Now the only mental health and psychiatry WHO Collaborating Centre in South Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently appointed the Alan Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health (CPMH), in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town, as the only mental health and psychiatry collaboration centre (WHO CC) in South Africa. The CPMH is one of only two mental health and psychiatry collaborating centres in Africa.
Being appointed as a WHO CC takes a lot of time and effort and the recent announcement marks the end of a lengthy process.
“This ends a process that I initiated on Dr Shekhar Saxena’s suggestion 4 years ago, and we are very pleased that it has come through,” says CPMH director, Prof Crick Lund.
“The CPMH applied for WHO CC status to formalise collaborations that have been ongoing since 2001. At that time some of us in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at UCT were invited by WHO to collaborate on the development of mental health policy and service guidelines, mainly targeting low and middle-income countries. We subsequently collaborated with WHO on the Mental Health and Poverty Project, a DFID funded consortium working in 4 African countries (2005-2010) and then in the Programme for Improving Mental Health care (PRIME) (2011-2017), a research consortium working in 5 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia,” Lund explains.
This collaboration allows the CPMH to work with WHO in the implementation and evaluation of the mhGAP Intervention Guide in 5 low and middle-income countries, namely Ethiopia, India, Nepal, South Africa and Uganda. It will also serve to develop a costing tool for calculating the resources required to implement this intervention in these countries. Furthermore this collaboration also serves to enhance the uptake of mental health research into policy and practice in low and middle-income countries.
“It is important for the CPMH because it formalises our ties with WHO, and allows us to work more closely with WHO on projects to strengthen mental health policy and services, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The new WHO Collaborating Centre status is also an acknowledgement of the value of our work to WHO and UN member states. Furthermore it allows us to work more closely with Ministries of Health in low and middle-income countries, including South Africa. Hopefully this will allow us to ensure that the research results we generate are taken up in policy and practice, in a manner that improves the lives of people living with mental illness, particularly those living in poverty.”
CPMH will continue to work closely with the WHO and Ministries of Health in various countries to scale up mental health care.
“This also strengthens our resolve to get mental health on international health and development policy agendas, and provide evidence to scale up mental health care across the continent,” says Lund.
 Dr Shekhar Saxena is the Director of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
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