In the late 1950’s, significant changes took place in the field of psychiatry. Public appeals for a more humane approach to psychiatric patients and their inclusion in the community, as well as new developments in pharmacotherapy, have led to fundamental changes in the understanding of psychiatry and psychiatric care.
A group of Serbian psychiatrists gathered around Prof. Dr Slavka Morić-Petrović (Prof. Dr Dušan Petrović, Prof. Dr Milan Popović, Prof. Dr Miroslav Antonijević, Prof. Dr Predrag Kaličanin, and others) decided to embark on a pioneer project of introducing global trends in psychiatry and opening the first social psychiatric institution not only in the former Yugoslavia, but in the entire Balkans. After the project design, made by architect Vladeta Stojković, was accepted, on June 5th 1960 the foundation stone was laid, and on April 14th 1963, the Center for Mental Health officially began its work. This marked the beginning of operation of the first psychiatric institution in this part of Europe completely oriented toward social psychiatry, laying the emphasis of treatment and support to patients in the treatment process on the social environment, and insisting on social and psychological methods of treatment for psychiatric disorders.
Over the next fifteen years, the Center has quickly become one of the most eminent psychiatric institutions in SFRY, doubling its professional staff. Gradually, the Center turned its focus on scientific research and introduction of new treatment models in the local setting. As a result, the Center was one of the first in the country to introduce day hospitals as a semi-hospital type of psychiatric treatment, along with numerous psychotherapeutic and group therapy methods of treatment. In 1969, the Center began publishing its professional journal “Annals of the Center for Mental Health”, renamed in 1975 to “Psychiatry Today”, which additionally strengthened its position as one of the leading psychiatric institutions in this part of Europe (today, it is the official journal of the Serbian Psychiatric Association). By increasing the number of PhD degree holders and teaching staff at several faculties, and by expanding the volume of work, conditions were met for the new Statute to be adopted on November 20th 1978. One of the novelties introduced by the new Statute was the renaming of the Center to the Institute of Mental Health.
Introduction of new treatment methods continues in the following period as well, with an aim to improve the services, but also with a sense of the Institute’s social role in Serbia, as an institution charged with the task of directing the course of psychiatric care in the entire country. New organizational units are being opened: Day Hospital for Children (up to the age of 12), began its work in 1988; Day Hospital for Adolescents, unique in the Balkans by its system of work, was opened in February 2008; in 2011, the Forensic Psychiatry Section was established, and in 2012 the Perinatal and Reproductive Psychiatry (the first one of its kind in Serbia). In September 2009, the Institute of Mental Health was designated as a Collaborative Center of the World Health Organization.
Prof. Dr Slavka Morić Petrović (1963 – 1979)
Slavka Morić-Petrović (1919-1998), Neuropsychiatrist, Full Professor of the Belgrade University Faculty of Medicine. Born in 1919 in Povlja, the island of Brač, died in Belgrade in 1998. She enrolled at the Belgrade Faculty of Medicine in 1937 and was a regular student until the war broke out in 1941. During her studies, she was an active member of the progressive students’ movement and President of the Association of Female Students of the Belgrade University. Since 1941, she took part in the people’s liberation movement as an activist in Belgrade, and in 1943 she joined the partisans. She continued her medical studies in 1951, completed residency training in Neuropsychiatry and became an Assistant at the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Neuropsychiatry. In 1963, she successfully defended her doctoral thesis on “Neuropsychiatric aspects of mongolism in NR Serbia” and was elected as an Assistant Professor that same year. For ten years she worked at the Belgrade Neuropsychiatric Clinic, including five years at the Children’s Department. From 1960, she dedicated a large part of her professional interests to organization and construction of the Center for Mental Health, which officially began work in April 1963. Prof Morić-Petrović was the first Director of the Center, and she held that position until 1979, when she retired. At the Center, she founded the Human Cytogenetic Laboratory in 1966, and later on the Geno-Prophylaxis Counseling Unit as well. She is the author of numerous scientific papers. She published five monographs, three books and a textbook (books: Human chromosome abnormality – Down’s syndrome; Inheritance in mental disorders; Fragile X syndrome). In addition to professional career at the Institute, she took an active role in social and political activities. She received numerous recognitions, including the Commemorative Medal of the Partisans of 1941 and Order of the Republic with Silver Wreath. For her scientific work, she was awarded the October Award of the City of Belgrade in 1976 and The Seventh July Award of the Socialist Republic of Serbia in 1978.
