Current projects

German Center for Mental Health

Digital Phenotyping

Mental illness are on the rise and associated with a more severe course in the case of an early onset during childhood or adolescence. However, many disorders in this age remain undetected due to several reasons as stigma of mental illness, personal barriers to get help, lack of information of mental illness and hence, leading to a delayed help seeking behaviour. Early identification of symptoms may help to provide timely treatment for young people in need. The aim of the current study is to detect adverse psychopathology as soon as possible and guide adolescents and their caregivers. In cooperation with Prof. Tobias Hauser, Tübingen, and Prof. Björn Schuller, Augsburg/Imperial College UK,  we will develop a digital phenotyping approach, using the i) Brain Explorer Application, ii) ecological momentary assessment and iii) voice analysis to assess cognitive, emotional and behavioural markers to identify mental illness early on in adolescents. 

Learn more about the Brain Explorer here:


Twin Health Study on risk and resilience factors and transgenerational transmission of mental illness


Having a parent suffering from a mental disorder is one of the greatest risk factors for developing a mental disorder. At the age of 20, 50% of the offspring of parents with depression will have experience a depressive episode themselves. However, 25% were shown to be resilient. Despite the identification of numerous risk and resilience factors (e.g. in the model of transition of mental illness by Hosman et al. 2009), the interplay and timing of such factors remain unclear. In a cohort of twins, we aim to investigate biological and psychological factors in a cohort of twins.

Together with Prof. Caterina Gawrilow, Prof. Vanessa Nieratschker and the Twin Health Cohort based in Tübingen, we will explore risk and resilience factors in Twins with parents suffering from a mental illness. Hereby, we will assess multiple data including epigenetics, real-time stress assessment, cortisol, audio data and classic psychometric data on emotion regulation, psychopathology and coping with stress. 


The influence of emotions on antibody activity via EMA (EmA-EMA).

The bidirectional effect relationship between emotions and immune system activity is a central research topic in PNI. Previous research has established links between negative emotions such as fear and sadness and systemic inflammation. In this regard, if not properly regulated, negative emotions can cause biological wear and tear in the body that may increase the risk for morbidity and mortality. In this study, the influence of emotional states on the concentration of immunoglobulin-A in saliva will be investigated in an outpatient monitoring over a period of one week, thus providing evidence on the importance of psychological variables on immune system activity in the daily life of the subjects.


The Role of Parenting Stress for Parental and Child Well-Being

A Real-Time Assessment Approach via Ecological Momentary Assessments (EMA).

This project happens in a cooperation with the "Frühe Hilfen" of the department "Familie und Familienpolitik" at the German Youth Institute (DJI). The aim of the research project is to investigate 1) the experienced daily parenting stress in real time by means of an Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) and 2) the role of parenting stress for the well-being of children. In addition, 3) to examine the role of subjectively experienced parenting stress on parent-child interactions. To this end, parents with children aged 6 months to 3 years, will be studied in a mixed-methods design over a two-week period using questionnaires and saliva samples. In addition to testing the instruments and the feasibility of the study design, the results will provide initial indications of the interactions between parental and child psychophysiological states and how early intervention services can be adapted to meet the needs of parents who experience high levels of stress in their parenting role.

Former related project at the German Youth Institute:

I-Pregno: mhealth prevention 

Prevention of unhealthy weight gain in pre- and post-partum families using an mHealth-enhanced intervention.

The transition to parenthood is accompanied by a host of biological, behavioral, social, as well as psychological changes (Saxbe/Rossin-Slater/Goldenberg 2018). During the perinatal period, the risk for sleep disturbances, increased psychosocial stress, mental illness, and changes in physical health, including unhealthy weight gain, increases (Endres et al. 2015). These factors can negatively affect parent-child interaction, which in turn is instrumental in shaping the child's later health (Olson/Bates/Bayles 1990).

With this in mind, it can be summarized that the perinatal period (from pregnancy to one year after birth) is a critical life stage for parent and child health. Digital approaches, such as apps or digital consultation hours, which have also gained importance in prevention research in recent years, are a way of offering families low-threshold support that is available at all times.

trial registration completed,  coming soon:


Evaluation of the "Mental Health Guide" 

in cooperation with the Mental Health Crowd

What would I have like to have known, before I developed a mental disorder? 

What were the most helpful parts for me in psychotherapy?

