Prof Dan Stein (MRC Unit), Prof Christine Lochner (MRC Unit), Ms Janine Roos (Mental Health Information Centre)
The Mental Health Information Centre (MHIC) has been in operation since 1995 and forms part of the MRC Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders of the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch. The unit’s name was recently changed to the SU/UCT Unit on Risk and Resilience in Mental Disorders.
Mental illnesses are real and have a significant negative social and economic impact on South African society. These conditions are highly treatable and have enjoyed considerable research attention since the 90’s were declared “The Decade of the Brain”. Important breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment include the development of selective medications that are effective and safe for the treatment of major psychiatric disorders.
Also, the development of functional brain imaging techniques allows us to show how specific neurocircuits are involved in psychiatric disorders.
However, the WHO estimates that nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional, although treatment is available in many cases. Stigma, discrimination and ignorance are often barriers to treatment reaching people with mental disorders.
The Mental Health Information Centre aims to address some of these issues by:
- being actively involved in the psychoeducation of clinicians and mental health professionals
- conducting and collaborating research efforts in psychiatry and related fields
- promoting public awareness of mental health issues
- encouraging early diagnosis and treatment of mental illness
- addressing stigma associated with mental illness
The Centre attempts to meet these goals by:
- updating and publishing various mental health textbooks and patient guides
- hosting workshops and educational activities to both clinicians and the lay public
- assisting the MRC Unit on Anxiety & Stress Disorders with various clinical research trials
- providing medical professionals with accurate, up-to-date information
- providing the media with facts about mental disorders
- assisting journalists in compiling articles and conducting interviews
- providing telephone, web, e-mail and mail information services
- liaising with other mental health roleplayers such as government departments, NGO’s, professional member bodies, academic and research institutions, and consumer groups
The extramural Research Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders was established by the MRC in 1997. The Unit has worked towards obtaining status as a cross-University Centre, with key unit researchers now located at the University of Stellenbosch, as well as the University of Cape Town (UCT), and at Northwest University. Prof Dan J. Stein, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT, is director of the Unit. Priority has been given to establishing a unit focusing on anxiety disorders, including PTSD, fostering a multi-disciplinary biopsychosocial approach to the anxiety disorders, promoting increased awareness of the anxiety disorders in the community, and finally, ensuring capacity building of clinical and research skills in students and staff.