Outline of United Graduate School of Child Development

Mental Health of children is at a crisis point

The biggest challenge of present-day Japan in a time of low birthrates is how to raise children with sound minds. The reality is, however, that children’s mental health is at serious risk of being damaged. Juvenile crimes caused by mental damage, suicidal cases after being bullied, and the number of children with developmental disorders such as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are increasing. Psychiatric disorders like major depression and eating disorders are increasingly common among younger people, and elementary school cases with schizophrenia are reported at an extreme.

Construction of a novel approach to mental health of children

Under these tough conditions, Kanazawa University and Osaka University / Hamamatsu University School of Medicine have created novel interdisciplinary fields which integrate medical science (including clinical medicine, neuroimaging, epidemiology and life science), developmental psychology, education and so forth, via the 21th-century COE programs, “Establishment of Revolutionary Neuroscience about Development, Learning, Memory and their Disturbances” in the former and “Research Center for Child Mental Development” in the latter. These efforts changed the child mental health from solely the research subject for psychologists to one that is understandable from the medical perspective. With the efforts of these three institutes, it is without a doubt that mental health problems of children will be able to be elucidated by medical methods.

Development of Human Resources in a matched manner to social requirement

In addition to the absolute shortage of the number of specialists in child mental health, these specialists, either psychologists, nurses/health nurses or teachers, deal with problems utilizing their own training and educational backgrounds; there is no formulized way for treating problems of children’s minds; these specialists often lack enough medical knowledge. In order to overcome these problems, it is the most reasonable to re-educate these specialists by an integrated field consisting of brain science, psychology and education. However, a huge obstacle for this education in a given institute is the complexity of mental health and the diversity of specialists required.

This is why Osaka University, Kanazawa University and Hamamatsu University School of Medicine have united and established the United Graduate School of Child Development where child specialists with diverse backgrounds and work experience learn and conduct research together. Our aim is 1) to cultivate researchers specialized in “Child’s Mind and Developmental Brain Science,” which is a novel research field, 2) to cultivate specialists with the interdisciplinary background in order to meet the social requirement, and 3) to create tight networks between relevant specialists.