australian virtual reality therapy for young people gets boost with prestigious GLOBAL FUNDING
Orygen Digital's leadership in the application of Virtual Reality (VR) technology in youth mental health has been recognised with funding from prestigious global charitable foundation, Wellcome.
Orygen Digital will receive a share of the £16.8M pool of funds from the Wellcome Mental Health Award to enable a new trial that will help:
- create tailored VR therapy specifically to improve social cognition in young people with early psychosis through their direct involvement in the design and creation process
- carry out a multi-centre trial of the VR program across multiple states including partners at Alfred Health, Victoria, the University of Adelaide, South Australia, and Telethon Kids Institute, Western Australia to create a VR therapy program which can be applied nationally
- create implementation materials as software, training videos and manuals so the VR therapy can be more easily adopted and accessed in clinical practices.
The trial is set to run from 2023–2025 and will be led by Dr Roos Pot-Kolder, who led one of the largest trials so far in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy using VR, and Professor Andrew Thompson, Director of VR Research at Orygen Digital. Ultimately the trial aims to build national networks to deliver these cutting-edge therapies at scale around the country, and then internationally.
Dr Roos Pot-Kolder, Recipient and Fellow at Orygen Digital, leading the research stream for Virtual Reality (also available for interview)
“We know from rigorous research that VR can be a powerful therapeutic tool for adults. Now we have the opportunity to design treatments specifically for young people – which currently do not exist for improving social cognition in early psychosis.
“This funding is incredibly exciting because it will allow us to co-produce virtual reality therapy with young people which is well aligned with both Orygen Digital and Wellcome’s focus on lived experience.
“It’s not often the end user is involved in a process like this, so this allows us to have young people who are living with these struggles at the centre of both the innovation and the outcomes.
“In addition, this the funding means we’ll have the capability to test and implement a VR therapy program which can be rolled out across clinical practices all around the country post-trial.”
Professor Andrew Thompson, Recipient and Orygen’s head of psychosis clinical research and director of Orygen Digital’s VR research team (also available for interview)
“We are extremely proud to be recognised on a global scale for our endeavours to better the mental health of young Australians with significant mental health challenges, who currently have few options for targeted digital treatments.
“Being recognised by a very prestigious global funder such as Wellcome, against significant international competition, demonstrates that Australia is in a position to lead the way in evidence based digital mental health-services.”
Background on Virtual Reality
- VR involves wearing a headset that projects three dimensional images onto a screen, so the user feels completely immersed in a virtual environment. This immersive experience is often enhanced by using hand controllers to interact with objects and characters in the virtual environment.
- VR is most commonly known across video gaming, but it also has a rigorous evidence based and clinically focused therapeutic uses across a range of mental health conditions and cognitive behavioural practices.
- Testing the application and implementation of VR therapy in youth mental health responds to a key recommendation in the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System’s final report to: ‘support mental health and wellbeing service providers to adopt digital technologies’ to better enable a contemporary mental health system.
Background on psychosis
- Psychotic disorders affect around 1% of the population worldwide. They are amongst the most severe and disabling of all mental disorders and have a disproportionately high social and economic cost.
- ~64,000 people in Australia are living with a psychotic illness. Among these Australians, nearly two thirds have difficulty with social functioning, which is the ability for people to interact easily and successfully with other people in social situations.
- When someone has difficulty with social functioning this can make everyday life interactions including work, social activities and relationships challenging.
For more information about Orygen’s VR interventions to support the mental health of young people, visit orygen.org.au/virtual-reality
Communications manager, Orygen Digital
+61 (0) 401 849 249