Mental illnesses are real and have a significant negative social and economic impact on South African society. The World Health Organization’s World Health Report 2001, stated that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people worldwide currently suffer from mental disorders.
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
- doing research on consumer related mental health issues
- training and supervising students in community psychiatry and information dissemination
- 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, 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 Mental Health Information Centre has been in operation since 1995 and is situated at the Health Sciences Faculty, University of Stellenbosch. We received formal recognition from the Medical Research Council in 1997, and continue to work closely with the MRC Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders.