Lessons from Australia in treatment for teenagers with emerging personality disorders

Published: 1 Dec 2016

Author: Sarah Maxwell
Lessons from Australia in treatment for teenagers with emerging personality disorders

Dr Sarah Maxwell, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), has just returned from a month long trip to Melbourne, Australia, where she researched ways of working with teenagers presenting with emerging personality disorders. Her travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award, in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a frequently occurring condition affecting up to 3% of the normal adolescent population. Although these young people commonly seek help for their difficulties, diagnosis and subsequent treatment remains controversial in the UK. Research suggests that long term outcomes for young people with BPD remain poor, although many of the original symptoms may lessen. Long term impairments in terms of social, education or work problems frequently remain and continue well into adulthood. There are also high rates of other mental health problems developing1, 2.

The main purpose of Sarah’s time in Australia was to study the work of Orygen Youth Health’s (OYH) Helping Young People Early (HYPE) team, who support young people aged 15 to 25 with the early stages of BPD. HYPE aim to assess and then treat people who are presenting for the first time with BPD as well as to provide targeted prevention for those who have a number of persistent traits of BPD suggesting they may develop it subsequently.

During her Fellowship Sarah met with Professor Andrew Chanen, Director of Clinical Services for OYH, and Louise McCutcheon, a Clinical Psychologist at OYH. Andrew and Louise created HYPE and have developed it into an award-winning service, taking a lead in understanding, preventing and treating severe personality disorders in young people.

"The opportunity to spend time with HYPE and meet so many of their team allowed me to get a truly thorough understanding of how they work and what they can offer for this condition. I hope that this experience can help us start to develop specific services for young people with emerging BPD in the UK and it will certainly influence our ongoing developments within the Norfolk Youth Service at NSFT" –Sarah Maxwell

Since returning to the UK, Sarah has already started to share her learning and ideas with her local team in Norfolk who have started to develop a care pathway for young people with emerging BPD. The ideas generated by her Fellowship will have a significant impact on this. She will also be sharing her findings through a variety of national and local networks.

1. Andrew M Chanen (2015). Borderline Personality Disorder in Young People: Are we there yet? Journal of Clinical Psychology 71 (8)

2. Carla Sharp & Peter Fonagy (2015). Practitioner Review: Borderline personality disorder in adolescence - recent conceptualisation, intervention and implications for clinical practice. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56:12, 1266-1288

Notes to Editors

Contact: Drsarahmaxwell@gmail.com

Sarah’s blog: https://allhypedupnet.wordpress.com/

The Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation believes that with the right support and guidance millions of people can avoid developing mental health problems - with enormous benefits to them, their families, friends, communities and the nation as a whole. The Mental Health Foundation is supporting Fellows with advice, and ensuring the lessons learnt are shared with policy makers and other relevant groups and individuals.