Mental health

Mental health

The World Health Organization (WHO) establishes the essential role of mental health for the social realization of individuals and their overall state of health. Mental disorders are a major source of suffering and disability in the world today and are progressively increasing.

The etiopathogenesis of mental disorders involves multiple interactions between the nervous and other physiological systems, thus a multidisciplinary approach is needed combining clinical research with the investigation of the biological and psychosocial factors that contribute to disease vulnerability and resilience.

The Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) promotes basic and applied research in mental health with special attention to critical phases of the life-cycle, such as the perinatal period, childhood, adolescence and senescence. The conditions and diseases studied include neurodevelopmental disorders, depression, anxious syndromes, obsessive-compulsive, emotional, cognitive, mnemonic, psychosomatic, and stress related disorders. Functional interactions between the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems, as well as comorbidity with metabolic disorders, are also studied as potential risk factors and for promotion and prevention of psychopathology.

The ISS approach is interdisciplinary and involves multiple disciplines such as psychiatry, neuroscience, epidemiology, clinical psychology, ethology, psychobiology, psychopharmacology and genetics. The interactions between biological, behavioral, social and environmental factors are studied both in the prevention and onset of mental disorders using experimental models, clinical studies, longitudinal populations cohorts and studies on twins. Innovative methodologies for mental health prevention and promotion are developed and validated tackling social inclusion and integration. Effectiveness of psychotherapeutic and rehabilitative approaches is investigated also in relationship with the individual life-history and socio-economic conditions and in their interaction with pharmacological treatments. Mental health interventions to promote mental health in schools and in the workplace are devised as well as studies on health and social services to improve access and quality of care.