The Youth-GEMs project is an exciting endeavor. We continue to recognize the crucial role played by the interplay between genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors as the primary determinant of mental health and illness in young individuals. However, the availability of scientific evidence supporting this notion remains limited. As part of the Horizon Europe program Staying Healthy 2021, the funded project titled “Gene-Environment Interactions in Mental health trajectories of Youth – Youth-GEMs” will be led by Maastricht University in the Netherlands. This groundbreaking initiative aims to establish the world’s first evidence-supported knowledge base on the functional (epi)genomics of the developing post-natal human brain in direct relation to developmental trajectories in youth.
Over the course of five years, the Youth-GEMs project will bring together a multidisciplinary consortium. It will develop a comprehensive set of evidence-based tools that draw from behavioral, environmental, biological, and psychological insights to facilitate robust quantitative clinical assessments of mental health in young individuals aged 12 to 24 years. Leveraging artificial intelligence, the project will also establish reliable predictive models while identifying gene-environment interactions and actionable markers of mental health trajectories in youth.
Dejan Stevanovic and Tomislav Franic will be PIs for Serbia and Croatia. The other countries involved are The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Estonia, Italy, Ireland, Australia, and The UK.
COVID-19 pandemic AND youth with pre-existing mental health conditions
In 2020, the Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology Network of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) initiated a project to survey mental health aspects of children and adolescents with pre-existing mental health conditions over the COVID -19 pandemic across different European and associated countries. As part of that initiative, a study was organized that tested 421 children and adolescents aged 5 – 18 years with various psychiatric disorders over the early phase of the COVID -19 pandemic in 2020 across Georgia, Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. Dejan Stevanovic (Serbia), Burge Kabukcu Basay and Omer Basay (Turkey), Darius Leskauskas (Lithuania), Laura Nussbaum (Romania), and Medea Zirakashvili (Georgia) led the study in these countries. Details
Pandemic‑related emergency psychiatric presentations: PREP-Kids
In 2020, a team led by Dennis Ougrin (Kings College London, UK) organized a project to assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on children and adolescents’ hospital presentations with self-harm and other mental health emergencies across 23 hospital emergency departments in 10 countries (England, Scotland, Ireland, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates). Dejan Stevanovic (Serbia) led the study in Serbia. Details
Autism Spectrum Disorder International Consortium (ASDIC)
In 2018, a kick-off meeting was organized as supported by the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesu in Rome (Italy) to launch the Consortium ASDIC. The meeting attended Floriana Costanzo (Italy), Valentina Biasone (Italy), Giovanni Valeri (Italy), Stefano Vicari (Italy), Anita Marini (Italy), Francisca Bravo (Chile), Maia Gabunia (Georgia), Noordeen Shoqirat (Jordan), Alejandra Auza (Mexico), Maretha de Jonge (The Netherlands), and Dejan Stevanovic (Serbia). The ASDIC aims to provide more comprehensive knowledge on ASD and help develop sustainable diagnostic protocols and treatment procedures to be administered globally. Dejan Stevanovic, on behalf of the ASDIC, organized the “Validation study of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) and Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) across world regions”. Details
Mental and Somatic Health without borders: MeSHE
In 2018 started the MeSHe an international project assessing mental and physical health such as aggressive, antisocial, and self-harm behaviors, substance use, personality, and physical activity in young people. In addition, the COVID pandemic effects are also evaluated. The principal international leader, Professor Nóra Kerekes (University West, Sweden), has initiated the project. Dejan Stevanovic (Serbia) leads the Serbian team. The first study surveyed 5200 adolescents from Sweden, the USA, Serbia, Morocco, and Vietnam. Details
ESSENCE-Q: Slavic language versions
In 2018’s project, the Early Symptomatic Syndromes Eliciting Neurodevelopmental Clinical Examinations – Questionnaire (ESSENCE-Q) a brief screener for identifying children with neurodevelopmental problems, was developed into the ESSENCE-Q for South Slavic languages, namely, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Slovenian. The project leaders were Dejan Stevanovic (Serbia) & Rajna Knez (Sweden/Croatia), with additional 10 investigators and 451 children from 7 Balkan countries evaluated. Details
Quality of Life Assessment in Children and Adolescents from Iran and Serbia
In 2013, two cross-cultural studies assessed whether Iranian and Serbian children and their parents perceived the meaning of the items in the KINDL and KIDSCRREN quality of life questionnaire consistently. Dejan Stevanovic (Serbia) and Peyman Jafari (Iran) run the studies. Details