New mental health centre for Africa

The Centre for Public Mental Health this week was jointly launched by the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University and the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town.

This inter-disciplinary research and teaching centre for public mental health promotion and service development in Africa was established to help prioritise mental health on the public health agenda, develop professional mental health capacity, and develop policy, service and legislative frameworks to scale up mental health care systems in Africa.

Through the Centre, the collaborating universities aim to develop research and exchange networks in Africa. The Centre’s initial work will build on that of the Mental Health and Poverty Project. This was led by the late Prof Alan Flisher from the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, UCT.

The objectives are:

1.      To develop capacity in Africa for public mental health, mental health policy, planning and legislation, through accredited post-graduate teaching programmes.

2.      To undertake high quality research in public mental health, mental health policy, services, legislation and human rights.

3.      To advocate for the inclusion of mental health on health policy and development agendas in Africa.

4.      To provide advisory services to provincial and national government in South Africa, and other African countries, and international health and development agencies, with the goal of strengthening mental health policy and systems.

Key role player Prof Crick Lund, Chief Research Officer in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, UCT, says: “we are very excited at the prospect of launching our centre, which has been five years in the making. The centre is a collaboration between a number of innovative researchers and mental health practitioners. By conducting research and building capacity for public mental health in Africa, we hope we can carry forward the legacy of Alan Flisher’s work.”

Prof Tony Naidoo, head of the Psychology Department at Stellenbosch University, added: “the centre will provide a conducive intellectual space for the mental health concerns of the continent to be studied, debated, and researched, and for meaningful interventions to be designed, implemented and assessed. We envisage the centre to be a nexus for African and international scholars to come together to address the pressing mental health questions facing the continent”. (Information supplied by the Centre for Public Mental Health, August 2010)

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