme for 10 months now. Initially you have to attend a training session before you’re paired up with a mentee. The training was incredibly insightful and accessible.

What have you learnt during this experience?

I graduated from De Montfort University in the summer of 2021 with a BSc in Psychology. I currently work as a trainee Mental Health Wellbeing Practioner (a new psychological practitioner role introduced recently by the NHS). During the mentoring journey, I was able to learn a lot about OCD and Autism, as my mentee had both diagnoses. This was an invaluable experience, as I was able to apply theoretical knowledge I have previously acquired and also learn new information, while busting the many myths surrounding OCD and Autism.

How do you think your mentee has benefited from your mentoring?

I believe my mentee gained skills to make them more confident in social interactions/settings and gained advice on how to protect their mental health as they navigate the future.

How were you able to build a relationship with your mentee?

My mentee and I discussed many things. Our main topics of discussions were politics, social justice, history and social lives. We often met at my mentee’s house, but we frequently took walks for our sessions. We found that this provided a neutral environment that allows both of us to speak candidly. We also took the time to have fun and went to the cinema too!

I checked in with my mentor regularly by text message, even if we hadn’t scheduled to meet up. We both saw it as important to be accountable and this fostered a good relationship between us. To my surprise, we shared a lot of the same interests, so we got on straight away like a house on fire! That really helped the mentoring process as we were on the same page from the start.

Why should people take part in the mentoring project?

Aside from the fact that you will gain experience to add to your CV, the mentoring experience is incredibly rewarding. You’re given the opportunity to support a young person 1:1 at one of the most crucial times of their life. I think it’s even more important because young people who need support with their mental health can often feel ostracised and alienated. It was an amazing experience for me to be able to be there for a young person and provide them with a form of comfort and to make their life that much easier.

I would absolutely recommend this programme to other mentors. The experience you will gain is absolutely invaluable. It is amazing to connect with young people and to help them realise and actualise their own potential. It is such a rewarding feeling, and I would happily volunteer again.

Aside from supporting a young person with mental health difficulties, I was able to learn so much from my mentee. They were incredibly smart and their perspective on life was refreshing and really got me thinking. It was an intriguing experience indeed.

You can find out more information on how to join the CAMHS Mentoring Project and other volunteering schemes the South London and Maudsley Trust has to offer:


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CAMHS Body Dysmorphic Disorder: How this unique service is supporting young people

CAMHS Body Dysmorphic Disorder: How this unique service is supporting young people

CAMHS Body Dysmorphic Disorder: How this unique service is supporting young people

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a condition which is common in children and young people. It is a mental health condition where people spend a lot of time worried and upset over their appearance and spend lots of time trying to fix it. BDD impacts around one or two people in every 100 people and can be treated.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, the team at the BDD Clinic explain who they are and how they’re supporting young people at a time when the need has never been greater.

a young girl holding a leaf

We are the Maudsley National and Specialist Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and related disorders service for young people. It is the only specialist BDD clinic in the UK for those aged 5-18 years old. We offer highly specialist assessment and treatment, as well as teaching and training.

Our clinic is made up of a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians with decades of collective experience in assessing and treating BDD. This includes psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and a parent peer support worker. We provide evidenced-based, NICE recommended psychological and pharmacological therapy including Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) medication.

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)?

BDD is a common mental health condition and affects at least 1-2 per cent of young people. It is a psychological condition where a person becomes very preoccupied with one or more perceived flaws or defects in their physical appearance. These appearance concerns cause significant distress and lead to engagement in behaviours to try to ‘fix’ or hide the perceived flaw that are difficult to resist or control (e.g., frequently checking mirrors or seeking reassurance). BDD can seriously affect a person’s daily life, including school, social life, and relationships.

What other mental health conditions can commonly occur for young people with BDD?

Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Eating Disorders, and Depression are some examples of commonly occurring mental health conditions. It is very common for people with BDD to feel anxious, depressed and suicidal and many sufferers experience low self-worth and low self-esteem.

How do young people with BDD experience anxiety? 

BDD involves a cycle of anxiety where young people experience preoccupying worries about their appearance which cause strong feelings of anxiety, shame or sometimes disgust. These difficult thoughts and feelings lead to repetitive behaviours such as mirror checking, seeking re-assurance, hiding under baggy clothing, or avoiding leaving the house. These behaviours are often an attempt to try to fix or hide their appearance. These thoughts, feelings and behaviours can result in significant disruptions to a young person’s relationships, school, and home life. For example, feeling too anxious to leave the house without spending a long time on their make up or checking their appearance in the mirror.

How does the King’s Maudsley Partnership support children with BDD through research and clinical work?

Alongside evidenced-based treatment to support young people in overcoming BDD, we deliver a national teaching programme to raise awareness of BDD by highlighting the key signs and symptoms and the available treatment approaches. As a team, we also conduct a number of research studies to learn more about BDD and improve the treatments we offer. For example, we are currently researching how we can best adapt CBT for BDD for those with Autism Spectrum Conditions and exploring the role of difficult life experiences such as bullying in the development of BDD.

Once open, the Pears Maudsley Centre will accelerate research and clinical advancements with the closer partnerships that will form between the clinical and research groups.

How can young people be referred to your service?

We accept referrals from local CAMHS teams across the country. If you think you or someone you know might have BDD and would like advice please contact the National and Specialist OCD, BDD and Related Disorders CAMHS on:

020 3228 5222

Please speak to your local CAMHS team if you would like to seek a referral to our service.

Are there any resources that can support parents and young people?

If you would like to find out more about BDD, we recommend the book ‘Appearance Anxiety’ by the National and Specialist OCD, BDD and related disorders service. Further information regarding our service can be found at: Service Detail – South London and Maudsley ( You can also read more about BDD here:

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