Recent data from epidemiological surveys in the European Union show that each year approximately 120 million citizens, or approximately 30% of the population, suffer from a mental disorder such as anxiety or depression, which can often be traced back in part to the influence of exogenous or endogenous stressors (such as traumatizing events, challenging life circumstances or physical illness). Meanwhile, stress-related disorders in the broadest sense contribute more to total all-cause morbidity burden (measured in disability-adjusted life years) than cardiovascular diseases. Usually, there is a considerable period between the onset of the first symptoms of stress-related mental disorders and actual treatment, which poses a tremendous burden on society as well as individual suffering. Therefore, the need for new approaches for the prevention of stress-related mental disorders is becoming increasingly important.
We believe that both individuals and society have many resources at their disposal to cope with stress and challenging situations, in other words, resources to maintain their resilience. The term resilience refers to the well-described phenomenon that many people do not or only temporarily become mentally ill despite significant psychological or physical burdens. Examining the underlying mechanisms of resilience and developing measures to secure and promote optimal functioning of these mechanisms is a promising approach for psychiatric research. More importantly, it may offer new treatment options for individuals suffering from symptoms of stress-related mental disorders.
With an interdisciplinary and integrated center for the research and promotion of resilience, supported by the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) and the University Medical Center of the JGU and funded by the German federal government, we aim to close an important gap in knowledge in this area. Our goal is to employ state-of-the-art and innovative research methodologies to better understand the mechanisms underlying resilience, to develop novel prevention methods, and to further increase national and international visibility of this topic.