The ZIHUb research alliance, coordinated by the Central Institute of Mental Health (CIMH) and with the participation of scientists from the Universities of Heidelberg and Ulm, has been successful in the application process for a new German Center for Mental Health. The Alliance qualified in a demanding international review process to design the new German Center for Mental Health together with other selected research sites from mid-2021. In the form of the German Centers for Health Research, the German government promotes the long-term networking of excellent research institutions with the aim of bringing new medical research findings into application more quickly. Last year, two new centers were put out to tender for conception – a German Center for Mental Health and a German Center for Child and Adolescent Health.
Focus on social interactions
In the two-stage selection process of qualified sites for the new German Center for Mental Health, ZIHUb researchers were able to convincingly demonstrate how combined resources can significantly accelerate the translational cycle in psychiatry – from researching individual risk and resilience factors to developing new therapies and reaching large segments of the population using mobile digital technologies – and thus measurably improve the mental health of the population. Twenty-one scientists from the CIMH, 8 researchers from Heidelberg and 7 from Ulm played a key role in the proposal.
At the heart of the proposed research program is a focus on social interactions during particularly relevant time periods, early trauma and adolescence. The broad expertise of the CIMH as Germany's largest research institution in psychiatry is combined with the excellence in psychotherapy research, trauma research, and health care research at the partner sites in Heidelberg and Ulm. In addition, the research expertise of the German Cancer Research Center in the field of cellular and molecular biomarker research is also available. All partners are linked by many years of intensive collaboration.
Comprehensive involvement of service users
The conceptual approach places particular emphasis on the comprehensive participatory involvement of those affected and their perspectives in all areas of research. Education about mental illness, destigmatization and the communication of knowledge for help and self-help, also by means of innovative digital infrastructures, form a further focus of the joint work program. „Since its founding, the CIMH has stood for innovative therapy-guided research from the basics into care", says Professor Dr. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, director and chairman of the board of the CIMH and site coordinator of ZIHUb. „We are very pleased that we now have the opportunity to contribute this expertise to the new German Center for Mental Health together with our partners from Heidelberg and Ulm."
„All three sites place the individual in his or her social environment at the center of their research", says Prof. Dr. Sabine C. Herpertz, Director of the Department of General Psychiatry at Heidelberg University. „The German Center for Mental Health opens up a unique opportunity to focus efforts on the common goal of tailoring innovative treatment to the needs of the individual patient."
„Today, shame and stigma still often lead people with mental illnesses, especially those who have had traumatic experiences, not to seek help, or not in time," says Prof. Dr. Jörg M. Fegert, director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy Ulm and spokesperson for the Center for Trauma Research Ulm. „We therefore want to better inform not only those affected and their relatives, but society as a whole about the importance of mental health."
The procedure for establishing the German Center for Mental Health stipulates that the next step is for the designated sites to develop coordinated work plans among themselves and submit applications for funding.