Psychological Medicine

A better understanding of technology and personalised mental health


Dr. Frederick Sundram, Assoc. Prof. Partha Roop

Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Project code: MHS009

Globally, there are increasing rates of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. These conditions have the significant rates of disability but are often under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated. This project will focus on a literature review of personalised approaches to mental health and with consideration of a variety of technological advancements to diagnose and enhance mental wellbeing.


  • Developing a literature search strategy
  • Condensing and extracting relevant findings from the key literature
  • Summarising findings clearly
  • Developing writing skills and a clear report on the summer studentship work
  • Presentation at various meetings and conferences
  • Publication of report

Using routinely collected data to model and cost the dementia care pathway in New Zealand


Dr. Sarah Cullum

Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Collaboration partner: University of Bristol
Project code: MHS012

Dementia is a gradual progressive impairment of functioning involving multiple domains of cognition leading to deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. The effects of dementia on an individual and the psychological, social and economic impact on families can be devastating. In 2016 there were estimated to be 62,000 people living with dementia in NZ (with an estimated cost of $1,676 million), and this number is projected to triple by 2050 (Alzheimers New Zealand 2017). Recent studies have found that a large proportion of dementia is attributable to modifiable risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. In NZ, Maori and Pacific peoples have higher rates of these risk factors than most other subpopulations and possibly higher risk of dementia too, but may not be fully identified given lower rates of access to health services. We have little information regarding the extent and impact of dementia in major NZ ethnic groups as most of our projections have been modelled on data from Europe and Australia (Alzheimers New Zealand 2017). Our ultimate aim is to collect real data by conducting a dementia prevalence study in New Zealand. In the interim, we can assess the utility of using routinely collected healthcare data to estimate dementia prevalence and evaluate equity of access to services.

This summer studentship aims to test the feasibility of using de-identified routinely collected health information from Counties Manukau DHB to model and cost the dementia care pathway in New Zealand. CMDHB serves a very diverse population and this will allow us to also evaluate equity of access to services. The student will work closely with CMDHB health informatics department and will be supervised by Dr Sarah Cullum, Senior lecturer in Dept Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, and Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry at CMDHB (Middlemore Hospital). Dr Cullum has previously worked with Prof Yoav Ben-Shlomo, University of Bristol, due to their mutual interest in dementia, epidemiology and health services research. They have co-supervised two PhD students in the area of dementia (one when Dr Cullum also worked in Bristol and one since she moved to NZ). They have been developing the idea of using routinely collected healthcare data as a proxy measure for dementia prevalence and a measure of public health response to healthcare interventions for dementia. 

This project will form part of the development work for a future larger project that will hopefully include a PhD scholarship at the University of Auckland.


  • Designing a research protocol, literature review, study design, methods, and analysis
  • Ethics application (we expect this to be waived as we are using de-identified data to develop the too but the student will still be involved in the process which is an invaluable skill for future research)
  • Data linkage methods - big data analysis is in its infancy (which makes it exciting) but it will be the future of health services research
  • Using routine data to calculate epidemiological rates and learn methods to adjust for demographic differences between populations
  • Writing reports and papers for publication
  • Presenting findings at conferences - confidence in public speaking
  • Use of routinely collected data to describe needs and make a business case for funding of services or for developing local policy - this is probably the most important skill for a clinician who wants to succeed in a health environment of increasing economic scarcity.

Guidelines for school personnel about how to manage students who engage in self-harm


Sarah Hetrick

Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Collaboration partner: University College Dublin
Project code: MHS020

We are developing guidelines for school principals/teachers on how to manage students who engage in self-harm for schools. Initial consultation has taken place in the form of interviews with school guidance counsellors and school nurses, and a review is been undertaken of the academic and grey literature that is relevant. Interviews with young people will be undertaken to gain their perspective. Panels of experts, including school personnel, experts in self-harm research, and young people will be asked to be involved in a delphi study to develop the guidelines. We require a student to assist with consultation, including analysis of this, and assist with assembling the information from these sources to develop a delphi style questionnaire. The student will also assist with an academic literature search about the experiences young people at risk of self-harm have in terms of management in a school environment.

This project would suit a psychology student with an interest in youth mental health and school-based interventions. 


  • Analysing qualitative (interview) data
  • Literature review
  • Translating evidence into practical information
  • Written and verbal communication skills