Mental Health of Children and Young People: New Prevention Center Opened

Handing over the keys for the opening of the DZPP with (from left) Thomas Jansin
Handing over the keys for the opening of the DZPP with (from left) Thomas Jansing (Sternstunden), Tobias Bansen and Franziska Klemm (KKH), Marcel Romanos (DZPP), Tim J. von Oertzen (UKW), Arne Bürger (DZPP) and Uwe Klug (JMU). (Image: Gunnar Bartsch / Universität Würzburg)
Mental disorders are widespread in Germany. The German Center for Prevention Research in Mental Health is working to reduce their prevalence. The center has now been officially opened.

With a ceremony, a scientific lecture program and numerous guests from science and politics, the German Center for Prevention Research in Mental Health (DZPP) officially celebrated its opening on Friday, April 19, 2024. The new building on the campus of the University of Würzburg offers scientists the opportunity to develop and test prevention programs in interdisciplinary working groups that aim to prevent mental illness in children and adolescents. The aim is also to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs and make them available on a wider scale.

The Center

The German Center for Prevention Research in Mental Health (DZPP) was founded under the joint sponsorship of Julius-Maximilians-Universität and the University Hospital of Würzburg. With its interdisciplinary structure, its concept is unique in Germany. The center places a significant focus on high-quality and innovative prevention research with high potential for application in the field. This includes a wide range of methodological approaches, from basic research and programs for schools to targeted approaches using virtual reality.

The scientists involved advise those affected, family members, schools and other institutions and thus form a link between basic research and care structures.

The DZPP brings together a wide range of disciplines: child and adolescent psychiatry, pediatrics, psychology, psychiatry, education, general medicine, epidemiology, computer science and many more. The multi-professional expertise is complemented by a broad, cooperative network, for example with the school system, youth welfare, the municipal system, authorities and politics.

The DZPP is headed by Professor Marcel Romanos, Director of the Center for Mental Health, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at the University Hospital of Würzburg. Dr. Arne Bürger is the managing director.

Homepage of the DZPP

The Building

The DZPP is housed in a new building on the Campus Hubland North of the University of Würzburg. In the three-story building with a good 580 square meters, the DZPP has around 230 square meters at its disposal. The remaining space is intended for other university users. Construction took three years.

The building cost around 3.6 million euros to construct, with the Staatliches Bauamt Würzburg responsible for planning and execution. The Würzburger Förderverein Menschenskinder e.V. provided one million euros for the DZPP’s share. The association supports mentally ill children and young people in Lower Franconia; it had raised the money from the Sternstunden e.V. initiative, a charity campaign organized by Bayerischer Rundfunk. In addition, the association recently handed over a further donation of 10,000 euros to those responsible at the DZPP - a further contribution "to expand the prevention center and make it fully functional", as it writes.

Another project partner is the Kaufmännische Krankenkasse (KKH), which is already funding research projects on the prevention of mental disorders at the Würzburg site.

Comments on the Opening

"The Sternstunden Prevention Center is the new home of the German Center for Prevention Research in Mental Health (DZPP). We are extremely grateful to Sternstunden e.V. for their trust in us and the idea of the DZPP. The institute is so special because it covers the entire development chain of prevention programs through collaboration between many different disciplines. First of all, it is about the systematic development of programs, taking into account the latest scientific findings. The DZPP is then also responsible for the consistent testing and scientific evaluation of the programs through to their dissemination across the country and the effects on the population. In this way, we have created a sustainable instrument that will serve the health of society as a whole in the long term." Marcel Romanos (Director of the DZPP)

"The opening of the German Center for Prevention Research in Mental Health in Bavaria is a milestone for mental health care. With its interdisciplinary approach, the center is unique in Germany and aims to sustainably strengthen and protect people’s mental health. Such a center is therefore more important than ever. Unfortunately, mental stress has increased enormously in recent years. And this doesn’t just affect adults. Children and young people in particular are also under a great deal of stress. I am delighted that our commitment to better mental health and a healthier upbringing is driving us forward together." Judith Gerlach (Minister of State for Health, Care and Prevention)

"Today’s opening is a milestone on the way to improving the quality of life of our children. It shows that through science, hope for a better future is possible. The Sternstunden Prevention Center will become a place where ideas flourish, innovations emerge and the mental health of our society is strengthened. Julius-Maximilians-Universität is proud to be the joint partner of this innovative center together with the University Hospital of Würzburg." Dr. Uwe Klug (Chancellor of the University of Würzburg)

"With the new prevention center, we are further expanding the range of care offered by the University Medical Center Würzburg and complementing the established inpatient and outpatient structures at the UKW. Mental illnesses often develop at a young age. This is precisely why the expansion and development of new preventive measures and early detection are extremely important. Ideally, this can reduce the risk of chronic illness. For example, it is known that intervention at kindergarten age helps to prevent social behavioral disorders. If we prevent a disorder in childhood, this has an enormous impact on the entire lifespan, i.e. many decades. Various disciplines are now being brought together at the center with the aim of developing innovative prevention programs for children and young people. This is precisely one of the core tasks of university medicine. This new building makes this visible in concrete terms. My special thanks therefore go to all those who have made this new building possible." PD Dr. Tim J. von Oertzen (Medical Director and Chairman of the Board, University Hospital Würzburg)

"Our aim as KKH is to offer effective prevention programs, especially for adolescents. With the German Center of Prevention Research in Mental Health, we have a partner that has set itself the task of developing, evaluating and disseminating precisely this evidence-based prevention. We are delighted to be able to continue four years of successful collaboration." Tobias Bansen (Head of the Prevention and Self-Help Department, KKH Kaufmännische Krankenkasse)

"The mental health of children and young people in Germany is not in good shape - three lockdowns have exacerbated mental damage among the younger generation. That’s why Sternstunden was very happy to support the construction of the Sternstunden Prevention Center and thus help close the gap in the prevention of mental illness in childhood and adolescence." Thomas Jansing (Chairman of the Board and initiator of Sternstunden)

The DZPP (front) on the university’s Campus Hubland North. (Image: Dr. Martin Wegmann / Lehrstuhl für Fernerkundung)