Psychiatry Sheds Light on Psychosis Epidemiology
UKZN’s Discipline of Psychiatry hosted an epidemiology seminar by renowned psychiatry researchers and professors in July.
Professor Soraya Seedat presented a talk titled Epidemiology: Through the Lens of Genetics which focused on research advances in the field of psychiatric genetics. She discussed the fundamentals of genetics and the latest techniques to understand the genetic basis of various psychiatric disorders. Her talk included South Africa’s contribution to the field and the need for more research from Africa.
Seedat is a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Executive Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University. She holds the South African Research Chair in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder funded by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation and is collaborating on a number of projects with researchers from UKZN’s Discipline of Psychiatry.
Professor Hans W Hoek’s presentation focused on the search for risk factors of psychosis combined data from his previous studies on a vulnerability Stress Model; schizophrenia after prenatal famine; psychosis among immigrants; the Amathwasa study in South Africa and global burden of disease studies. These studies were conducted in South Africa and globally and aimed to understand the risk factors for mental disorders using an epidemiological framework but also considering local cultural beliefs.
Hoek is Professor of Psychiatry at University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands, and has an adjunct position as Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University, New York, USA. He is based in The Hague where he is Director of the psychiatric residency programme and Dean of the Parnassia Academy, part of the Parnassia Psychiatric Institute, a large mental health institute with branches throughout The Netherlands.
Professor Jonathan Burns, former Head of the Department of Psychiatry at UKZN and now an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Exeter University spoke on Mapping psychosis in under resourced settings with reference to the INCET and PSYMAP-ZN studies in KwaZulu-Natal. He shared the findings of the pilot INCET study and noted that it highlighted the need for collaboration with traditional healers in tracing incidents of psychosis.
Professor James Kirkbride presented data from studies conducted in the United Kingdom to establish the social epidemiology of psychoses in rural England. The findings from the SEPEA study provided insight on how to assess for different environmental factors that may contribute to psychosis risk such as immigration and urbanisation. Kirkbride is a psychiatric epidemiologist with a background in social science, having completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge. He obtained an MSc in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The seminar was also attended by researchers from the INTREPID psychosis study who provided valuable insight from their multi-site international study which is based in India, Nigeria and Trinidad.
The seminar provided researchers and clinicians with a rare opportunity to have international experts on schizophrenia and mental health share their expertise on genetics and environmental risk factors and the epidemiology of psychosis.
In addition, researchers from the INTREPID study also attended the seminar and provided valuable insight from their multi-site international study of the incidence of psychosis in India, Nigeria and Trinidad. Professors Burns, Hoek and Kirkbride will be involved in the UK and SA Medical Research Council funded three-year study of incidence of psychosis in the Msunduzi municipality, called PSYMAP-ZN.
The siminar provided early career researchers, registrars, and medical students a rare opportunity to have international experts on schizophrenia and mental health care share their expertise on genetics, environmental risk factors and the epidemiology of psychosis.
Words: Lihle Sosibo