Based on these key questions, the Mental Health Crowd has developed a smartphone and web-based app to promote mental health and well-being - the Mental Health Guide ( link: The goal here is to strengthen Mental Health Literacy in the general population. This refers to knowledge about mental illness and health. The acceptance and effectiveness in terms of improving Mental Health Literacy of the Mental Health Guide will be tested in this research project.
The aim is to enroll 150 young people aged 14 years and older in a randomized controlled trial (pre-post assessment, 3- and 6-month follow-up). Over six months, the training group will use the Mental Health Guide and finally be compared with the comparison group receiving no additional mental health information (treatment as usual).  

in Cooperation with: 

  • Prof. Dr. Caterina Gawrilow (Fachbereich Psychologie, Eberhard Karls- Universität Tübingen  Link:
  • Dominique de Marné und Lasse Münstermann (Mental Health Crowd)

KiD 0-3: Kinder in Deutschland von 0-3 Jahren

Children in Germany aged 0-3

Nationwide representative study after the Corona pandemic. Data will be collected on the stresses and resources of families with children up to three years of age and the use of support services.

The research project aims to determine how children and families in Germany are doing after far-reaching contact-restricting measures have been taken repeatedly since the spring of 2020, which also greatly changed the everyday lives of families. In the online survey, which was launched in March 2022, it was possible to include questions about the experience of the situation due to the war in Ukraine at short notice.

In 2022, the NZFH will again collect data on psychosocial stress among families with 0- to 3-year-old children in Germany and on their knowledge and use of universally accessible support services as well as specific early help services, analogous to the KiD 0-3 study from 2015. For the study, the NZFH cooperates with pediatricians' and adolescents' practices to recruit parents to participate in the study. In addition to the information provided by the parents, a pediatric assessment of the child's health status and developmental stage is obtained.

The results are used to identify children and parents who are particularly affected, to make their need for help visible, and to further develop both early help and pediatric care and adapt them even better to the needs of families.

The study is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth as part of the Federal Foundation for Early Help from the German government's action program "Catching up with Corona for children and adolescents". We are in the process of publishing our findings.



Emotional Competence and Well-being in the young

The ECoWeB Project aims to develop and disseminate a mobile application (App) to provide engaging and personalized tools and psychological skills to promote emotional wellbeing and prevent mental health problems in adolescents and young adults.

The project team involves 8 European nations (the UK, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Switzerland) working together in order to improve mental health care and access for youth:

  • To use technology as a tool to assess and promote emotional wellbeing.
  • To deliver empirically supported psychological interventions through a mobile application to address the needs of youth.
  • To improve mental health care access and prevent mental health problems in the youth.

MyMoodCoachApp – Our App

ECoWeB aims to:

  • Better understand young people’s emotions and emotional skills by tracking emotions on a mobile app and through web assessments over 1 year.
  • Promote well-being and prevent poor mental health by providing tools and exercises to practice within the mobile app.
  • It is open to young people aged 16-22 living in UK, Germany, Spain and Belgium, who DO NOT have current or past psychiatric disorders or active suicidality.


The consortium is in the process of publishing the findings.


PRODO: Primary Prevention of Depression in Offspring of Depressed Parents

Since the children of parents who have depression are at greatest risk of developing depression themselves, prevention programmes for this population are a major public health priority. The PRODO study was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a family- and group-based CBT prevention program for offspring of parents with depression. We translated and adapted the prevention program Raising Healthy Children (Compas et al., 2009) to the German language and culture. We included children and adolescents (aged 8-17) who have no history of psychiatric disorder and their parents. After the baseline assessment, families are randomised to either the prevention intervention or  usual care control condition.  The intervention consisted of 8 weekly and 4 monthly sessions in groups of 3-4 families based on three modules: Psychoeducation about parental depression, Coping Strategies for children and Parenting training. Follow-up assessments took place at post-intervention, 9- and 15- months after baseline. Assessments include semi-strcutured clinical interviews with parents and child and questionnaires assessing psychopathology, knowledge of depression, cognitive and emotional factors as well as parenting style. Our hypothesis was that in comparison to the control group who receive no intervention, participants in the experimental group will show a reduced risk of depression as indexed by fewer cases of a depressive episode at 15 months follow-up and fewer psychopathological symptoms at 9- and 15-month follow-up. We are in the process of publishing the last findings.