Who can I contact with regards to mental health-related help/advice?

If you or anyone you know, is in need of mental health assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (http://www.sadag.org). You can also contact the Mental Health Information Centre (http://www.mentalhealthsa.co.za).

When will I be able to take part in the study?

The project has been placed on hold until further notice due to the Covid-19 pandemic. You can, however, still register to participate and create a personalised login. Once we are able to continue safely, we will contact you via email to inform you that you can fill in the questionnaires and send us your stool sample.

Are there any risks in taking part in this study?

This study will use non-invasive stool collection protocols, with no known risks associated with it. Some of the questionnaires ask questions about previous stressful life events, therefore certain individuals could feel distressed or anxious when answering these questions. Our informed consent document states that if you experience any distress during the study, that you should contact the principal investigator, and they will refer you to theĀ Mental Health Information CentreĀ  (http://www.mentalhealthsa.co.za) for further assistance.

Will I receive a psychiatric diagnosis based on my questionnaire data?

No, the questionnaires we use cannot be used to provide clinical diagnoses of psychiatric conditions. These questionnaires will be used to determine whether you experience PTSD/anxiety/depressive symptoms. You will receive general referral information should you wish to seek professional mental health assistance.

Would my data be kept confidential?

Yes, your data will be de-identified so that researchers working with the data will not know who you are. Only the principal research investigator will have access to participant names.

Who has access to my data?

Researchers working on The South African Microbiome Initiative in Neuroscience will have access to your data, however, they will not see your name, only your laboratory identification number.

How will this study help me?

The aim of our study is to determine how gut microbes are associated with depression, anxiety and stress disorders by using large sample groups. The study will not be able to make conclusions in terms of mental health outcomes for individuals, but will rather be able to report on overall findings of the entire group of participants. This study will help researchers better understand how gut microbes influence mental health, and future studies could use these findings to design treatments (such as specially formulated pre- and probiotic supplements) to help alleviate the symptoms of these disorders. The overall findings of this study will be communicated to the study participants. If your questionnaire data indicate that you might have symptoms of PTSD, anxiety or depression, you will be contacted and provided with a referral letter which you may take to a health professional.

Will I receive any payment for taking part in the study?

Your participation in the study is voluntary so you will not receive any payment. However, once you have completed the consent form and online questionnaires and you have sent your stool and saliva samples to us, you will automatically be entered into a lucky draw to win a cash prize of R 1000. A winner will be drawn every four months.

What happens to my stool sample once you receive it?

Once we receive your stool sample in the laboratory, it is stored in freezers until researchers extract DNA from it. During the DNA extraction procedure, the researcher uses a laboratory protocol in order to get all the DNA from the bacteria in your stool sample. This DNA is then sent to a company to determine the sequences of the DNA of the bacteria in your stool sample. The company sends us the sequencing data, which we use to do analyses to determine which factors (such as diet, stress, sleep, disease etc.) affect your gut microbiome composition. Your data is kept confidential and only the principal investigator of the study has access to your name since all samples receive a unique study laboratory ID in order to maintain confidentiality.