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INTRODUCTION: Approximately 75% of major mental illness occurs before the age of 25 years. Despite this, our capacity to provide effective, early and personalised interventions is limited by insufficient evidence for characterising early-stage, and less specific, presentations of major mental disorders in youth populations. This article describes the protocol for setting up a large-scale database that will collect longitudinal, prospective data that incorporate clinical, social and occupational function, neuropsychological, circadian, metabolic, family history and genetic metrics. By collecting data in a research-purposed, standardised manner, the 'Neurobiology Youth Follow-up Study' should improve identification, characterisation and profiling of youth attending mental healthcare, to better inform diagnosis and treatment at critical time points. The overall goal is enhanced long-term clinical and functional outcomes. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This longitudinal clinical cohort study will invite participation from youth (12-30 years) who seek help for mental health-related issues at an early intervention service (headspace Camperdown) and linked services. Participants will be prospectively tracked over 3 years with a series of standardised multimodal assessments at baseline, 6, 12, 24 and 36 months. Evaluations will include: (1) clinician-administered and self-report assessments determining clinical stage, pathophysiological pathways to illness, diagnosis, symptomatology, social and occupational function; (2) neuropsychological profile; (3) sleep-wake patterns and circadian rhythms; (4) metabolic markers and (5) genetics. These data will be used to: (1) model the impact of demographic, phenomenological and treatment variables, on clinical and functional outcomes; (2) map neurobiological profiles and changes onto a transdiagnostic clinical stage and pathophysiological mechanisms framework. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This study protocol has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Sydney Local Health District (2020/ETH01272, protocol V.1.3, 14 October 2020). Research findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals and presentations at scientific conferences and to user and advocacy groups. Participant data will be de-identified.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





anxiety disorders, child & adolescent psychiatry, depression & mood disorders, mental health, neurobiology, schizophrenia & psychotic disorders, Adolescent, Adult, Cohort Studies, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Mental Health, Neurobiology, Prospective Studies