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Mind and body

We are on the cusp of a revolution in healthcare. There is a growing scientific consensus that mental illness is strongly linked to physical factors, and that the traditional silos that exist between mental and physical health practice are failing patients.

Mental health disorders are among the biggest causes of disability worldwide. Research shows that social stresses in early childhood, including poverty, maltreatment and abuse, are the most significant risks for depression and anxiety in adolescence, and adolescent mental illness is a risk for depression and anxiety in adult life.

The children’s hospital will be home to world-leading research into the mind-body link and the chain of cause and effect that connects early-life adversity to long-term mental illness – because understanding causality opens the door to prevention.

Mental health diagnosis helps Zach overcome physical symptoms

Zach reading at home

Imagine a world where you are sick up to 50 times a day. For 14-year-old Zachary from Hertfordshire, this had become a daily reality.

However, while he had a history of gut reflux, doctors could find no physical cause for the vomiting.

Zach was referred to the paediatric gastroenterology team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital which worked closely with the paediatric psychological service.

It was found that Zach struggles to be in touch with, and articulate his emotions. Any distress gets changed by his brain into physical symptoms which are easier for him to understand and express.

Zach was treated using a using a multidisciplinary approach, which will become commonplace at the new children’s hospital. Liaising with nutritionists, paediatric nurses and gastroenterologists, the team put in place a comprehensive education and healthcare plan. He also had psychological treatment and meetings were held with Zach’s GP and school so they understood his condition.

I don’t know of any serious physical illness which doesn’t have a psychological aspect to it, or of any severe and enduring mental health condition that doesn’t have physical elements.

Sri Velandy, Consultant paediatric liaison psychiatrist, Cambridge University Hospitals and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trusts

Mind and Body research

A baby Chinese youth
A baby Chinese youth

Inside the mind of a young person

Our brains begin to form in the womb but continue to take shape into adolescence. In a series of articles, we look at how the latest research could help us support children’s development, helping them overcome learning disorders and build resilience against future mental health problems.

Young minds

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A deeper understanding of the biological and psychological causes of mental illness will enable better treatment, seeking to break the causal chain by which adversity leads to mental illness and poor life outcomes.

Ed Bullmore, Head of psychiatry, University of Cambridge

Gastroenteritis in young people needs mental and physical care

New research carried out at Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) highlights the urgent need for more NHS clinical psychology appointments to treat growing numbers of bowel conditions in children.

The latest study, published in the European Journal of Paediatrics was carried out by a team led by Dr Matthias Zilbauer, University Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Gastroenterology at the University of Cambridge.

The report highlights an “urgent need” to offer both physical and mental health services when treating children with gastrointestinal diseases.

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How Covid pandemic is affecting young people’s mental health

How the Covid pandemic is affecting the health and well-being of young people is the subject of two new blogs written by Lauren Cross, Research Assistant and Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.

In the first blog for Place2b, which provides mental health support for children, Lauren and Tamsin reflect on an unprecedented school term.


The second blog for the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education explores the experiences and impact of Covid-19 on Children and Young People’s mental health and wellbeing in England.

University of Cambridge's Faculty of Education

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