Our projects

Our projects

The Centre for Emotional Health undertakes first class research into the understanding, treatment and prevention of anxiety, depression and other emotional disorders which are some of the most common and greatest impact disorders of our society.

In addition to the studies outlined below, we also offer a number of treatment programs through our Centre for Emotional Health Clinic. Read more about our programs for children and adolescents and adults.

Currently recruiting

What’s it like to be the parent of a teenager?

Researchers: Carly Johnco & Ron Rapee

How do you handle their moodiness or depression?

It is common to see an increase in moodiness during adolescence, and sometimes even depression. As teenagers start to become more independent, it can be difficult for parents to know how to handle these feelings in their child.

We want to understand what it is like to be the parent of a teenager, and how you handle their moods. If you are the parent of a teen (13-17 years), please complete the anonymous online survey. 

You will receive individual feedback about whether your child is showing elevated levels of depressive symptoms, and will have the option to go into the draw to win one of five $50 Visa gift cards.

Start the 20-minute survey: https://mqedu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_511ralWcbJZ6ki9

Contact: carly.johnco@mq.edu.au or (02) 9850 6750

Recruitment end date: October 2017

Want to know if your child is emotionally and socially healthy?

Researchers: Ron Rapee, Carly Johnco, Ella Oar, Jasmine Fardouly & Natasha Magson

Children in year 6 are invited to participate in a study which will follow their emotional and social development over several years in a bid to further understand factors which promote emotional resilience and wellbeing. Participation requires completion of online questionnaires, phone interviews to screen the child's emotional wellbeing, and lab activities each year at Macquarie. Parents will be informed if their child's wellbeing is cause for concern.

Participating families will receive $100 and a ‘thank you pack’ each year they take part in the project. There are opportunities to be involved in competitions and receive prizes throughout the year.

If you’re interested or would like more details, please contact: (02) 9850 4080 or email: rawproject@mq.edu.au or visit rawproject.com.au

Recruitment end date: July 2017

Gifts! Why do we love them?


Researchers: Melissa Norberg, Jessica Grisham & Cathy Kwok

We are trying to understand why people like to receive gifts. If you love receiving gifts, please consider participating in this study. The study involves completing a mental visualisation task and answering a number of questions about your thoughts on potential gifts.

Complete the survey: http://tinyurl.com/prescreener to find out if you’re eligible to participate

Email: Cathy at bsl@mq.edu.au 

Recruitment end date: September 2017

Key research areas and projects underway

Anxiety and depression in children and young people

The RAW project – Children’s’ emotional and social development

The RAW project will help to discover what affects young people’s emotional development. We will start with a large group of young people in Year 6 and assess them every year throughout high school. The study will look at how they change and develop emotionally over their teenage years to further understand the factors that promote emotional resilience and wellbeing. Understanding the forces that shape teenage development holds a key to building a stronger and more productive society. 

Contact: natasha.magson@mq.edu.au or ella.oar@mq.edu.au

PAVe (Preventing Anxiety and Victimisation through Education)

PAVe, which aims to support students who have been frequently bullied, is an exciting research intervention being conducted in more than 100 primary schools in New South Wales and Western Australia. The project helps schools reduce all forms of bullying by developing students' social and emotional learning, building positive peer relationships and empowering students to cope successfully with difficult situations. The research evaluates the effectiveness of two evidence-based approaches to support students who have been frequently targeted by bullying in primary schools:

  • Friendly Schools Plus: a strengths-based, whole-of-school program designed to enhance students' social and emotional learning and foster the prevention of bullying behaviours.
  • Cool Kids: Taking Control: a strengths-based, targeted program designed to build resilience in those children who have been targeted by bullying behaviours.

Contact: sally.fitzpatrick@mq.edu.au

Treating anxiety and depression in young people

Our research strives to develop, evaluate and improve treatments tailored to the individual rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The renowned Cool Kids Anxiety Program and the various adaptations have been developed through numerous years of research conducted at the Centre for Emotional Health. This research has culminated not only in a treatment program that is delivered in schools and psychology practices around world but also in an online training and accreditation program for mental health professionals. The training we offer to professionals is based on evidence.

Contact: barb.corapi@mq.edu.au

Parental understanding of low mood and depression in adolescents

It is common to see an increase in moodiness – or even depression – during adolescence . As teenagers become more independent, it can be difficult for parents to know how to respond or manage these emotional ups and downs in a positive way. We want to understand what it is like to be the parent of a teenager and how you handle their moods. The purpose of the study is to understand how low mood in teenagers affects their parents and how parental attitudes towards teenagers’ emotions influence their parenting behaviours. 