Prof. Dr Dušan Petrović (1979 – 1983)
Dušan Petrović (1924-), Neuropsychiatrist, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Full Professor of the Belgrade University Faculty of Political Sciences (retired), expert associate of the Orthodox Pastoral Advisory Center of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He was born in Novi Sad, where he finished secondary education. He started his medical studies in Szeged (Hungary), soon transferred to Belgrade where he graduated in 1950. He entered residency training in Neuropsychiatry at the Neuropsychiatry Department of the Central Provincial Hospital in Novi Sad (completed in late 1955). In the period from January 1956 to the end of 1962, we worked at the “Dr Dragiša Mišović” hospital as the Head of Psychotherapy Section of the Neuropsychiatry Department. In 1963, he joined a group of psychiatry enthusiasts and participated in preparing the concept and opening of the Center for Mental Health, where he worked since its foundation in 1963 until retirement. At the beginning, he held the position of Head of Social Rehabilitation Department, which consisted of the Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic for Adults and the Day Hospital for 90 patients. Later on he was the Head of the “D Section” (depressions) of the Day Hospital. In his professional career, he worked on the introduction of team work in psychiatry and promotion of psychiatric care in non-hospital conditions; he took part in the preparation of methodology of scientific research plans in the field of rehabilitation of psychiatric patients, as well as plans for psycho-geriatric care. He coordinated the program of psychosocial support to refugees within the framework of UNHCR at the Institute of Mental Health (1995). He published numerous books and more than 200 scientific articles in prestigious professional journals in the country
Prof. Dr Predrag Kaličanin (1983 – 1987)
Predrag Kaličanin (1927-2004), Neuropsychiatrist, Full Professor of the Belgrade University, Faculty of Medicine, World Health Organization’s Consultant on Mental Health, Regular Member of the Serbian Medical Society’s Academy of Medical Sciences. He was born in Bitola. After graduating from the Belgrade Faculty of Medicine in 1952, he returned to Macedonia where he worked until 1964, when he joined the Center for Mental Health. He moved to a new environment as an already established Neuropsychiatrist and Assistant. He continued his teaching career at the Belgrade Faculty of Medicine, where he was recognized as an outstanding lecturer and educator. For years, he was the Head of IMH Scientific Research Department. His areas of interest were epidemiology in psychiatry, genetics and social psychiatry. Over the last twenty years of his life, he was the World Health Organization’s Consultant on Mental Health. He is the principal researcher and co-researcher in eight scientific research projects, including five projects with international participants and in cooperation with the National Institute of Mental Health in Washington and the WHO. He was particularly known and appreciated abroad for his work in the field of social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology. In our country, he made a significant contribution to the development of community mental health care, psychiatry of major accidents and disasters, treatment and mental hygiene approach to refugees and exiled persons. He was an exceptionally prolific and talented writer. He published 48 monographs, textbooks and manuals, over 180 scientific papers, and finally the three-volume edition of Psychiatry. He was the editor of several journals, editor of the edition “Stresses of War”, and one of the language editors of the translated ICD-10 classification of mental disorders.
Prof. Dr Jovan Bukelić (1987 – 2001)
Jovan Bukelić (1934-), Neuropsychiatrist, Full Professor of the Belgrade University, Faculty of Special Education and Rehabilitation, Department of Prevention and Resocialization of Persons with Social Behavior Disorders. He graduated from the Belgrade Faculty of Medicine, and started his professional medical career at the Center for Mental Health since its foundation in 1963. In the course of his career, he particularly focused on addictions. His PhD thesis “Medical and social aspects of drug abuse in preadolescent and adolescent population of Belgrade” (1979) was the first one in this field in Yugoslavia and the Balkans. He participated in numerous scientific research projects and reviewed a number of textbooks and monographs. He has won numerous prestigious awards, including The Seventh July Award, three golden plaques, two charters, and the jubilee Golden Plaque of the Institute for Textbook Publishing and Teaching Aids for years of successful work as a textbook writer (1997). He is the author and co-author of 18 books (textbooks and monographs) and over one hundred scientific papers. He also published a large number of essays, feature articles and original literary works in literary magazines and newspaper supplements. His best known literary work is “Deca pakla” (“The Children of Hell”), used as the basis for a monodrama with the same name, winner of the first prize in the International Festival of Monodrama in 1997.
Prof. Dr Petar Opalić (2001 – 2004)
Petar Opalić (1947-2009), Neuropsychiatrist, Psychotherapist, Full Professor of the Belgrade University, Faculty of Philosophy. Born in 1947 in Tomingaj, Lika, died in June 2009 in Belgrade. He completed medical studies in Zagreb, in 1971, and only three years later graduated in Philosophy and Sociology at the Zagreb University Faculty of Philosophy. He entered post-graduate studies at the Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy, where he received his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. He was elected Assistant at the same Faculty in 1976, and over the years attained the academic title of Full Professor of Social Pathology at the Sociology Department. He has been employed with the Institute of Mental Health from 1975 to 2009; in the period from 1994 to 1998, he also worked at the CCS Institute of Psychiatry as the Head of Psychotherapy Unit. Petar Opalić had a multidisciplinary approach to the topics he addressed, insisting on the existence of an unbreakable bond between sociology and psychiatry. Existentialism had a special significance for him, both as a philosophical movement and a psychotherapeutic approach. Prof. Opalić was acknowledged for significant scientific and professional achievements at an international level as well. As a Humboldt Foundation scholarship holder, he spent time at the Psychiatric Clinic of the Marburg University (1984-85), and from 1994-2006 he was a Visiting Professor at the Psychosomatic Clinic of the University of Heidelberg, and the Multidisciplinary Research Center, also in Heidelberg. He was a member of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, and held the positions of Chair of the Psychotherapy Section of the Serbian Medical Society and Vice-President of the Alliance of Psychotherapists Associations of Yugoslavia. He was an editorial board member of professional journals in the fields of psychiatry, sociology, philosophy and psychotherapy. He wrote nine books, five of which as a sole author. He published
Prof. Dr Dušica Lečić Toševski (2004 – 2019)