Mental Health diseases are often seen as character flaws or personality defects. As with those who are HIV positive, or have AIDS, people with mental illnesses are often stigmatized by society. They do not receive the support they need to identify their illness, or get help. The perception of many is that mental illness is something that can be dealt with by self-control, or by changing one’s behaviour.
There is an understanding that the body can be diseased, but not an understanding that the brain and mind can have diseases that can be cured or managed with medication and therapy. Many people who suffer from mental illness feel alone and hopeless, as their diseases go undiagnosed and untreated. The research into mental illness and its treatment, therefore, includes research into community, society, and how to manage the misconceptions there are about mental illness within the community. Encouraging people to seek help is a core component of the treatment of mental illness. Understanding that mental health is attainable with treatment is part of destigmatising diseases of the brain and mind.
The mental health scientific track is led by Professor Suvira Ramlall.
Dr Thabisile Mpofana is a Neuroscientist and is interested in Neuroscience research, neurodegenerative disorders, and the study of addiction. Her focus has largely been on animal models of Parkinson’s disease. She is a lecturer in the Discipline of Physiology at the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN.
Dr Desiree Govender is a physiotherapist and the Chief Physiotherapist at GJ Crookes Hospital in Scottburgh, KZN. In her role, she oversees the day to day management of the physiotherapy department. She is a clinical supervisor in the decentralised training programme for physiotherapy undergraduate students. She has gained invaluable experience working with community outreach programmes at GJ Crookes Hospital and is an advocate for the concepts of Primary Health Care, Health Promotion and Universal Health Coverage.
Dr Ruwayda Petrus is a Senior Lecturer in Industrial Psychology in the discipline of Psychology in the School of Applied Human Sciences at UKZN; she is also currently the Academic Leader: Teaching and Learning within the School. She has been involved in work focused on Health Systems Strengthening interventions for the integrated provision of mental health care in low and middle-income countries.