Contact: carly.johnco@mq.edu.au

Comorbid anxiety and depression in teens

To increase our understanding of adolescent emotional difficulties and to improve treatment programs for anxiety and depression in teenagers, we have developed and evaluated a treatment that targets both anxiety and depression simultaneously. This program is one of the only integrated treatments for anxiety and depression in Australia.

Contact: carolyn.schniering@mq.edu.au

Treating specific phobias in youth

Specific phobias are one of the most common anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. If untreated these disorders tend to persist and lead to the development of a range of more severe mental health disorders, such as other types of anxiety disorders, mood disorders and substance abuse problems. Our research aims to better understand the factors underlying the development of phobias in addition to enhancing treatment outcomes and access for youth who suffer from these debilitating fears.

Contact: ella.oar@mq.edu.au

Anxiety and depression in adults and older adults 

Treating anxiety and depression in patients with Parkinson’s disease

Depression and anxiety is experienced in up to 50 per cent of patients with Parkinson’s disease and is associated with poorer quality of life, poorer functioning and greater physical and cognitive decline. Depression in the patient is also strongly associated with caregiver or spouse distress. Therefore, effectively treating anxiety and depression in people with Parkinson’s disease will have a major impact on the burden of the disease for both the patient and their carer. We are trialling a new psychological treatment program to manage anxiety and depression in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Contact: viviana.wuthrich@mq.edu.au

Understanding fear learning and treatment to reduce fear in older adults

Approximately 1.5 million older Australians are predicted to have an anxiety disorder by 2050, yet little is known about how older adults develop fears and how they learn to overcome these fears later in life. Our research will examine the impact of older age and anxiety disorders on fear learning and recovery mechanisms, and the efficacy of a new behavioural technique to reduce fear and prevent it from returning.

Contact: carly.johnco@mq.edu.au

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding

Our research seeks to improve treatment for these conditions by understanding the mechanisms that maintain these conditions. We then use the newly acquired information to revamp current evidence-based treatments.

Contact: melissa.norberg@mq.edu.au or ella.oar@mq.edu.au

Physical and mental health

Gut and brain function

Individuals diagnosed with functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), have much higher than normal rates of clinically diagnosable anxiety and depressive disorders. We are working to understand the psychobiological mechanisms that trigger and maintain the link between the psychological disorders and these apparently physical disorders. We are also investigating how neurophysiological recording tools (eg electroencephalography and electrogastrography) might be used in capturing the order in which the gut and pain processing centres in the brain respond to physical discomfort among people with high anxiety.

Contact: mike.jones@mq.edu.au or anastasia.ejova@mq.edu.au

Somatic health and anxiety/depression

About 40 per cent of children and adolescents may experience functional somatic health complaints, which are medically benign – that is, they have no identified organic cause. These include recurring abdominal pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, chest pains, dizziness and nausea. Research has shown that these children are prone to have increased rates of school absenteeism, and this may also have an impact on their learning, peer relations and overall quality of life. Studies have also indicated that up to 80 per cent of children and adolescents struggling to cope with these recurring functional somatic health complaints may also be experiencing anxiety and/or depressive problems. We are currently researching the effectiveness of a treatment program designed to specifically help children learn how to concurrently cope and manage their somatic symptoms as well as learn stress management skills.

Contact: maria.kangas@mq.edu.au

Life-threatening and progressive medical conditions and emotional wellbeing

Life-threatening medical conditions or caring for persons with life-threatening or progressive medical conditions, such as breast cancer and dementia, can be emotionally challenging. Our research aims to understand what factors help people emotionally recover from medical and other stressful life events, as well as helping family carers. We are also testing therapy programs tailored towards specific stress and creating online decision tools (such as breast reconstruction decisions) to help people recover and enhance their resiliency.

Contact: kerry.sherman@mq.edu.au and maria.kangas@mq.edu.au

Sociocultural factors that impact emotional health

Humans are social beings. Our social relationships and cultural norms not only shape our attitudes and beliefs but also influence our mental and physical health. Our research aims to identify sociocultural factors that negatively impact people’s wellbeing and to find ways to reduce that impact. Given the widespread popularity of social media among young people, we are particularly interested in understanding how social media usage may impact body image, mood and anxiety.

Contact: jasmine.fardouly@mq.edu.au

Eating and body image disorders

Our research focuses on challenging eating disorder stereotypes and improving how we define and treat eating and body image disorders. This includes understanding the link between obesity and mental health, uncovering who experiences and what characterises eating and body image disorders. Our ultimate aim is to close the gap on detection and provision of treatment to people who do not meet current eating disorder stereotypes and to provide them with effective treatment. 

Contact: deborah.mitchison@mq.edu.au, jasmine.fardouly@mq.edu.au or melissa.norberg@mq.edu.au

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